How to start your career while still in school
When attending a liberal arts college, it can be hard to start your career in the corporate world. As an undergrad, I had to make the difficult decision between pursuing my academic passions and choosing a more practical major that might more easily link to my career. As a classics major, studying ancient languages, literature, and history, I wasn’t necessarily on the direct path to being a corporate publicist. However, I attribute my strong research and writing skills to my training in the archives of my university’s library. Here are some tips to land your dream job upon graduation, without sacrificing your nerdy side:
Read as much as possible
Once you’ve decided which industry you want to enter, pick up the publications that matter most. In my case, I hoped to work in corporate and financial communications, so I read The New York Times, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal when I had free time. Subscribe and make use of your downtime between classes or before social events to read the latest articles and get familiar with the trends and developments in that particular industry. You can even follow journalists you like to read on Twitter for instant updates! Soon, you’ll be ready to nail interviews by the time the summer internship search comes along.
Build and maintain your Rolodex
Take the initiative to schedule an informational interview or coffee with someone you know who is already in the field. This could be a family friend, someone who recently graduated from your school, or a complete stranger you admire. Mentors are made—they do not come to you. Build a wish list and send cold emails. You’d be surprised how flattered and receptive people can be when you reach out seeking advice. Also, go to as many events as possible, and join as many volunteer organizations as your busy schedule can handle.
This is the hardest to do, but can take many forms. In my junior and senior years, I was a publicist for two non-profit organizations, managed press for a friend’s tech start-up, and chaired a large fundraiser at an art gallery in New York City. This is not the norm, and not something I’d advise. I stretched myself a bit too thin, and could have spent more time on my senior thesis. However, there are ways to work without actually hacking into your study time. One way is through student groups. If you’re in an on-campus club, for example, and interested in a future career in finance—run for treasurer. Sign up for projects through non-profits or local campaigns in your college town. Ask to help with one of their events, or inquire about assisting with a community project. These one-off engagements can lead to longer-term opportunities.