While most graduates look back at their time in college with rose-colored glasses, being a college student in 2018 comes with many unique challenges. With the cost of higher educationrising dramatically over the last few decades, many students are taking on second jobs and pursuing side hustles alongside their studies to help pay the bills. Combine this with a full schedule of tough classes and the never-ending task of applying for internships and post-graduation jobs, and it’s not hard to understand why a ton of college students experience burnout during their first years on campus. But despite the fact that the typical college experience is becoming more complicated than ever before, college students are still persevering and finding new ways to bolster their chances of success after they leave campus. To help college students make the most out of being an undergrad, Google alumni and WayUp CEO Liz Wessel has devised seven crucial things that college students can do today to make their transition into the work force easier after graduation.
1. Send at least one cold email. Wessel is a champion of cold emailing, and it’s not hard to understand why. When deciding between taking a gig at Google or a high-powered venture capitalist fund after graduation, Wessel sent a cold email to a professional she admired who ended up giving her advice that shaped her entire career path. She suggests sending a cold email to at least one of your professional role models or someone in an industry or company that you admire. “People want to help college students,” she notes, so making it clear in the first line of your email that you’re a college student will dramatically increase your chances of getting a friendly response.
2. Befriend five people that you would bet on. “What do I mean by bet on? Befriend five people who you think will change the world,” says Wessel. During college, you’re surrounded by brilliant minds who are on the cusp of beginning their professional careers. Take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and make connections with a handful of people you believe will be great professional allies (and LinkedIn friends!) in the future.
3. Take a class that teaches a practical skill. While taking tons of courses in your major is a great way to get your degree finished fast, Wessel advises students to take at least one practical skill class — like computer science, writing, or negotiation — during their time at college. “I took one graphic design class in college, and that one graphic design class has helped me in my day-to-day life more than all of my other classes combined,” says Wessel.
4. Start something. Whether it’s a club, a business, or a blog, Wessel urges students to use their time at college to start a real-world project that they’re interested in. Not only is it a great way to leave a legacy and earn project management experience, but there’s never going to be an easier time to start something big than when you’re in college — you can turn to professors for advice, apply for grants and scholarships, and use your college’s resources to help fuel your passion for cheap.
5. Find the professor. “Everyone’s the professor is different,” notes Wessel. For example, hers was a top-ranked professor in entrepreneurship whom she leaned on heavily while starting her college business and whom she continues to chat with for advice today. Ask around campus for recommendations of professors in your field of interest and try to take one of their courses. Use office hours as frequently as you can to get their advice on class work, industry stuff, and your career path. Even if you don’t manage to take a class with the professor you admire, don’t be afraid to send them an email (cold emailing really does work, y’all!) and set up a one-on-one meeting to discuss all the nuances of the industry and your career.
6. Go on an adventure. “There’s no such thing as a spring or summer break after college,” warns Wessel, so you should take the opportunity in college to travel as much as you can. While finding a good internship and saving money is definitely essential in 2018, make sure to use at least one of your breaks in college as an opportunity to travel. Exploring different cultures and gaining worldly experience will benefit you tremendously in your professional pursuits.
7. Get work experience. “When you graduate from college, if you have a new job every six months, that looks really bad,” Wessel says, “but during college, you’re totally okay to have an internship every summer.” Use your time at college to begin the process of finding your dream career by trying as many gigs as possible. Don’t be afraid to sign up for internships outside of your desired career path because you’re fearful about how it will look on your resume. Try everything you can and use the experience to narrow down your career choices until you find your true professional passion.