5 Tips for Career Growth in College for Business Students
Now, before I start talking about this, let me just tell you that none of what I’m talking about here is actually research or science-based. However, it is based on the experience of a college student who has attended a plethora of interviews, prepped CVs and cover letters, dealt with rejection and bad work environments at internships.
I’ll keep this short, simple and easy to follow. But before that, three things I want to note:
NOTE 1: I am based in Dubai, and I studied in Dubai. So naturally, some of what I talk about would be most relatable to the students here. That being said, I do believe that these tips are globally applicable.
NOTE 2: I am a business major, which is why I'm talking about the business industry as that is the extent of my experience. Most of these tips might work for college students in other fields as well.
Alright, so here are five things about career development for college students that I learnt the hard way.
#1 Experience is everything. And I mean EVERYTHING!
Gone are the days when you could have a degree certificate with some good grades and expect to be employed as soon as you graduate. I know seniors who are still doing internships because they don’t have the necessary experience for a full-time job.
Try gathering experience that builds up your CV. And I’m not talking about working at McDonald's either (I guess it might be good if you’re in marketing). I mean actual internships within your field of study. Depending on where you are geographically, the internship opportunities available to you might be higher or lower. Regardless, actively attend any and all career fairs hosted around you. If not an internship, it’ll at least give you confidence in surviving an interview.
#2 Quality trumps quantity. ALWAYS.
Talking about experience, there’s always good and bad. Here in Dubai, what I get to see a lot are postings for ‘Business Development Internships’. In most cases, it is a glorified way of saying that they’re looking for salespeople. You know, go meet a client, explain the product, try closing the deal, earn commissions. A lot of these posts are filled by college kids because they’re easy work and good money (for someone who doesn’t have bills to pay, I mean).
While I was writing this post, I decided to do a simple search on Indeed UAE for ‘internship’. I got 230 search results, 80 of which were for ‘Business Development' positions. Another 40 or so had the word ‘sales’ in the title. Believe me, this isn’t going to help your career or your CV (unless you're in sales or marketing, I mean). If you’re just looking for a boost to your monthly allowance, go ahead!
My point is, look for good companies that can give you exposure and experience in your field of interest. Also, keep an eye out for ‘special’ opportunities that your field might offer. For example, for a graphic designer, attending competitions is a great way to build a portfolio. On the other hand, for an HR major, workshops and seminars would help them boost their knowledge. So be on the lookout for whatever it is, that would help you.
#3 Navigating the vicious cycle of no experience = no job.
One of the worst realities of job hunting as a college student is that most companies worth working for, expect you to have some experience to be even considered for an internship. I mean WHAT??? I’ve seen internship applications be like “6 months experience in XYZ required” or “Previous experience in XYZ preferred”.
The entire point of doing internships is to gather experience. But if internships themselves require you to have a certain amount of experience, the system itself becomes pointless. One of the best ways to tackle this is to build up on your skills.
I am not just talking about soft skills such as communication or leadership, but also technical skills. We’re 21 years into the 21st century. Pretty much everything runs on softwares and systems now. So get on board and learn a few of them. For example, if you're in social media marketing, knowing a few key platforms like Buffer or Hootsuite could be the difference between getting that internship or going back to job hunting.
This applies to most career fields. There’s no need to know every software out there. But a basic working knowledge of some of them is a serious boost.
#4 A dash of fake it till you make it.
Just to clarify, I am NOT saying you should lie on your resume. But, a little exaggeration within good reason can be a good thing, especially in interviews. Most students have perfected the art of blowing up two sentences worth of actual knowledge into paragraphs of written work. This is where all that can be put to good use.
Let’s say you have intermediate HTML coding skills. But the employer requires something a little bit advanced. If you can get the job done, feel free to go ahead and tell them that you’ve ‘worked’ with that level of HTML codes. You can Google literally anything and find some post somewhere by someone who has answered your question.
That being said, for God’s sake, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. It’ll just come around and bite you. Just be realistic, and you’ll be fine.
#5 Social media exists in the corporate world too!
It’s honestly hard to believe that a lot of college students don’t really know this. LinkedIn is THE social media platform for all professionals. People share their expertise, interests, achievements and so on. Most companies post their open positions here as well.
There was recently an article by QS Rankings on Why Every Student Should Be On LinkedIn. I think it's worth a read. Do check it out!
My advice, treat LinkedIn like you would Instagram. Engage with your peers and keep your profile updated. It is not necessary to constantly make posts unless you have something to share, but scrolling through your feed helps you stay up-to-date on what people in your field are talking about.
There we have the 5 most important career development lessons that I learnt in college. It was such a struggle to keep this post short (or at least as short as possible). I can go on forever elaborating each of these tips, so do let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to write more about any of them.
I am also thinking about a post on CV writing tips. Drop in your email, and I’ll give you a heads up as soon as it is published!