Take Charge of Your Career as a Freshman

Welcome to college!  Believe it or not, your first year of college is the best time to begin your career planning and preparation. If you are an upper class student, make today the day you begin!  Either way, it makes sense to write down some specific career goals for your four years of college.

Pursuing internships and other experiences that match with your academic and career interests should be a significant element of your plan. Nancy Bilmes, the Director of the Center for Career Development at UConn, makes the following recommendation: “Do two or three high quality internships during your college career.”

Find the Resources

Visit your college Career Services office early to uncover the specific resources available at your school. Look for internship workshops, online networks, alumni events and employer information sessions at your school. Ask your academic advisor about internships connected to your major. Check the calendar of your Career Services office so you can attend workshops or employer events.

Know your University policies and requirements

Find out about your school’s policies and requirements early in your freshman year.   Some universities require students to be a junior or to have a specific GPA in order to have an academic related internship. Inquire about the credit policy so you can plan ahead.

Learn what you like

Kellen Brink, a 2011 Boston University Grad, had an interest in law when she first started college. She landed an internship at a law firm during her freshman summer. Says Kellen, “The law firm experience was wonderful but it also made me realize that it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to pursue as a profession.”

Show your commitment

Eric Friddell, a recent grad from the University of Virginia, adds “Getting an internship after my first year of college was crucial to demonstrating my interest in business and finance to both the McIntire school and future employers.”

Make yourself more marketable

Joseph Catrino, Assistant Dean, Career Development at Quinnipiac University School of Communications offers this advice: “If students are outstanding, trustworthy interns with positive attitudes, it improves their chances at moving to the next level.  Multiple internships improve the marketability of our students as potential hires.”

Vary your experiences

Try different roles at different size companies to get a broader sense of working opportunities. Jessica Long, a 2011 grad from Colgate University, interned at four different companies during college. One of the internships was while she was abroad in London for an Economics program at Colgate. She was able to try out different functional roles; as well as working at small businesses and large corporations. A a result, Jessica learned that she wanted her first job as a graduate to be at a larger organization in the financial industry.

Be Flexible

Your college may encourage you to try job shadowing as a freshman. This is often a golden opportunity. Consider applying for an externship, winternship or job shadowing program. This is also an excellent way to begin your relationship with an employer and learn about different careers or industries.

Talk to your college’s Career Services department and your professors early in your freshman year. Find out about any career workshops, online or alumni resources, and connections to employers.  While you are pursuing opportunities through your university, remember to work on your personal networking at the same time. It’s up to you to make your career plan become a reality. What are you doing to take charge now? 

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Sandra Long

Sandra Long is the author of the bestselling book LinkedIn For Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide. She is also the managing partner of Post Road Consulting LLC. Sandra and her team work with corporations, universities, and individuals to drive successful sales, career, and talent acquisition results.


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