Navigating Your Career: I Am a Freshman. Where Do I Start?

Note: This is the first post in a four-part series to help college students ensure their marketability in the industry upon graduation.

Traditionally, most students don’t start to think about their future career until close to their third year of college. But, times have changed. Today’s competitive marketplace almost requires that students begin planning and working towards their career aspirations in their freshman year.

As a college freshman, you have a responsibility to gain needed information about landing that great job after graduation. It is important to understand that the more information you have on the first day of college, the better you will be prepared for a bright future.

Finding Your Career

  1. First, you need to have an idea of what you want to do with your life. Now, I realize that this can be a hard decision, but it is important when you start a journey that you have an idea of where you are going. Once you know where you’re going, you can map out how you will get there. If you’re unsure of what you’d like to do, speak with Career Services; they can help you explore the possibilities and guide you towards internships that will not only provide you with experience, but could lead towards a future career.
  2. Next, declare a major and a minor. This allows you to begin taking the classes that will give you the information needed for your future career.
  3. Network with other students who have the same or similar goals as you. How do you find these people? Listen carefully in class and ask questions. For example, in your English class, ask questions of the students who are sitting with you, and make all of your conversations meaningful; talk about things that will help you get to know and understand your classmates.
  4. Join groups on campus related to your career interest. If you like to speak, join the speech club or get involved in an organization that will allow you to speak with others or give presentations while brushing up on your skills. Also look into campus chapters of national organizations like the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality or the Young Journalists Professional Association. These groups often provide members with internship opportunities and connections to professionals in the community.
  5. Start gaining some work experience, either through work study or volunteer opportunities. Doing this will allow you to begin the process of documenting relevant work experience and gain skills that will be transferable in later positions.

Aim for your career at full speed:

  1. Find a mentor either on campus or at a nearby company of interest. This will be key as you grow as a student. There is tremendous benefit to having someone who has been through the process available to guide you along your way. Mentors can assist you in developing your career plan.
  2. Use the Career Services department to assist you in finding the appropriate resume style for you. They can even help you with the wording you use to describe your varied experiences on your resume.
  3. Most importantly, do not waste time in your freshman year. You have an awesome opportunity to learn, learn and learn some more! The goal is for you to make connections between your education and your future career that will benefit you in the years to come.

In my next blog, we will discuss the steps sophomore students should consider as they work towards their career. In the meantime, start doing some research. At Sodexo, we offer career opportunities in about 10 specialties and more than a dozen environments. The opportunities are yours to realize.


Derren is the Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo which is a leader in integrated food service and facilities management. He is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program as well as executing diversity sourcing initiatives for both campus and targeted experienced hires. With over 14+ years of experience with Sodexo, Derren has had great success as a General Manager in the company’s Health Care Services division as well as in several positions within their Talent Acquisition Group. He’s an active corporate partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). Derren is an AIRS Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR).

Related posts:

  1. Navigating Your Career: I’m a Junior, What’s Next?
  2. Navigating your career: I am a sophomore, where do I go from here?
  3. Navigating Your Career: I’m a Senior, Am I Ready for a Job?

3 Responses to “Navigating Your Career: I Am a Freshman. Where Do I Start?”

  1. This is really rich advice Darren! One thing a freshman (any class) can do if they struggle to define what they want to do with their life, is to become a story-seeker. Go out and ask people, who are in careers they are considering, for their stories. (left brain dominant folks know this as informational interviewing). I suggest using the whole brain and making it so much more.

    A couple of side benefits to story-seeking is the student will become comfortable talking to people of influence and they have the opportunity to be of influence themselves…depending upon how they present themselves.

    I am looking forward to your upcoming articles!

  2. avatar Tia says:

    Having changed my major 5 times throughout college (changed 4 times at one college before I transferred!) I can relate to freshmen who feel torn. I like your first step, which is figuring out what you want to do in life. I would say that freshmen should not feel pressured to do that all in one year! Figure out what you like, and enjoy college and enjoy learning that thing (or things). College is so short. Enjoy freshman year; you never get it back!


  3. [...] things I wish I had been more proactive with while attending college. I’ve built my post-college network and it would’ve been a lot easier when the recession [...]

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