Toss the apple aside and get your head out of those books - building your professional future requires more than exceptional grades. While being at the top of the class is an important criterion for many opportunities, standing out among a pile of high GPAs can be a battle. Below is some advice for building your network while you're still a student so that you can burst into the job market when you graduate.
1. Actually, Pick that Apple Back Up.
Your professors are experts in their fields, so along with being incredibly accomplished, they are likely well-connected. Invest time into developing relationships with those professors in your chosen field-attend office hours, seek out research assistant opportunities, keep up with their scholarship, be engaged during their classes, get involved in clubs and associations that they oversee, volunteer to help them with projects, etc. Once you have established a connection, seek your professor's advice on paving your career path and inquire into any contacts who may be willing to speak with you about their careers.
2. Experience Your Future Profession
You can only learn so much from a book-put yourself ahead of your competition by gaining some real-world experience and connections while you're still in school. Take advantage of your flexible student schedule and intern at various types of employers within your field-more than one internship will not only provide you with diverse experiences but also help you better narrow your interests. Make your schedule more manageable by seeking school credit for the internships.
3. Opt for Opportunities
School years may seem like prime time for relaxing and clinging to your last strands of youth, but that viewpoint will keep you at square one when it comes to your eventual job search. Instead, embrace your flexibility by taking advantage of unique opportunities: study abroad, intern abroad, immerse yourself in an independent study, explore a second major, etc. Diversifying your experiences will allow you to meet more people in more places. You never know where you'll want to go: think broadly.
Get involved in your future field by volunteering in the industry. Volunteering can help to build your experience while meeting practitioners in that field. You also may consider volunteering to help organizations with events they are hosting for professionals-a great opportunity for you to meet a large group of industry pros at once.
5. Go Clubbin
School clubs aren't just excuses to blow a budget on parties and receptions. You can get a lot of networking power through your involvement in organizations that relate to your field. Look no further than your fellow members-future professionals in your field who may prove to be valuable connections down the line. You can also boost your networking by booking accomplished speakers from the field, hosting events for professionals and students, inviting back alumni in your industry to participate in events and developing a relationship with the professor who supervises the club.
6. Consult a Counselor
Don't forget about the career services office in your quest to build connections for the future. These career experts are chock-full of knowledge about potential internship opportunities, alumni in your field, helpful events and networking advice. Take advantage of this free resource.
7. Who Do You Know?
Sometimes we are so focused on building new connections that we forget about those we already have. Find out if your parents, family and friends have any contacts in your future field who may be willing to speak with you about their career paths or who may be looking for interns.
Read the full post by Mary Kate Sheridan on Vault.com.
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