50 Career Tips for College Students

March 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm by Tom Denham

College teaches you how to think.  However, unless you are engaged with your campus Career Center, college teaches you virtually nothing on the subject of career development.  Think about how many courses you took in your major, and then think about how many semester-long courses you took on career development?  A rare few colleges offer, at most, one or two courses on the topic.  You spend time more time at work than in any other aspect of your life, but college teaches you barely anything on how to start, build and manage your career.  Without the Career Center, you will be left on your own to figure out what you are suppose to do with your life.  The transition is difficult because there is no syllabus for success.  Here are my 50 tips to prepare you for the realities of working.

  1. Go to the Career Center on campus at least once a semester and then every month when you are a senior.
  2. Believe in yourself, believe in something and have someone believe in you.
  3. Success comes from inside of you.
  4. In addition to your college degree, employers will want to see multiple internship experiences.  Your competition has them.
  5. Start building your resume early in your college career.  Don’t wait until you get back from spring break of your Senior year.
  6. Be nice to your faculty.  You’ll need them someday to serve as a reference for graduate school or a job.
  7. Get clarity and focus on the three types of jobs you will pursue: 1) Ideal Jobs, 2) Back-Up/Realistic Jobs, and 3) Survival Jobs.
  8. Come up with your own personal and professional definition of success and don’t let anyone else define it for you.
  9. Your first job is a period of adjustment.  It’s like being a freshman all over again.  Be patient and learn the ropes.
  10. Think of your first job as a stepping-stone that can help you get closer to your Ideal Job.
  11. Show up early and stay late.
  12. If you are self-aware, self-confident and self-disciplined you will go very far in life.
  13. Take advantage of everything that college has to offer.  Suck the life-force out of it.  If you do, you’ll have no regrets.
  14. Most jobs today are not for life.  The time to start preparing for your next job search is the day you take your new job.
  15. Eliminate poor grammar and slang from your speech.
  16. Resist the temptation to use work time to conduct personal business like email, phone calls and combing the Internet.
  17. An employer cares about how productive you are.  They don’t really care whether or not you’re professionally fulfilled.
  18. Starting at the bottom is not beneath you; it’s expected.
  19. An employer wants to know, “Can you do the job?  Are you willing to do the job?  Can we stand you when you do the job?”
  20. Don’t get sloppy with your behavior.  It can run you into trouble later on.
  21. Share your life, but don’t over-share.
  22. Stay focused and don’t get distracted by Facebook or other social media sites.  Cut your addiction to the Internet.
  23. Know when you need to work independently and know when you need to be a team player.
  24. You can never say “please” and “thank you” enough – it goes a long way.
  25. If you perpetually smile and look people in the eyes you are likely to get the same in return.
  26. Employers hire for attitude and train for knowledge.  Enthusiasm is the road to success.
  27. Clean up any “Digital Dirt” that’s on the Internet.  Your online reputation IS your reputation.  Create it, build it and protect it.
  28. Keep your commitments.  Habitually cancelling is a C.L.M., Career Limiting Move.
  29. Keep in mind that success is the first attempt after failure.  We all have made mistakes.  Don’t sweat it; just learn from them.
  30. Devote a great deal of time to practicing your interview skills.  Have a Mock Interview at your campus Career Center.
  31. You won’t reach your career goals if you let someone else drive your career.  Go from passenger to driver.
  32. If you take your career seriously, others will take you seriously.  If you care about others, others will care about you.
  33. Ask for help, but don’t suck up too much of anyone’s time.
  34. How you dress is a reflection of your self-image.  Dress for not where you are, but for where you want to be.  Be neat.
  35. Have a clear vision for your life.  Set personal and professional goals every year and develop an action plan to achieve them.
  36. It is highly likely you will go on to graduate school.  Carefully pick the right degree and program.  It’s expensive if you don’t.
  37. Network your brains out and carefully build your LinkedIn Contacts.  You will be changing jobs, and you’ll need their help.
  38. Givers Get!  It starts with you.
  39. Most communication is non-verbal.  Pay attention to what you say.  Pay closer attention to what you say when you’re not talking.
  40. Have regular meetings with your boss to discuss your progress.  This can save a lot of misunderstandings and headaches later.
  41. A person’s most basic human emotional need is to be heard.  Listening is a critically important skill in the workplace.  Talk less.
  42. Stay in your first job out of college for one year, preferably two to three.  Anything less is job hopping, and it doesn’t look good.
  43. The world is very small and increasingly interconnected.  Play nice.  Don’t burn any bridges.
  44. Don’t chase after money.  It tends to be a poor long-term motivator.  Do what you love and the money will follow.
  45. Pursue meaningful work that makes a difference.  The meaning of life is to make a difference.  Do work that you value.
  46. Build an emergency fund just in case something goes wrong at work.  Find a financial planner and start investing immediately!
  47. Set up a budget and stick to it.  Don’t get into credit card debt.  Always live below your means.
  48. Don’t wait for opportunities.  Go out and hunt for them.
  49. Where you go in life is up to you.
  50. Go be somebody.
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