5 Ways You Can Develop Your Career While In College

The days are getting shorter, and the leaves have begun to change colors and fall. You’ve wrapped up that summer job, said goodbye to your family and are heading back to college. Don’t let the excitement of seeing your friends and beginning classes distract you from an important task: building your resume. While the economy is recovering from the 2008 recession and unemployment rates are improving, for recent graduates (ages 20-24), the situation can still be quite frustrating.  The unemployment rate for recent grads is at about 5%, but 45% are underemployed, working in low-skilled and low-paying roles. Follow these five tips for building your career prior to graduation.

Get a part time job or internship

According to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, employers say that internships and employment during college are the two most important factors they consider on a recent college graduate’s resume. Worried about your class load? Consider working on campus in a library or computer center where you can use downtime to work on your homework or explore the many opportunities to work part-time for only a few hours a week in close proximity to your campus.

Build mentor relationships with professors

References are invaluable during job search, particularly when you don’t have a long and storied work history to lean on. In fact, 69% of employers have said that they have changed their minds about a candidate after speaking with a reference. Do everything that you can to cultivate relationships that could result in positive references of your work ethic, character and interests. A great place to start for such relationships is in the classroom with your professors or teaching assistants.

Attend networking events with alumni

While it’s important to get your resume up-to-date and to apply to jobs online on sites such as Simply Hired, it’s also in your best interest to get out and mingle and network with working professionals. More than 70% of people land jobs through such networking. A great place to start is your college or university’s career services center. Many schools post alumni networking events that you can attend or will pair you with a mentor.

Get involved on campus

Grades are not everything. Academics are important, but your GPA will not get you a job. Make sure you’re involved on campus; join clubs, organizations and anything that interests you. For students who don’t have the opportunity to work throughout college, school clubs and organizations are a great way to build your resume. It can be particularly impressive if you maintain a consistent membership in a select few organizations and take leadership roles when possible. This will not only help you gain useful skills, it will also provide you with a marketable work history of sorts.

Volunteer for a worthy cause

In the midst of all of this resume-building, networking and career-focused work, take moment and give back to a cause that resonates with you. Volunteering will simultaneously provide you with an opportunity to do the aforementioned things, introducing you to interesting people with whom you can network, and it will allow  you to gain new skills. Not to mention, volunteering will also give you a bit of perspective.

Your college years are a great time to learn, grow and discover who you are. However, they’re also an opportunity to ensure your future, so don’t lose focus of your goal to love what you do.