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5 Things I Wish I’d Done During My Final Year of College

Having graduated in June, I often look back at my final year in college with wonder. I did a lot. But I was also stressed about finishing all my schoolwork, preparing for exams, and trying to cope with applying for jobs and the attempts to somewhat define my (immediate) future. I am proud to say I graduated with just the perfect first job lined up despite all the preceding stress and worry. But I could have saved myself a lot of worry by simply being more on top of the game.

Your senior year is probably really busy. But with Christmas break coming up and with a bit of time management, anyone can fit in some “real world” preparation. To help you get started, here are 5 things I wish I’d done during my final year of college. I guarantee that doing even just one or two of these will make your life in the next few months significantly less stressful when it comes to applying for that very first real job.

Start a blog (and update it regularly)

Blogging well takes a lot of time and effort. I figured that out when the blog I started just before my senior year quickly died out as soon as assignments and essays started pouring in. Yet this is definitely something that I wish I had dedicated the time to, since having a blog where you can show your prospective employers your interests and that you actually “get” the field will be immensely useful when it comes to proving your knowledge and skills.

Pick a topic that is relevant to the future you’d like to pursue and stick with it. At this point, you don’t need to focus on getting any readership as you’re simply trying to showcase your thoughts and insights. Don’t abandon it when the going gets tough, just post whenever you can and slowly build up your main Internet hub. It will be a great aid in showing that you’re on top of the industry you’re applying for.

Write at least 3 guest posts

Once you’ve set up your own hub of thoughts, engage with the community around it. Read other blogs and books and comment on their sites, hashing out your ideas. It will be a great learning tool as well as allowing you to engage with other bloggers. Then write a few guest posts for other sites and try and get them published. It will be invaluable to be able to later show that your ideas are engaged with outside of your own platform as well.

Build really strong online presence

Make sure that whoever searches for your name finds quality and relevant information. They should be able to find your blog/guest posts but also your social profiles (which look professional enough). Join LinkedIn and really fill out your interests, specialties, and work history properly. This could be a great tool for prospective employers actually searching for potential applicants and out of social networking sites, LinkedIn is the most professional-aimed.

Keep building up your profile as someone who’s both really interested and knowledgeable about the field, no matter the age. For example getting involved on Brazen Careerist could allow you to shine and engage with other young professionals.

Work on an exciting project

Pick something that will really set you apart, something you can get passionate and excited about and really dive deep. It can be related to your schoolwork or your desired industry but shouldn’t be something everybody else is doing. Having something to differentiate yourself, something that will make people interested, will be great when you want your interviewer to remember you when you leave the room. You can also impress them by how much you seem to be able to fit into your final year at college.

Research 10 companies you’d love to work for

Applying blindly across the board may seem like a good idea but your chances of getting through or even receiving an interview increase exponentially if you’re able to target roles you are really suitable for. Furthermore, you want to be able really focus your preparation and research each of the companies you’re applying for in detail.

That’s why I wish I had made a list of my top 10 companies I would love to work for and just focused on those. I would have researched their specific field, competitors and all that information that would help me shine at the interview but I would have also looked at it from the other side and pick companies that really appeal to me based on their company culture and general atmosphere. Think really hard about what sort of company you’d like to work for when you’re making this list. Do you like big or small teams? Hierarchy? Flexibility of working hours? This will help you cut down your list and ensure you end up happy in your first job.

Author

Anna is a Social Media Marketing Assistant at Pepsmedia, based in Cambridge, UK. Having graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2010 with a degree in Social and Political Sciences, she joined the small team straight out of university and is now helping businesses engage with customers online and build communities. She is passionate about the use of social media both in business and for individuals.  To find out more, read her Life With Social Media blog, or connect with her on Twitter @annamanasova and LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. 5 (More) Things I Wish I’d Done During My Final Year of College
  2. 5 Things To Do Before You Graduate College
  3. Mid-Year Progress Report

6 Responses to “5 Things I Wish I’d Done During My Final Year of College”

  1. You know, it’s funny. I read you list and realized I did all of this after I graduated college (except #5, but lets change it to something more vague, like planned career path). While I agree everyone has more time over winter break, but shouldn’t we also take that time to relax? Don’t get me wrong, if you are a go-getter and can accomplish one or more of these tasks by doing a little each day, more power too you. But I’ve found balance is what it’s all about. I’m still working on building myself to be attractive to employers and clients (as I am available for freelance work… ;D ), I still take the time to sit down to dinner with my parents and tell them about my day. (Like, consider the “conversations” Jeremy has w/ his parents… I am the TOTAL opposite now.)
    If you can strike that balance now, you’ll be much happier down the road. As long as you have strong references, plenty of experience, and coursework that supports what you want to do somehow down the road, you’re golden!
    And to add to your list (sorry!) I’d say you should get a personal, but professionally minded twitter account. Sure, you can tweet about your day, but also try to retweet things you’re interested in. It’s also a great way to connect with people, especially if you’re blogging!! I actually ended up talking to a guy who works for a website/magazine I love! And we had a mutual friend! WHO KNEW!!
    Just don’t let i distract you from hw! ;) Too much…

    • Julia, I completely agree. I wasn’t trying to suggest that all of Christmas break should be spent on these tasks. As you say, balance is really important, but I felt during my final year that the holidays were in fact a bit of a down time and that I could both rest and find the time to do some career planning, more easily than during the busy times of term and school year.

      I also like your suggestion about a professionally minded Twitter account. I believe that’s an essential component of building strong online presence.

      Thank you for your input!

  2. This is a great post! Being a junior PR major in college, I think these are some helpful ideas that I can apply to the rest of my college career.

    Even though I already started a blog, I have a hard time posting as often as I should because of school assignments, tests, etc. My blog doesn’t really focus on one topic…it is kinda of random collection of blog post about anything that comes to mind. Do you suggest that I focus on one topic?

    And I love the idea to research 10 companies you’d love to work for and then focus on them. Thanks for the advice!

    • Hi Sarita,

      I think a lot of people (myself included) have a hard time posting as often as they should. Having a focus on a single topic can help when it comes to brainstorming and planning as you have a focus point for your mind. I’d suggest just spending an hour brainstorming all the possible post topics that you could/would be interested in writing about on your blog so that next time you do have a bit of time to spare, you’ll have a ready-made list of possible topics.

  3. avatar Sal says:

    Good ideas. If one is planning to work on a project it should be managed online. A great (free) site for that is enterthegroup.com

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