Get the Most Out of Your Time in School: 8 Tips for College Students

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Welcome to Recruiter Q&A, where we pose employment-related questions to the experts and share their answers! Have a question you’d like to ask? Leave it in the comments, and you might just see it in the next installment of Recruiter Q&A!

This Week’s Question: There has been a lot of controversy in recent times regarding whether or not college is truly preparing students for the working world, but let’s put that aside for a minute and focus on the individual students themselves. What advice would you give college students to help them make the most of their time in school and best prepare themselves for their future careers?

jan1. Try New Things — Even If They Aren’t Part of Your Career Path

I majored in fine arts even though, down the road, I got a master’s in criminal justice and a Ph.D. in sociology, becoming an adjunct professor, writer, and publisher rather than a full-time artist. I learned a lot from my fine arts major — including that I did not want to pursue fine arts as my life’s work!

If you choose a major that does become your life’s work, that’s fine, too. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t know by your freshman year or even your senior year what you want to do with the rest of your life.

Dr. Jan Yager, speaker, author, and consultant

Christine2. Do Some Self-Reflection

Over the last several years, we’ve heard lots of debate surrounding the cost and efficacy of college degrees. But what’s been missing from the argument is the heavy level of introspection and self-study a student should actively engage in during their college years.

At the end of the day, college shouldn’t be about just getting any old job — it should be about translating your own strengths, interests, and passions into a career that will be sustainable and enjoyable throughout the years. The idea of telling a 22-year-old to get a job because it’s secure and has a nice dollar figure is more depressing than I can even handle. Now, telling a 22-year-old to chart a career based on their own strengths and interests? That I can get behind.

Christine Santacroce,

Alfred3. Practice Your Soft Skills

Study after study shows that the biggest problems recent college grads face in the workplace are due to their lack of fundamental soft career skills. This includes skills like communication (written and verbal), teamwork, work ethic, problem-solving, time management, and personal responsibility. Colleges are focusing more and more on content, and little is done to make sure that students get these important skills.

The bottom line is that students must take personal responsibility to develop and practice these skills. Two of the best ways to do that are through internships and jobs while in college.

Alfred Poor, speaker, writer, and mentor

andy4. Develop a ‘Side Hustle’

Be a blogger, tutor, or whatever it takes. One of the best ways to achieve financial independence is to develop multiple income streams. Starting early when you don’t have family responsibilities is key.

Andy Brantner, The People’s Advisor

Erika5. Complete a College Aptitude Test

I recommend that college-bound students and early college students complete a college aptitude assessment. This assessment uncovers interests, aptitudes, values, and personality dynamics that impact college major selection and later career selection and trajectory. It helps students zero in on the college majors that align best with their interests and passions.

It also helps to reduce instances of changing majors, and thus, the cost of tuition. At least 50 percent of students change majors 2-3 times; the U.S. average is 5 times. By conservative measures, each change of major adds 5 percent more to a student’s tuition bill. That has quite a financial impact!

Dr. Erika Martinez, Envision Wellness

Brian6. Network, Network, Network!

I graduated this past May and was offered a job before graduation. My advice to college students is to take advantage of internship opportunities and any other opportunities for networking. Because of my numerous internships and my extensive network, I was able to get a job very easily.

Brian Kearney, Blue Fountain Media

eric7. Get an Internship — Perhaps With a Recruiting Firm

The internship is by far your greatest opportunity to prepare for your career — as long as you take advantage of it. Network with everyone at the company, build relationships, ask for more to do, and take on projects others don’t want to. You will get so much business experience just listening and watching. You can’t get that kind of experience in a classroom!

Your best internship, I would say, would be with a recruitment firm. They know of all the open jobs in your area, and if they see talent in you, they will be able to place you as soon as you get out of school!

Eric Becher, Hatch Staffing Services

Joanie8. Think Big Picture

No one will ask you about your grades after your first job out of college. They will want to know that you have a degree and that you are a reliable, capable person. Take this time to grow up, learn who you are, and learn how to take care of yourself.

Dr. Joanie Connell, Flexible Work Solutions

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