A college degree is almost a necessity to be considered for a corporate job in much of America these days. I know the graduates from “school of hard knocks” might argue with me but it makes things a whole lot easier.

In fact, 45 percent of employers look for college-educated workers for positions that formerly required only a high school degree. Companies in the survey said that a college-educated workforce leads to high work quality, more productivity, better communication, and a faster ramp-up in the role.   Obviously having a degree does not mean that getting your first job out of college is automatic or easy. Below are 10 things you can do during college to heighten your likelihood of getting a job quickly — plus, a look at entry-level job titles, and jobs by major.

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1. Get Out of the Classroom

College is a great place to explore new things, and take classes that go beyond the requirements of your major so you get a full, well-rounded education.  Those classes that are out of your major or take as an experience could spark a life time interest you might have never experienced if you did not take the chance.

While classes and academies are important take every chance you can to get real-world experience and skills.  Get a job or a few different jobs to build an early skill set while figuring out what kind of work and employer might interest you. Nearly any job will help you gain insights and skills but really it should broaden your network and help you discover what work you love. When looking for a job in college or during the summer look for ways or jobs that teach you skills that will translate to something interesting after you graduate.

If you are one of the lucky ones who know early on that job they want to get into after graduation you should look for roles in that industry.  Don’t stress over pay or upward mobility as experience and skill development are the real goals.

2. Find a Mentor

Finding a mentor is like putting a fast-forward button on your development. Why make mistakes you could have avoided if there was someone to give you insights? Mentor-ship does not have to be some ridges complicated thing, a trusted friend, a parent, or a professor can all make excellent mentors. Mentors can help you think through what kind of job you want, weigh your options for a part-time job, help you negotiate an offer, read your cover letter, or practice interviews they can even introduce you to their network. Obviously, if you know the industry you want to work in after graduation it’s a good idea to have a mentor within that industry. If you were like me and were still trying to figure out your path after graduation a mentor can still help you navigate what kind of work you want to do, and which industries interest you most, it’s helpful to have a mentor to think through your options.  Make sure you discuss your idea mentor-ship with your potential mentor to ensure they are up for the challenge and they understand what you hope to get from it.

3. Build Friendships and Relationships

My network of friends from college is still very strong and one that I have used over the years to look for a job, vet new opportunities, find mentors and remember where I came from. Between classes, shared meals, study groups, social and cultural events, and parties and jobs, it’s hard not to make friends during college. The relationships you build in college are one of the big advantages of attending college: you are forming a broad network of people, and thanks to social media, you’ll likely stay in touch with them your whole lifetime. These people are friends and if you have a shared experience they can introduce you to other helpful contacts, or help you find a job. Make friends and build these relationships, along with your education.

4. Spend Time Networking

It’s never too early to start building connections and a network even in college. Start by creating a LinkedIn profile: It’s OK if you do not have a lot of career information it’s about getting your network started. Check out this blog post. List your education, and connect with people you meet including friends, coworkers, professors, tutors, and university leadership.  As well, you can create a Twitter account and use it to share industry news and follow industry voices. You are just starting to build your brand so reach out and ask questions, learn, explore, and build connections that could be the keys to your future.

As graduation nears, go beyond online connections in your networking efforts by setting up coffee dates, phone calls, and lunches with friends who graduated a few years ago.  Use those meetings to ask them what they’d do differently in their job search, and what their most effective strategies were to get the first job. Go to career fairs and informational sessions hosted by companies and other in-person events to get your name out there, build your network, and figure out what type of company you are interested in. Follow up with the people you meet by connecting with them on LinkedIn, and send thank you notes to people who spend time with you, and give you insights. Remember don’t be shy, people go to networking events to meet people and further their career aspirations.

5. Get Your Resume Ready

Start writing your resume and pulling together your work experiences into something that would highlight your early skill set You can write one in your first year of college, and then update it annually or at the end of each semester. Every honor you receive (such as getting on the Dean’s list) is worth including on your resume, as are all positions you hold, both paid and unpaid.

6. Go on Informational Interviews

It can be overwhelming to apply for jobs right out of college. Job titles vary from company to company and may feel confusing, and many positions will say “entry-level” but also demand a hefty amount of on-the-job experience. Informational Interviews can be a great aid to help you figure out which jobs are which and help get you comfortable in the process. Help get rid of the first interview jitters. That’s important, because there are a near-endless amount of jobs posted online, and you want to target your efforts so you apply to only relevant, attainable roles.

As well as giving you valuable information that will help you target your job search and be informed during job interviews, informational interviews are an opportunity to form connections with a company and its staff. If you shine during an informational interview, you might be considered for a position later on.

7. Check in With Your Career Office at School

You are going to spend quite a bit on your degree so make sure you use the perks associated with that college experience. The career office at your college can connect you with alumni to do informational interviews, help you practice interview skills, review your resume, and connect you with career tests so take advantage and hone your skills in that environment. Attend any on-campus career fairs to investigate companies and be a fly on the wall to listen to their questions for interested students.  There are always lines and you will get a lot of time to hear how companies pitch to students and the questions they ask.  Take notes and use this info to your advantage in the future.

8. Be Proactive in Connecting with Business People

Again don’t be shy, this is the information age so use the information to find anyone on LinkedIn in the industry, companies, or companies located in areas you want to live to connect with them. If you are professional, respect their time, and have a specific agenda, 95% of people are willing to engage and help.  Follow up by connecting with them on LinkedIn and sending them a thank you note.

9. Be Active in Clubs and Take Leadership Roles

Companies want to hire recent grads with extracurriculars and leadership within those teams. Any awards or positions you hold should be noted on your resume.  As mentioned above it’s a good idea to update your resume each school year to keep it fresh and not forget your accomplishments. Easier to revise and add to an existing resume when you graduate than to create something from scratch and remember all your college accomplishments.

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