In the prior post from this series, we discussed some of the ways that college students can better prepare themselves for after graduation while still enjoying themselves. We’ll continue with this theme in this post and pick up from where we left off.
6. Get an internship
Internships (both paid and unpaid) can help get your career started quickly. Many of my friends in college ended up working for the companies they interned with after graduation. But even if you’re not offered a job, it’s great resume building experience (and you may even learn a thing or two). Students with actual work experience in their area of study are more attractive to employers than those without.
My internship was with a software company and I did hardware and software support. It was a big eye opener for me. I thought that this type of work was something I wanted to do, but after my internship I learned that I didn’t enjoy it. So I moved on to other areas of technology that I did enjoy working in.
7. Attend on campus events
If you attend a larger school, this is especially important but it also applies at smaller schools. On campus events are a great way to meet new people and to be seen. I lived at home during my freshman year of college but still attended almost every major on campus event. Many of my fellow commuter friends skipped out on these events, but not me. I remember once talking to a gal who didn’t believe me when I told her I was a commuter – she said that she had seen me around too much for me to be a commuter.
Your college years go by fast, so you only have a limited amount of time to connect with people. It’s impossible to meet everyone, but it’s possible to become a familiar face or a friend-of-a-friend. During my freshman year there was a hypnotist that came on campus for a show one weekend so I attended with some friends. When he looked for volunteers to come up on stage, I jumped right up. I had tried it before so I knew what to expect (and also knew I wouldn’t actually be hypnotized) but I got up there and acted like a fool regardless. A year later I met some people that remembered me from that night – they didn’t believe I was faking being hypnotize (or that I was a commuter at the time).
So the lesson here is that attending these events makes you a familiar face. Some people are terrible with names but most of us remember faces. So even if someone never meets you while you’re in college, you may run into him or her down the road at a job interview or alumni event. They may know a friend of your or you may know one of theirs. But the bottom line is that you have an icebreaker.
8. Attend a professional event in your target industry
When I was President of my Toastmasters club, I received an email from a student at a local college (coincidentally, the same one I attended). This young lady was working on a group project and wanted to know if it was okay to attend a meeting and observe. I was glad to have them there and even sat with them for a few minutes afterwards to answer questions.
So many groups, including trade organizations, offer inexpensive ways to help current students get involved, yet so few do. One entrepreneurship organization whose meetings I’ve attended gives a significant discount to current students who join (they pay about 20% of what non-students do). Some groups allow students to attend for free or have a limited number of free student slots available for each event. So find some local events that you can get to and see what discounts are available.
Like most of the other items on this list, this is another great way to connect with people in your target industry that may be able to help you down the line.
9. Hang out
Some of my favorite memories from college are from simply hanging out in the dorms talking, playing video games and watching TV. There are certain phrases that pop up from time to time in email and on Facebook from some of these moments of bonding.
Hanging out with friends and talking helps build your social and interpersonal skills. You learn about people, friendship and these are the times that you’ll build those relationships that last a lifetime. In high school, you’re limited to a few hours each non-school night to do this but in college, you can do this practically anytime – which is why time management is key as many people don’t last long in college as they hang out too much.
So build those bonds, make friends and learn about people. Everyone is different so having some diversity in the people you bond with will prepare you the business world upon graduation. And I mean “diversity” not just in the racial and religious sense but also in the sense of personality and background.
10. Enjoy yourself
Life is about memories, so make sure that you’re making a lot of good ones when you’re in college. If you’re very serious about your studies, make sure you allow for some downtime as you can’t go back and start over again – as much as many of us would like to. In addition to school sponsored functions, go out and see the town (especially if you’re in an area new to you). Visit your friends at their homes during breaks and tag along during trips to other campuses. Visit your friends from other schools and bring some new friends along (mixing friends is one of the biggest social challenges that adults face).
Go to parties, concerts, and sporting events and check out the local culture. Just be careful of what you do and do your best to act responsibly. Sex, drugs and alcohol used to be what most parents feared when their kids went off to college. But these days there have been a number of stories in the news about murder, date rape and other violent crimes on college campuses. With camera phones, social networks and search engines, a picture here and there have been posted on the internet to sidetrack many people’s rise to stardom. Just ask several Miss USA contestants and Michael Phelps.
Again, these are the best years of your life so try to make the most out of them. Take some risks, get your ears wet and have some fun. You have your whole life ahead of you so enjoy it.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.