From College to Career: How to Build a Strong Career Foundation in College

Loren Ziff works in commercial real estate, but his passion lies in mentoring students to help them enter the real world with the best advantage. With plenty of life experiences and insights, Loren hosts College to Career workshops to help students discover what they need for a successful future.

“I work to facilitate a pathway for students to connect the classroom to future career and help them prepare to climb the ladder and launch their careers,” Loren said. “These pathways help students learn to recognize, build, and communicate their personal stories in a way that potential employers gravitate toward.” Loren’s workshops cover techniques for communicating with potential employers, presenting your best self in a resume regardless of the amount of previous experience, budgeting skills, and more. “It’s important to balance living the college life to the fullest, yet being intentional about classes, activities, and relationships while keeping an eye on the future.”

Here are eight of Loren’s top tips to help students squeeze every opportunity from their college experience so they can launch into a successful career after graduation:

  1. Understand your unique strengths. Consider what you can offer a future employer that sets you apart from other candidates. Are you a thorough researcher, a fast learner, or have public speaking skills? What are your interests, and how can you apply them to job opportunities? Start thinking about those now to develop them for your future career. Even with limited experience in the workplace, these unique strengths can show your value to prospective employers.
  2. Start early. It’s never too early to consider career options after college. Begin thinking about career paths that interest you. Do the research, take internships, and talk to people in your network about their careers. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. If you dream of becoming a CEO, doctor, teacher, or engineer, look at the path that leads to these roles so you can determine the best way forward. The earlier you start, the more experience you can gain. If you decide that’s not your career path, trust your instincts and pivot to a different option.
  3. Build your work ethic. Now is the time to take a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity that interests you. Even leadership positions in clubs and organizations can build and showcase your work ethic. Work experience is great for your resume and helps prepare you for the workplace. If possible, work during the school year, but aim to get a job or internship that interests you during the summer. These opportunities allow you to experience industries, understand them better, and decide if it’s the right path for you or if you should pivot. It’s essential to build on these work experiences year after year and learn from them so that when you graduate, you have tangible experience, know how to communicate it, and are ready to launch at the highest level possible.
  4. Understand budgeting. Budgeting is an important part of preparing for life after college. Many online resources can help you build a budget, track your expenses, and understand your spending habits. Once you determine how much money you need to support yourself, you can identify jobs that will support your lifestyle. Understanding the reality of money and how much you need will help you achieve financial success and can help prevent you from making bad financial decisions. Preparation and saving are key.
  5. Strengthen communication techniques. Know how to effectively and memorably answer interview questions, what you offer, and what you are looking for in a job. You are your greatest advocate, so knowing how to talk about yourself to potential employers can go a long way in achieving your career goals because no one will do more for you to help your career than you.
  6. Build up and rely on your network. You never know who can help you with your career aspirations. Create a strong network of peers and mentors that you can ask about their careers or who can offer you guidance and connect you with people in their network. Building these relationships and knowledge bases can guide you toward the career opportunities you want.
  7. Make an effort to go the extra mile. During internships, jobs, and volunteering, always follow through with your promises and do your best work. You never want to be seen as lazy or leave a bad impression. If you make a mistake, take the time to address it and fix it the best you can. Strive to deliver your best work and show your employer that you deserve to be in this role because of your unique strengths. If you don’t know the answer, find it, research, and ask questions so you can perform tasks effectively and exceptionally. You never know who is watching you and how they may be able to help your career.
  8. Protect your reputation. Your reputation is the true equity you need, and it cannot be easily repaired or replaced. Present your best self at all times and let your reputation precede you. Demonstrate to potential employers that you are a valuable asset and that the positive things they have heard about you from your references or their colleagues are true. 

By thinking about and planning for your career now, you can be better prepared to enter the workforce when you graduate. 
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