You may feel like college is just a stepping stone to your career– a necessary prerequisite before you can start really digging into your career.

But that’s not true!

There is SO much you can do while still in school to push your career forward.

Everything from networking to internships to utilizing the FULL capabilities of your college’s career resources– you can make a huge difference in how prepared and advanced you are before you even get that fancy piece of paper that says you have a degree.

Here’s how.

1. Get internship experience.

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First, you’ll want to apply to internships. I can’t stress this enough.

These opportunities provide you with accurate, hands-on experience in your career. For instance, if you want to be a pharmacist, you would greatly benefit from seeing how the daily working experience goes. You’ll learn about what they do, how to do their daily tasks, and “behind the scenes” experience is available to you.

You can find internships wherever you live. There’s likely to be open positions at local businesses or practices. The best place to find information is online. However, if there’s somewhere you know you’d love to intern, you can always stop in and ask for details! The staff there will be more likely to remember you.

If you’re having trouble finding internships, don’t hesitate to talk with your school. Your college probably hosts internship fairs or has postings of opportunities somewhere for you to check out.

2. Start looking for jobs early.

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The earlier you start looking for career opportunities, the more likely you are to find something right out of college. In some cases, you might have an easier time balancing your work with your school- although you want to make sure the job is in your preferred field. 

For instance, if you want to be a photographer, you can work in a wedding photography business. Workplaces like these likely need assistants, and you’d be learning about your field at the same time. To feel prepared for your career on graduation day, you should get experience early on.

You should try to add as much to your resume as possible early on without sacrificing your grades. Most businesses in college towns understand how busy college students are, so they’re more willing to work with your schedule.

3. Visit your school’s career center.

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Next, you must visit your college’s career center before you graduate. Your school probably has a lot of information that you can use. Plus, the career center is there to help you create your resume, apply to jobs or internships, and help you with networking. 

The career center is also an excellent resource if you’re unsure what you want to do after graduation. The staff members can help you choose a career in your field that suits you the best. 

Your college tuition is paying for these services, so you must make use of them! You should stop by at least once a semester to learn more about the available opportunities.

4. Build a strong network.

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You’ll also want to work on building a strong network while you’re still in school. That way, you can have many contacts once you graduate. You can do this by:

–Talking with your college’s faculty.

–Talking with alumni.

–Building an online network.

–Attending networking events through your college.

When you have a strong network, you’re constantly receiving insight into your field. With that information, you can feel much more prepared for your new career. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of what the job is like in real life, not just how it appears on paper.

5. Join clubs.

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College campuses are known for having a lot of clubs and other activities. You can join and participate in the things you’re passionate about. Plus, you’ll gain experience in your field. For example, business majors can join entrepreneur clubs.

You can also always add relevant clubs to your resume! It’s even better if you hold a position in the club, such as the president or treasurer. This detail would show employers that you’re responsible and have leadership skills.

6. Attend professional development seminars and events.

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Some colleges offer these seminars to help you prepare for your new career. Attending would help you familiarize yourself with the job and the steps you need to enter the field. Your college department may host a speaker every so often- make sure to ask around and find out when! There’s likely to be information about it on your school’s website.

You should take advantage of these opportunities while in college. After you graduate, the school isn’t going to cover the seminars anymore. As a new graduate, the cost might be out of your budget for a time.

7. Make your own opportunities!

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Remember, you can always make your own opportunities. You can start a blog that talks about your interests and your field or seek out specialized classes online. No matter how you go about making opportunities, you want to make sure you’re constantly improving your skills in the field.

Depending on your interests, freelancing is always an opportunity for college students. You can offer your skills to businesses that might require them. Plus, you can learn to market yourself in this way. If you have an interest in running your own business, you can start that in college too!

You’ll want to reach out to local businesses and see if they need help. Often, small businesses hire college students as assistants or to create promotional materials for them.

8. Pursue your passions.

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Learning is easier when you study your passions. If you love what you do, it’ll be much easier for you to transition into your career smoothly- it’ll feel natural.

Do what you love. Challenge yourself. Step outside your comfort zone.

If you’re doing work that gives you purpose, that’s step one to succeeding in your career after college.

Learn. Listen. Lean into your passions.

You’ve got this.

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