As you walk on the path you've always dreamed of as a college student, you should think about how you strategize and construct your professional realm. Think of your time in college as your training grounds; your professors provide you with knowledge in the field you're studying and professional growth. The professional habits you create while attending college can contribute to your success in the internships you attain, the organizations you are a part of, and on the job after graduation. A major bonus about creating and remaining consistent about these habits is that you will improve your personal brand/image. Here are five professional habits to develop while in college:
Update your résumé every semester.
If you've just completed an internship for the semester, have taken a leadership role in a college organization, have done volunteer work, or acquired a part-time job, it's time to update your résumé. This offers you the opportunity to edit things as you add new positions and experiences. Utilize your school's career service centers -- they're absolutely free and the career professionals are always willing to offer advice on what to add or remove.
Maintain a clean professional look online (and at work.)
It is imperative that you establish a cohesive online presence as you build your personal brand online. Maintain your privacy settings on Facebook and other social networking sites. Make sure you control what you can be tagged in or what can be posted on your wall; you do not want friends to tag you in inappropriate or offensive photos, videos, or statuses. Keep your profiles clean and do not post inappropriate photos; your manager does not wish to see photos of you drinking or posing in a bikini. Twitter is a great way to connect with professionals and companies you're interested in interning or working for; read it before you tweet it, that is, make sure you aren't tweeting negatively about anything. Your social networking sites are not as private as you may think and are certainly not personal journals, therefore you should not treat them as such. If you have a job, steer clear of the workplace drama and/or gossip.
Mentorship is probably one of the most important keys to success. Professors and other colleagues can be very useful mentors while attending college. Seek mentorship from those you admire and those who have experience in the professional world, especially in the field you are interested in. You can establish coffee dates or even ask for informational interviews; make sure to listen to what your mentor has to say before drawing assumptions about certain rumors about the career path you wish to achieve. You never know where this mentorship can take you!
Organization is key.
Organization is linked to professionalism. As busy college students, it is crucial to sharpen your organization skills. Make sure your workspace, school work, or internship material is tidy and clutter-free. A planner can and should be your best friend! Planners can be used to write down your schedule for the semester and will help keep plans in order. If you are tech-savvy and have your phone on you often like most college students do, make sure to utilize a to-do list app and sync your calendar from your laptop to your phone. Being organized means you'll never miss important deadlines.
Network and maintain relationships.
Maintain relationships with your internship coordinators, professors, and classmates whom you've worked on group projects with. Keeping in touch with your network can be in the form of an email or greeting cards, depending on the culture of the company you interned/worked for or what your classmate or professor may prefer. Your emails and cards should be written politely as manners go a long way in the professional world. If you've just completed your internship or have just met someone you are interested in staying connected with, send your internship coordinator or new contact a well-written thank you card and/or a follow email. As Lauren Berger, CEO of Intern Queen, has always advised, keep in touch with your contacts at least three times per year: once in the fall, once in the spring, and once over the summer! Remember, networking helps you hone your interpersonal skills and help prepare you for interviews, so keep that elevator pitch handy!
Think about your personal brand and how you would like people to view you, especially those whom you maintain a relationship with throughout your time in college. Not only will you sustain a positive reputation online and offline, you will be treated as a true professional and as someone who cares about his or her personal growth and success. It is never too late to start these habits, as you'll only benefit from them in the long run!
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