7 Ways to Kickstart Your Career Before Graduation

By Marina Krivonossova on March 3, 2023

The worldwide labor force is growing at an incredible rate. In 1990, it was reported that there were 2.32 billion professionals in the workforce. By 2019, that number had risen all the way to 3.47 billion (World Bank, 2021). And as more and more people start working, competition for jobs increases, and standing out from the crowd becomes a task of integral importance. But what if I told you that you could get on your journey to standing out from your competition while you’re still a student? Yep, it’s possible, and it doesn’t have to be a painful process, either. That’s why I want to take a moment to share with you seven ways to kickstart your career before graduation. Give yourself the leg up you deserve in your professional career while you’re still a student – future you will be grateful that you did!

1. Internships. This is one of the best ways to gain industry experience before graduation. Internships are generally tailored specifically towards students who have not yet completed their education, so there are fewer strict degree and experience requirements than in entry-level jobs. Internships allow you to gain on-the-job experience, learn from seasoned professionals in your industry of choice, and build your résumé while you’re still a student.

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2. Part-time jobs. Don’t underestimate the value of part-time jobs, even if these jobs aren’t directly related to your degree, your studies, or your professional field of choice. Part-time jobs in industries like retail, customer service, and hospitality are an ideal way to work on a number of skills that will help you excel in your future career. These include (but certainly aren’t limited to) communication, organization, data analysis, teamwork, leadership, time management, multitasking, prioritizing, and problem-solving.

3. Volunteer work. While it doesn’t pay, volunteer work often offers you more freedom when it comes to building your experience in a way that makes sense for you. Going for a volunteer gig instead of a paid part-time job or internship comes with its benefits, as you’ll likely have more freedom in what you do, as well as a sense of ownership and responsibility that comes from giving your time back to an organization whose mission and values you truly support.

4. Networking. This is one that I never even considered taking advantage of until long after I graduated, which in retrospect is one of the biggest mistakes I made as a student. Joining the workforce full-time helped me see the incredible role that networking plays in every single person’s career. Knowing the right people – and having those people on your side – can make a world of a difference when you’re looking to secure a new role, get a recommendation, pursue a career in a new field, and everything in between. Skills are important, and they can get you far. But networking can give you the professional boost you never even knew you could get.

(Image via unsplash.com)

5. Creating your own experience. Even though I’m the first to acknowledge the value of part-time jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities when it comes to kickstarting your career before graduation, I understand just how hard it can be to find the ones that align with what you want to do. And even once you find them, there’s no guarantee that you’ll even be selected from the vast sea of applicants. The good news is that you don’t have to rely on the goodwill of the selection committee when it comes to creating your own experience. The best way to do this is to decide what skills you need for your future career, which skills you want to develop and/or improve, and what sort of projects you can create in order to make that happen. This can include building a phone app if you’re an aspiring developer, creating a website if you’re an aspiring designer, writing a blog if you’re an aspiring marketer, tutoring students if you’re an aspiring teacher, and so on, and so forth.

6. Building your personal brand. Our modern world is extremely digitized, and one of the best ways to stand out from the competition is to have a reputable personal brand. “Personal branding is the process of defining and promoting what you stand for as an individual. Your personal brand is a culmination of the experiences, skills and values that differentiate you,” (Sprout Social, 2023). Your personal brand is what allows you to stand out from your competition when it comes to the job search. Your personal brand gives you the chance to be more than just another applicant with a basic résumé and cover letter.

7. Take the time to work on your soft skills. As a student, you probably feel a lot of pressure to succeed academically. Get the best grades, take as many classes as possible, and secure that degree. But if that’s all you focus on, you’ll be in for a surprise when you enter the workforce and see the value that’s placed on soft skills. Technical skills matter, and being extremely knowledgeable in your field will never be a bad thing. But knowing how to work with people, communicate, organize a team, and everything in between – that’s the result of soft skills that can’t be taught in a classroom.

Proving your value as a professional is never easy, especially when you’re a recent graduate. But when you take full advantage of these seven ways to kickstart your career before graduation, you’re giving yourself the competitive edge you deserve.

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