It’s never too early to begin thinking about a career. I’m frequently asked for career advice by cousins who are about to enter college, or those who are in their sophomore or junior years, so I’ve come up with some thoughts about what a college student could do. I occasionally interview and select interns and new recruits at my organization, and I can now understand the recruitment process from different perspectives.
The first thing that any young person should be aware of, is what he or she really wants from life. It’s never too early to begin some soul-searching. List the top 5 things that you want to achieve over your life-time. Be honest, and as specific as possible (e.g. I want to live in the Bahamas, not doing anything all day, with my three girlfriends who are all swimsuit models). Rest assured that your goals with change as you grow older, but things will be a lot easier if you start making plans for your life.
Be clear about what it is that you want from your career. Do you want to make a lot of money? Would you do that by climbing to a top management position, or would start a business after a few years experience?
Ideally, you would want a high-paying job that would also enable you to enjoy a stress-free life. (I can warn you that it’s not going to happen, but you knew that already, right?) Think about what’s important to you, what interests you, and you’ll be able to come up with some possible fields you’d like to go into. Of course, if you already know exactly what niche you want to work in (be it advertising or massage therapy) that makes life a lot simpler: all you need to do is to concentrate your energies on that field of study, and you’re almost certain to get a job.
For those who have a vague idea (i.e. good pay, good hours), a good option is a liberal arts degree, or a major in a relatively job-friendly subject (communications, physics, economics). Of course, if you love art history but want a job in the corporate world, you should feel free to go down that route. It’s possible to get a corporate job with a major in a non-typical subject, but it will, of course, be slightly more difficult.
Take as many courses in college, which you feel you would enjoy.
Try to get good grades in college. Grades are not everything, and hiring decisions are not based on grades. Still, make an effort so that you can be proud of yourself. It definitely does help if you’re on the Dean’s List, but even if you’re not, make sure that you can say, “I tried my very best”.
Get involved. Play sports, join a club, do volunteer work. These things will help to impress interviewers, but pick activities which you’ll enjoy. Try to participate in leadership roles. This will teach you management and responsibility.
Make friends. As many as possible. Not only do friends make your life fun, but friends are an important source of information. Try to make friends with people who are a year or two above you, as well as those in your year. Your older friends will later be able to provide you with valuable advice regarding the job market.
Do some work. Start as early as possible, so that you’ll have no ego hang-ups about doing what you think is menial work. Get internships, even if they’re unpaid. Even if you think you’re not doing serious work, you’ll at least learn how to interact in an office environment.
Finally, your college years should be those when you enjoy yourself. Work life is a drag, and your college years should be some of the best times of your life. Follow the basic principles outlined above, and forget about looking for a job until you’re in your senior year and actively being recruited!