Things To Do Before You Graduate
The future never seems more distant than when you’re chin deep in school work. All of your focus tends to zero in on the long list of projects that are sure to pile up class after class. It’s amazing that your brain even leaves the hallways of your school when you’re on your way home, never mind focusing on another hefty to-do list: graduation. More importantly, what is going to happen after you graduate.
It is not uncommon to rejoice the moment that certificate touches your fingertips, then immediately slip into a panic while the words “what next?” repeat in your mind. Beat the post-graduation blues by getting a head start on your future while you’re still building the foundation for it. If you start early enough, you can do each one of these little by little and leave more time for celebrating your huge accomplishment, rather than worrying over what it means. Here are some tips for getting this done right.
Implement your brand it in every situation that you can, especially in networking. Whatever your profession, it is important to have an image and all the accompaniments that support it. There is nothing wrong with updating your brand, in fact, it should grow with you, so it is never too early to have a logo, a website, even a blog and, if you can afford it, business cards as well. Remember to keep the future in mind and channel your inner professional when thinking about these details. In other words, maturity is the key to not be completely embarrassed later in your professional life.
Make it a practice to use them religiously. Make sure you are professional and cautiously personal. Separate personal and professional accounts if you do not want clients to see more than you’d be willing to share with your grandmother.
Start by talking to your Department Chair or Dean. There are several chapters of local clubs that love to have an affiliation with local colleges. Whether you want to run it or get it started, get your fellow students interested. This is a priceless way to create relationships with industry professionals who may just refer clients or potential jobs to you. Not to mention the incredible addition to your resume and knowledge you’ll gain.
Check out Meet Up groups, user groups, networking groups, young professional groups, etc. Ask your teachers, program directors or career services representatives if they know of any local clubs that you might be able to join. If you live in a smaller city, connect via the Internet.
It is never a good idea to over work yourself, but if you are lucky enough to have spare time, a great way to use it is to grab some internships. There is no better way to build your resume and portfolio, network, get your foot in the door and get a feel for your industry than internships.
Before you jump right in, make sure you know what you are doing not only as far as ability, but also business-wise. You’ll need to understand your local tax and small business laws, not to mention fair pricing. Use this suggestion wisely.
Look into the local industry and decide where you want to live post-graduation. This will give you an idea of cost-of-living so you know how much money you will have to make to live there. It might be tempting to jump right into the big city, and sometimes this works out well, but it is also more than okay to be the big fish in a small pond before the small fish in a big pond. A hefty resume is great ammunition for the big city.
Now is the time to be perfecting both your printed and digital versions so they are ready to go the second you get your hands on your diploma. Also, if your resume is up-to-date throughout your college career, the only thing you’ll need to change on it when you graduate is the fact that you did graduate.
A lot of local and school clubs have mentorship programs that can fix you up with a mentor. If they don’t, start your own program or suggest it to a local club. Otherwise, find an industry professional that wouldn’t mind spending a few days a month teaching you the ins and outs of the industry and critiquing your work.
Obviously you can’t exactly create close relationships with your teachers until after you graduate, but it does help to be friendly and respectful to your instructors. They are another pair of professional eyes that can inform you of opportunities, mentor you and become great influences.
Start paying on your loans ASAP- even if it’s a small payment. Be sure you understand exactly how much you owe, how much you will have to pay and what payment plans are available to you. Find out what your interest rate is, which lenders hold your loans and which loans are private or federal (this makes a very big difference in payment plans). The financial aid department can offer great guidance in your school; utilize them. If you were lucky enough to get through school without any loans, congratulations! Now start building your savings account up!
Craving more résumé tips and other know-how?
Check out Bri’s blog posts for supplements to this column and a dose of advice and inspiration.