Despite popular belief, a degree isn’t the only thing that you should make sure to obtain before leaving college. Yes, it’s a pretty good start, but, a degree in itself won’t get you a job.
Employers are looking for well-connected individuals who possess excellent soft skills, have experience and proof of their talents.
If you’ve never worked a day in your chosen career field and feel like you don’t have anything extraordinary to offer, you’re not alone.
The good news is if you play your cards right, you can leave college with a toolbox filled with tools that can help you grab that first job out of the gate.
Here are 7 things you shouldn’t leave college without:
1. A college degree
Whether you are just a quarter into college or a quarter from graduation, finish. Unlike material items you pay for in life, a degree is one of those things that can’t be taken away from you. Also, think about the thousands of hours of work you have invested into school—don’t let your hard work become a waste.
2. A network
Face it—the old saying “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know” still applies; actually, it applies even more now than in the past. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 percent of jobs are found through networking. As a college student, you have a major advantage to building your network because of the access you have to instructors who are typically industry experts. Utilize a social media channel like LinkedIn to organize your connections.
3. A portfolio
College is the perfect place to build a portfolio showcasing the different skills you have obtained. Plus, employers love portfolios because they provide solid evidence of your work—employers don’t have to just believe you are an incredibly talented graphic designer, they can see it.
An important part of college is actually obtaining the necessary skills to do the tasks of your future jobs well. You shouldn’t just read about these needed skills in a book—you should be engaging in activities and working hands-on to develop these technical skills in and outside of the classroom.
5. A career path
By your final year in college you should have a defined career path that includes a firm understanding of what kind of job you will be searching for for your first gig. Developing this path takes time, so if you’re already in your last or second to last quarter it’s time to speed things up. You need to already be on alert for open jobs with your desired title.
6. Excellent time management practices
If you consistently turn homework in late or can never make it to class on time, you’re off to a bad start for this practice. Employers are looking for someone who shows up to work on time, and can effectively manage his or her time to finish projects on deadline.
7. Know yourself
By the end of college you should have a good understanding of who you are, what you want out of life, and your strengths and weaknesses. In an interview, being able to articulate answers around these items usually means either getting the job or not.
So the question is, which of these things do you already have in your toolbox and which ones will you be working towards obtaining before leaving college?