Posted June 06, 2014 by

How to Get Career-related Experience When Still at College

Young and diverse group volunteering in clothing donation

Young and diverse group volunteering in clothing donation. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

In today’s overcrowded job market, mere graduation doesn’t open many doors – what employers want is professional experience. While plenty of students consider their time at the university perfect for fun and adventure, the truth is that college is also an excellent time for getting some hands-on job experience. How to do it? Consider some of the options listed below – they will surely help you to launch your career after you graduate.

Part-time and Summer Jobs

When choosing one of those, you’d better be thinking about your future career goals – don’t choose a job because it pays well, but because it will act as a stepping stone to getting highly sought-after internships or actual positions. Even if the job you choose isn’t exactly related to your field, it will still help you to develop a sense of responsibility and train skills that will count in the future, such as group work or leadership.

Internships

In today’s shaky economy, internships have become akin to an entry-level job – you need to make sure that the internship you choose will allow you to develop skills needed for the work you’d like to do in the future. Internships offer great opportunities for networking – you get to meet industry professionals, develop relations with your colleagues and get a glimpse into the workings of a company or industry in general.

Student Organizations

Those are a natural part of a college lifestyle so don’t hesitate and participate in the activities organized by the student organizations – consider taking up a leadership role and organize an event yourself. This kind of experience is favoured by employers and can be of great value for certain kind of career paths, such as management.

A leadership role doesn’t necessarily mean the leader – you could be in charge of the organization’s finances, be the fund raising chair, event planner or volunteer recruiter. The key is to get involved – while belonging to several organizations as a mere member is not going to impress any employer, playing an active part in one will certainly do.

Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is something for undergrads of a wide array of fields like IT, manufacturing, construction, homeland security, hospitality or aerospace. The basic difference between an internship and apprenticeship is the fact that during the latter you can actually gain a substantial amount of money and they still help you to prepare for your future career.

Externships

Externships are a mode of learning about the working environment. They can either be short-term or long-term – from several hours a week to a few hours per day. During an externship you’ll have a prearranged amount of time to spend at a particular work environment to learn from people that work in your preferred career.

Volunteering

In a recent survey, LinkedIn found out that one in five recruiters find volunteer experience a valuable asset when screening for suitable candidates. Most of us consider volunteering an activity along the lines of helping elderly people or tutoring children, but that’s not all there is to volunteering.

If you’d like to test your accounting skills, what could be better than to volunteer for the accountancy department of a local non-profit organization? Here you can also network with business professionals – something that will help you to situate yourself on the job market after you graduate.

Undergrad Research

This is something for students who consider applying to a graduate school. Opportunities for undergrads might be offered within the university departments or by external research centres interested in employing students in exchange for credits. Those might also be advertised by professors themselves – if the subject interests you, apply immediately!

If you don’t find any announcements posted at the university or department websites, try contacting the local Office for Undergraduate Research or your college career centre.

Monique Craig is an Australian blogger and marketing specialist, who currently writes for Oneflare, an Australian online marketplace, which connects customers with service providers.

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