The biggest regrets most graduates have after finishing college are all related to a failure to make their college experience a goal oriented process. Which is a tall order, to be sure. Most of us don’t know right out of high school what career we want to launch ourselves into training for. And that’s fine. What you want to avoid is wasting a bunch of time and money on school while you figure it out. That may have been okay back in the day when college was affordable, but it’s just not smart anymore. These days you want to look at college like a businessperson making an investment: you want to get back everything you put in and then some. So before you start taking out student loans you’ll be spending a lifetime paying back, take steps to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. Learn from the mistakes of your peers in order to avoid the following…
1. Waiting too long to start job hunting
One of the toughest things about making college work for you is making the transition from academia into the real world. Try not to think of them as separate things. You aren’t attending an edifying institution; you’re there for job training (and if you aren’t, maybe you want to be someplace else). With that in mind, start applying for jobs while you’re still in school. You can work on your résumé and interviewing skills and start getting a feel for the professional world.
2. Being lazy about networking
Connections to people in your field are a valuable thing you’re paying for with your tuition. You can make the most of it by going down every avenue open to you based on the connections you make through faculty and alumni.
3. Not working and/or interning while still in school
This is another way to start making connections and it’s also great training – a kind of training you don’t get in a classroom. On top of that, by working while you’re in school you can minimize the amount of student loans you have to take out.
4. Not delving into career-related activity outside of school
Don’t just stick to what you learn in class, start keeping up with your profession. This can include things like staying on top of news and journals that discuss what’s going on in the field and interacting with other professionals.
5. Applying to too few jobs
Have you seen the unemployment stats lately? On top of gaining better odds, the more you interview, the more confidence you’ll gain, as well as insight into the kind of work environment that suits you.
6. Not working towards professionalism
We have the luxury of growing up slowly in this culture, but the sooner you stop thinking of yourself as a kid, the sooner others will do the same. This is your life so make it count by showing others you take your work seriously and developing a professional mindset.
7. Failing to set career goals
It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll hit an objective unless you make that objective clear for yourself. Once you know what you want, you can figure out how to go after it.
8. Not taking advantage of career centers/counseling
That’s what they’re there for! These services are included in the price of your tuition and career centers and counselors can be a huge help.
9. Not keeping track of your own achievements
To be successful professionally you have to learn how to sell yourself. Know what you’ve achieved and are capable of and don’t be afraid to share it.
10. Failing to focus on learning relevant skills
College isn’t really about knowledge for it’s own sake anymore. Do your own triage by figuring out what exactly you’re going to need to know for success out there in the professional world and focus on the skills you need.
Following these tips will help you to get a solid return on your college investment, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still have a bunch of student debt to contend with, at least for a while. For those struggling with debt there are student loan management experts out there who can help.