Monday, March 17, 2014

How To Get Great Work Experience While You Are In College

When I was in college, I organized a Guinness world record breaking rock paper scissors tournament as a fundraiser for my university’s entrepreneurship club. To promote the event we had a helicopter land on campus, parked a Lamborghini in the quad and got the volleyball team to act as the referees for the tournament. It was a ton of work and a ton of fun.

Would it surprise you if I told you that being in the leadership of that club and running that tournament helped put me on the path to landing a great full time job when I graduated? The skills I learned from running that tournament and the exposure to the local business community it created, helped me get my first internship. That internship led to a better internship, which led to a great full time job.

These days companies seem to have higher and higher expectations for the skills that grads have coming out of college. It is important to get good grades, but having valuable experience AND a diploma is more frequently the recipe for success when it comes to finding a job after graduation. Below are 10 ways students can get great work experience.

Picture of the omniture throwdown a BYU fundraiser


1. Do an Internship- Internships can often lead to a job or at least provide you with skills that will help you get a job later.

2. Volunteer- Getting paid is not a requirement to count as work experience. Often volunteer work can be done on a project basis or maybe over a holiday break.

3. Get involved in clubs- Don’t just go for the pizza, get involved in the leadership of the clubs that interest you. This will increase your visibility and access to the club’s network.

4. Get a part time job- Not only does it pay the bills, but can help make you be more marketable for after graduation. Try to find something that could be a stepping stone towards your post graduation plans.

5. Look beyond your current role- Leverage your current job to get exposure to other parts of the company that might interest you. Offer to help another department with a side project to learn a skill you need.

6. Work for a start up- They are often are fast moving, exciting and willing to give you more responsibility than you should have as a student.

7. Take the right classes- This could be a class that gives you hard skills, like an advanced excel class. It could also be a field study or an on campus internship. Select your classes with a future job in mind.

8. Participate in competitions- It could be a film competition or a business case competition. Often the sponsors of competitions for students are interested in hiring students. Take the chance to show them what you got.

9. Start your own business- Can’t find someone to hire you? Have a great idea? Don’t wait around. Try it on your own.

10. Teach yourself the skills you need- There are many skills that can be self taught. Read a book or watch “how to” YouTube videos. Connect with professionals that currently have those skills to get ideas how to develop them on your own time.

Those four years will be over before you know it. Don't forget to take the time now to make sure that you graduate with a diploma and a resume. Make sure that each semester, whatever you are doing outside of the classroom, is getting you one step closer to your dream job.

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