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Top 5 Ways to Gain Professional Experience as a College Student

  1. Take advantage of student organizations on campus 

For first-years and sophomores just beginning to explore the career realm, student organizations are a great way to get started. Most campuses will have student organizations geared towards those majoring in specific disciplines or targeting certain professions. 

For example, if you are interested in pursuing journalism, joining the campus newspaper is a fantastic way to strengthen your writing/editing background. If you are intrigued by politics, running for student government will help you gain on-the-ground experience. If you are thinking of becoming an engineer, joining the Robotics Club will help you build up your skills.

Some students mistakenly think employers are not interested in their on-campus experiences. However, being part of student organizations (especially if you are in a leadership role) is a great way to show your commitment to a particular discipline. It is also a valuable opportunity to network with others who are interested in the same fields. 

  1. Explore volunteering 

Many students participate in volunteering opportunities out of a desire to give back to their communities. While the main purpose of volunteering may be to support causes you care about, it is also a great way to build marketable skills and professional experience. While paid roles may be competitive and difficult to land, nonprofit organizations are almost always looking for volunteers.

Some volunteer opportunities you may be able to participate in include tutoring at a local school, supporting a political campaign, creating a website or app, or even managing other volunteers. Often, students can schedule their volunteer hours around their academic commitments, which can be challenging with a paid position. Having a track record of volunteer positions that tell a story about your aspirations will be helpful when you apply for paid roles in the future. 

  1. Look into summer jobs and internships 

Summer jobs and internships are perhaps the most popular way for college students to gain professional experience. With classes not in session, students may have the opportunity to work or intern full-time, even if it is just for a few weeks.

Contributing to an organization full-time is among the best ways to learn if a field is right for you. You will spend time with post-grad professionals in a variety of positions throughout the company and learn what their day-to-day looks like. You will also gain a first-hand look at the main responsibilities if you were to pursue that specific field after graduation. 

Furthermore, companies look favorably upon students who participate in full-time job and internship opportunities during the summer. It shows them you are driven to gain professional skills and experiences outside of the campus bubble. It can also signal your interest in pursuing similar opportunities after graduation.

  1. Search for “gig” roles

During the school year, many students are unable to participate in full-time, or even part-time jobs that require them to work at the same days/times each week. “Gig” opportunities that allow students to work when they are available is a way to get around this. 

Some examples of “gig” jobs may be working at events, operating as a brand ambassador, participating in childcare, or pet sitting. While jobs like these may or may not represent your ultimate professional aspirations, any paid work experience is valuable in preparing you for post-grad life!

  1. Try your hand at entrepreneurship 

Many college students dream of starting their own business once they graduate — but why wait until then? If you can identify an area of need on campus or within the wider community, this is a great opportunity to try out entrepreneurship. For example, you could start a musical group that performs locally, open an on-campus coffee stand, or even create an app to solve a problem your fellow students commonly face! 

Running a small business requires a significant amount of time, commitment, and hard work. That being said, if you are interested in pursuing entrepreneurship post-grad, your college years are a great time to learn whether this type of career is right for you.

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