We have all seen the person, who doesn’t want to get too close to the edge of the diving board before jumping off, and they create some wonderful memes as their heads or bottoms crash into the diving board before careening into the water below. No one wants to be that person. How do we avoid this with our exit from college? What stood between this person and the perfect swan dive (or at least a reprieve from a legacy of online hilarity)?
It was the position before the dive. In our exit from college, we need to make sure we put ourselves in the perfect position: as close to the edge of the board as possible, while still finishing our degrees. How do we find that position? By taking small steps toward our careers through networking, internships, and building our brands.
These words sound perfect, but how do we execute them without connections and industry experience. Everyone has a network. Everyone has a brand, but are you the one controlling it?
Networking For Your Career
First, let’s start with your networking. This is a lot more than a few cocktail parties and champagne glasses. The people who do this the best have a strategy.
Networking must first be performed internally. Who are your connections? Start making a tree of everyone you know, then go out to second connections, and think about who those people know. Usually, within that second branch, you have someone connected to a company or job skill you would like to pursue. Now reach out to that person for help. Give them your resume and ask for introductions. It may seem hard or awkward, but everyone has needed someone to pull them up along the way. Now, it’s your turn.
Externally network by searching for events and organizations that relate to your career and attend these events. Most allow students for reduced rates or even free. Print cheap business cards and bring a portfolio to take notes. Work the room like it is your job because your perfect opportunity could be hidden in it somewhere.
Lastly, ALWAYS follow up with your connections at the event. Send LinkedIn requests or emails. Ask to meet for coffee (and be prepared to pay for theirs) so you can pick their brains about how to be competitive in the industry of your dreams.
Intern, Intern, Intern
Next, internships are the new first jobs of our parents’ generation. Some are paid, and some are unpaid, but all are valuable. You do not have to stop at one internship. The more experience you can rack up before graduation, the better! Take several internships, not only will this make you better positioned to enter the workforce, it will also reinforce the reason you are sitting through classes every day on campus.
Build Your Brand
Lastly, build your brand. It is yours to build, or you can let the world around you define who you are. The easiest way to do this is to take an audit of all of the social media streams you utilize and the organizations you are involved in currently.
If you are on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook, you should be posting similar stories related to your career advancements once every week or two targeted in different ways for those social media streams. If you received an award for excellence in your program: a LinkedIn post might be a picture of the award and a simple description of the honor; Instagram might be a collage of pictures of how you achieved the award; Facebook might be you holding the award with and exciting story about what the award means for you.
When you look at the organizations you are involved in, try to look for ways to integrate your career skills within that organization. If you are a member of a service organization and studying to be an elementary school teacher, could your service hours be spent reading in the local school system? If you are a member of the Student Government Association and studying finance, could you run for treasurer?
When working on positioning yourself to jump off of the diving board and into the real world, it is important to be aware of where you are and take those small steps before you graduate to make your transition as easy and seamless as possible.
Check back later this month for my final blog in the series, Pumps! And if you missed the first one, click here.