Being a student, you are expected to gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, which will allow you to apply for a good job after graduation.
As a matter of fact, studying at university is not about remembering as much information as you can; it is rather about preparing for your future career. While completing your module assignments, essays, and coursework, you need to understand what specific skills and competencies are demanded by your industry.
Additionally, building connections with your seniors, case-based learning and any attempts aimed at acquiring practical experiences will be of high value for future employments.
If you are still at university, the next 8 ideas will equip you for your future career and make you more prepared than your mates in advance.
1) Stay up-to-date
In today’s fast-changing world, you need to stay up-to-date regarding the latest developments in your area. Even the curricula of the world’s leading universities are not updated regularly to keep pace with the newest changes in technology and the business environment. It takes time for educational establishments to ‘digest’ recent innovations, prepare learning materials and introduce it to the students.
While you are at university, be curious and observe the latest technology and industry trends. This will provide you with a great advantage over other job applicants after you graduate. Monitoring contemporary trends is especially important for those students who specialize in technology-related disciplines (e.g. IT, physics, medicine, etc.).
Technology students need to be aware of how artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology can modify their field of knowledge and practice. For example, blockchain technology, through its verifiable distributed ledgers, can drastically disrupt the financial sector, as we know it for making banks and other financial institutions redundant. Even experienced IT professionals strive to remain up-to-date and aware of the recent developments in their field to constantly adapt their skills to the changing technology landscape.
Understanding the potential disruptors in your area will also contribute to acquiring new skills that will be demanded by your future career. One of the best ways to keep yourself up-to-date regarding the latest advancements is reading relevant publications related to your discipline, following industry blogs, attending specialized workshops, listening to popular podcasts on your topic, and going through top academic journals.
Attending meetings and conferences organized by your university is another good way to stay informed regarding the latest changes that might impact your future career.
2) Build relationships with your university’s alumni
Every university is proud of distinguished alumni working for highly reputable organizations. You can start building relationships with your university’s alumni by contacting them via social media or email.
Personal contact may be useful for receiving wise advice or directing you to the right employer. Even before you complete your course, you can use your contacts with alumni to find an internship program in a leading company or present your project in front of potential investors. This could be later leveraged to getting a regular job in the same company after your graduation.
You can also meet your university’s alumni by attending special alumni events organized on the campus. Such professional social networks as LinkedIn are an effective way to reach alumni. Approach the alumni asking them for career advice and tips on how to be accepted by a decent company.
You can interview them about the key skills that are expected in a certain field of employment. A good idea would be to organize an open meeting with an alumnus and send invitations to other students via social media.
Being an organizer, you have more chances to speak to a successful guest personally. However, be tactful and careful not to annoy alumni asking for their recommendations regarding any vacancies in the companies where they work.
3) Constantly improve your skills
Other than your professional knowledge and skills, you need to acquire other soft and transferrable skills to be job-ready by the time you graduate from your university. It goes without saying that all employers now demand advanced computer skills and project management skills regarding the sector of employment. You can also gain basic programming skills in mainstream computer languages such as Python and R, which will help you to become a more advanced professional.
For example, finance specialists who can program trading systems and develop machine learning algorithms used in predictive analytics are more demanded today than candidates without these competencies.
Many universities offer additional and often free of charge courses in computer programming.
If this option is available, take the benefit of such courses and don’t be afraid of spending extra time on additional education. In case you cannot find any additional courses at your university, you can join Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by some of the top universities of the world. These programs are usually available on platforms such as edX and Coursera free of charge. MOOCs are taught by some of the best professors in a discipline.
Paid online courses on Udemy and Udacity are also helpful to acquire real-world and highly-demanded skills. Other essential practical competencies that will boost your future career are teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking. Don’t miss opportunities to collaborate with other students and try different roles in teamwork.
4) Master Language skills
Excellent language skills are important for most corporate jobs. Companies require applicants to have advanced written and spoken language skills so that they could communicate effectively to their peers and customers once they are on board. Spending your time and efforts to improve language skills is one of the best ways to prepare for your career whilst you are still at university. After you graduate, you may fail to find free time to polish your communication skills.
Investing in language competencies is even more important if you are a foreign student and English is your second language. Acquire a good understanding of English grammar and vocabulary by reading books in original, taking online courses and using every single opportunity to master your language. It is also important that you structure your thoughts and deliver ideas in a highly organized manner.
5) Apply to Externships
Externships are a wise method of getting yourself ready for a real job while still being at university. Unlike internships, externships do not require a student to work for another organization. You simply need to observe a work environment to understand how the work process is organized and what responsibilities are executed by employees in real organizations.
Most externships are unpaid, and you would need to bear all costs yourself (e.g. traveling to the place of work and boarding). Externships are job shadowing programs that can last from a single day until a full month.
Students of many top universities are getting increasingly involved in externships to shape a realistic understanding of the true organizational challenges they may face in the future. You will be close to practice by attending an externship program.
For instance, under the externship program of Babson College that focuses on providing entrepreneurial education, students spend a few days observing professionals in top organizations during their spring break. During a standard externship program, a student can be passively involved in projects, attend meetings with the key executives and stakeholders, and even ask questions on how the process is arranged. If externships are organized properly, they can have a lasting positive impact on your future career.
6) Take part in co-operative education programs
Cooperative education programs are tailored to combine real-world professional experience with your course learning. As a part of a cooperative education program, students take classes for a semester and work for another semester in an organization.
Simply speaking, these programs are an extension of conventional internship programs that students do during their summer breaks. Industry-specific and practical experiences gained due to a cooperative education program will help you in getting ready for your future job while staying at your college. The best thing about cooperative education programs from a student perspective is that you will be paid for the work done at an organization.
Of course, this money won’t be redundant to partially compensate for your tuition fee or cover some of your daily expenses. If you are able to establish good contact with the executives in the organization where you do your cooperative education program, you can even receive a job offer before you graduate from your university.
7) Undergo Leadership Training
Leadership skills are expected by employers even from new recruits and university graduates. So, the sooner you start developing yourself as a leader, the better. You won’t be able to hide mature leadership skills during an interview and will look like an attractive candidate during the recruitment process.
While many leadership traits are acquired by a person at birth, they can still be improved and advanced during their lifetime. Participating in leadership training workshops will help you to nurture essential skills related to communication and teamwork. You can also grow as a leader without getting any formal training but rather through involving yourself in organizing student events and completing your internship program.
Many universities have leadership centers that provide specialized mentoring and coaching to students. You can become a member of a leadership development center even during your first year at university. Independent student groups and volunteers also organize workshops on leadership. Take advantage of these workshops to taste leadership before you come to work.
People building is said to be an important component of leadership training. Leaders need to guide people who belong to their teams and offer support at all levels. To master these skills, try counseling your peers and juniors at college. Counseling practices will add to your leadership preparation long before you apply for a real job.
8) Run projects
Projects can be defined as activities that are spread over a certain period of time and aim to find solutions to specific problems. Running your own projects at university will help to acquire problem-solving skills and serve as a solid career preparation. Planning and executing projects, you will also advance your multitasking and critical thinking. And it doesn’t matter what projects you are going to launch: a charity event, a business plan for a student startup, a talent show, an easy mobile app, or an assignment presentation.
The main requirement for your project activities is that you should actively collaborate with your mates and bring some viable ideas into practice. What is even more surprising is that a successful project can gradually turn into your career on the condition that you gather a strong team and attract funding.
Nearly 80% of the employers from a survey conducted by the Association of College and Employers stated that they looked for skills such as leadership, stress management, effective communication, and teamwork in their job applicants.
You can follow the above suggestions to prepare for your future career and become more competitive in the labor market whilst still at university. Let’s be honest, you do have spare time that can be invested in upgrading your skills set and competencies!