Q: I am still in college, but what can I do to ensure I get a job after I graduate?
A: This answer is a little bit different if you are just starting or about to finish your college career, so we will start with the universal answer: you must do well in school. And doing well means you are getting good grades and you are also involved in something else that makes you a key part of your college community. Employers want to see that you can perform in school because, frankly, you will always be learning something new on the job. The faster you learn, the more you and the company can do. But, companies also want to know that you can handle more than one thing at a time. When I was first in college, I studied economics and was also part of an investment club that met once a month at lunch to see who could pick the best performing stocks. Being in the club required spending extra time researching companies – and this was long before the information was readily available online. We had to go to the library to find research reports written by analysts, annual reports and news articles on the various companies we were “investing” in. All of this paid great dividends when I wanted to start working in financial services.
If you are a freshman or a sophomore, you definitely need to focus on your grades. If you get good grades your first year, it is easier to maintain your grade point average over the next four years. If you don’t do well, you will spend the rest of your college career trying to improve your grade point average and the math typically works against you. Do choose another activity, but limit it to say once a month.
If you are a senior or even a junior, you need to invest more time in the extra activity – and make it count. My senior year, I made a random decision that paid off significantly: I became a reporter for the school newspaper. It was a great decision because I was able to interview a lot of people that helped me later as I started working. I interviewed the president of the university, lots of elected officials and all of the business people who came to campus to recruit. Obviously, my big question to employers: What are you looking for right now in new employees? By the end of my senior year, I was probably working almost ten hours per week at the paper, but it was well worth it.
In college, it’s also very, very important to establish and maintain a good relationship with a career counselor, professor or someone else who can help you make good decisions about how to choose your coursework, complete your degree and use your free time. Without good, consistent direction, you can waste time and money. And by all means, don’t hang around in college longer than necessary. College is an important first step to building your career, but you certainly don’t need to be there for more than four years.
Lilyanne has worked in corporate America for 25 years and has supported eight CEOs. She wants to answer your career questions – so you can get ahead at work. Email your questions to Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com <mailto:Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com> , email@example.com or through your favorite connection to the Houston Forward Times.