So, you and your parents have just invested a significant amount of money for your college education. As a freshman, what can you do to make sure you get your money’s worth? How will you assure a return on your investment (ROI)?
Well, here is a very important fact about college and ROI. Attending class, establishing a strong GPA, and completing a major will get you a degree but NOT a job. Your degree alone will not educate you on how to transition from a student to a professional. Your degree alone will not educate you on how to build your network, establish your professional brand, and obtain and keep a job.
The career development services office is where you will receive this education and, this is a process that takes as many semesters to complete as your degree. Failing to prioritize your career development will put you way behind in education and strategy crucial to landing a job at graduation.
6 Steps To Kickstart Your Career As A College Freshman
So, when should you begin working on your career development? Immediately! Here are the steps to take freshman year to kickstart your career.
Step 1: Get Organized
Developing a strong, structured time management routine is crucial to being successful in college. Your first semester will set the tone for your following four years. It is imperative that you establish a strong GPA that first semester because maintaining a high GPA is much easier than trying to bring up a low one. Being organized will also keep you healthy, reduce your stress levels, and prevent fatigue.
Work on maximizing your time between the hours of 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. Take advantage of free time between classes to work on homework, projects, career development, and exercise. This will free up your evenings and weekends for additional activities, rest, and relaxation. Then, spend a few hours at the end of your weekend to review and plan for the following week.
Step 2: Schedule Monthly Meetings With A Career Coach
Because career development is a process that takes as many semesters as your established major, scheduling career coaching appointments monthly will benefit you tremendously. Every college has a career development office. Locate it and visit your first semester. Then, establish a relationship with this office and keep consistent appointments with a career coach. He/she will help you plan out your professional development goals for each semester.
If you do not do this, you will not be educated on how to transition from student to professional. Would you dare wait until your final semester of college to visit your professors, attend class, and follow through with your major requirements for graduation? Of course not! So, why would you dare make the mistake of doing this with your career development?
Step 3: Engage In Your Career Development
The majority of students who fail to attend and participate in career development events do so because they choose not to engage and prioritize this development. Again, it is imperative that students educate themselves on how to transition from student to professional. Establish and keep consistent appointments with a career coach so you can identify professional interests, build strategies for out of classroom experiences, identify strong, mentor-based internships, and establish a strong professional brand. Learning to be professional starts freshman year, not senior year.
Step 4: Investigate Extra Curricular Activities
Once you have identified professional interests, it is time to celebrate those interests and meet others who have those same interests. This is where extra curricular activities come in. As a freshman, finding a community that celebrates these same interests will help you learn more about yourself, your goals and passions, and your interpersonal style. College provides an abundance of clubs and activities for students to choose from, so investigate these choices and participate starting your freshman year. This will set the stage for future leadership opportunities within these clubs or activities and will help strengthen your professional interests.
Step 5: Create Your LinkedIn Profile
Establishing a professional on line presence begins freshman year. Yes, students need to clean up their Facebook page and even lock it down, if preferred. However, the main focus freshman year, is to establish your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a professional networking site every bit as relevant to first year college students as it is to seasoned professionals.
The difference is in the strategies used by freshman versus seasoned professionals. Freshman can research alumni, learn about their majors and subsequent careers, research those careers and the companies in which they work and learn tons about the professional world. And, the career development coaches and staff can assist freshman in building their profiles and using the site strategically.
Step 6: Get A Mentor
Because your first year in college is a huge transition, it can be a tremendous help to build a relationship with someone a bit ahead of you. Someone who has recently been in your shoes, can guide you, give you advice and support you through this transition. This is where mentoring comes in. Ask the career development office if they can assist you in locating a mentor. Alumni can be fabulous mentors for freshman and a career coach can assist you in making connections with alumni through LinkedIn.
These are six easy steps to accomplish during your freshman year. Remember, you have made a significant financial investment to attend college, so follow these steps and you will be on your way to a gaining a huge ROI. Next, look for my post on steps to take your sophomore year that will help you continue that ROI .
If you struggle to find assistance in completing these steps, or your college does not have a career development office, I am happy to help! Feel free to check out my coaching page below.
About the author
Elizabeth Dexter-Wilson is the Coordinator of Career & Professional Development at Spring Hill College where she helps students transition from student to professional. She is also in the process of starting her own consulting business where she works with businesses and individuals on professional etiquette, branding, and image consulting. Are you a new graduate who needs help with these strategies? Check out her CareerHMO Coaching page.
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