Business Tips for College Students
You may think college is about making lifelong friendships, learning valuable life lessons, and creating fun memories. If you think that, you’re wrong. College is about one thing: getting a job that can support you in the future. Sure, you’ll most likely do all of those things along the way, but the primary purpose of going to college is getting an education that leads to a successful career. If you want to really major in getting a job, follow these important tips for the best success.
Everyone you communicate with could be a lead to a job. It doesn’t matter if you are sending an email to an old neighbor, chatting with fraternity alumni, meeting with a professor, or interacting anyone else. Always treat every interaction as an opportunity to put your best self forward and show that you are a professional who can be counted on.
That means you should always be on-time. Always follow through on promises. Always take the time to review an email, text message, or school assignment for errors before sending it in. You have the most control of what others think of you. Act in a way that they think highly of you and you will see lifelong benefits.
I have taken this concept to heart since high school, and it has treated me well. Acting like a professional led to scholarships, job opportunities, board invitations, and other great opportunities for me. Now, as an adult with a grown up job, I expect the same standards from current students. If you send me a sloppy email asking for help, I’ll probably ignore it. If you approach me like a businesses person, I’ll work hard to help you succeed.
Most business leaders today did not grow up in an era with cell phones, let alone smart phones, text messaging, and Snapchat. While your friends might appreciate your LOLZ and can quickly decode your shorthand text messages, you should always use proper spelling and grammar for all communications related to business, and with anyone you interact with outside of your close circle of friends.
The habits you build today will follow you into your career in the future, so make good habits. Treat every email and text message like you are sending a message to a prospective new employer. Proofread everything. If it is a serious message that is career related, ask an old sibling or a friend to give it a read for a second set of eyes. Virtually every job description includes “excellent written and verbal communication skills,” so make perfecting those skills part of your daily routine. Also, make sure you use an email address that reflects your actual name. While PartyGuy372@hotmail.com or Princess1998@aol.com may have been good email addresses in the past, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org is the best choice for professional communication.
College Students Should Grow Their network
The adults who are already a part of your life are a major asset when it comes time to find a job. Scout leaders, religious leaders, volunteer organizers, and old bosses are great references and outlets to find potential jobs when you graduate. Unless you want to live in your childhood bedroom or set up camp in your mom’s basement for the long-haul, you should foster relationships with non-related adults who can speak to your character and qualities.
If you are not already a member, join LinkedIn and setup a professional profile that shows off your skills, awards, and accomplishments. Join professional societies through your college, attend networking events, and do everything you can to meet as many people as possible. You never know who will look out for you, guide you in your career path, and maybe even offer you a job at their company.
Learn Excel and Outlook
If you plan to have a career that involves working on a computer, update your skills with the most popular computer programs. Even if you are a hardcore Mac fan, most businesses run on Windows, and most businesses require you to use Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as core tools to do your job. Put an emphasis on Outlook (for email) and Excel (for spreadsheets) when practicing and boosting your skills.
Business email and calendars almost always flow through an Outlook inbox. Outlook works a bit differently than web based email clients like Gmail or what you get from your university, so do a little reading on how it works and consider installing it and trying it out before day one at work. Similarly, Excel skills are incredibly valuable in the workplace. In my past career as a Senior Financial Analyst, I used Excel eight to ten hours a day most workdays. Those skills are absolutely vital in a modern office workplace.
Focus on the value you provide
School may have taught you that there are no winners or losers, but when you get into the real world there are no participation trophies. You have to prove your value in your interview, and continue to provide it every day at work. It is no longer about what you want, it is about what you offer. Call your parents for a pat on the back, your boss just wants results.
They won’t make you complete assignments in an arbitrary time period without using a calculator. You can do your job using any tools you want to the best of your abilities. But make sure you always do the best possible work. If you consistently provide good results, you can look forward to raises and promotions in the future. If you make it all about you, you’ll be lucky to keep a job at all.
It’s not all about you
In business, you are not a unique and beautiful snowflake. No one cares about your semester abroad or the drinking contest you won or the accolades of your college social life. Being the popular kid is no longer relevant. Turn your focus to your skills, the value you provide your employer, and always doing a great job while paying attention to detail.
If you can handle that, you’ll be off to a great career before you know it. If not, you may find yourself working menial jobs wondering why you can’t get ahead. And if you can’t figure out why you continue to fail, it’s time to look in the mirror. For your failures, you can only blame yourself. So act professionally, grow your network, and focus on value to launch a wonderful career.