It’s tough being a college student. But you know what’s even tougher?
Being a young professional who has entered or is just about to enter the corporate world when you have underutilized your formative years in college.
Now, not wasting your time in college does not mean just burying yourself in books to get those sweet A's. Yes, good grades are important and you should always aim to be a model student. But there are other aspects which count towards the tally when talking about employability (which we touched upon in one of our previous blogs. If you want to learn more about that topic, check this out.)
There are steps you can take to add value to your profile and catapult your employability to new heights.
1. Building a Digital Presence
The world runs on the Internet now. And so does your prospective employer. The key is not to meet them halfway- but way ahead. You can create your own blog and a professional website to exhibit your capabilities and strengths. You can use these different platforms to showcase your experience as well as your expertise.
But the best way to build a digital presence is to create a LinkedIn account.
To leverage your LinkedIn profile to the fullest:
Add a professional looking Display Picture and cover photo to your profile.
Work on your Profile summary; after all, that’s the first thing anyone will see when they visit your profile.
Add in all relevant skills and experiences.
Use a cover image which highlights something important in your professional life.
Here’s what LinkedIn considers to be a rave-worthy profile.
2. Building a Professional Network
Yes, the same old networking advice. It's cliché. But you don't want just contacts in your phone and business cards in your wallet. Purposefully meet new people so that there is repertoire and genuine communication. It's a lot more credible, and it can pay dividends in the long run.
Now, that's sound theoretical advice but how do you go about building a network practically?
First, understand that the purpose of networking goes beyond meeting new people.
Let's take a practical example - Suppose you find your favorite leader in an industry of your interest on LinkedIn and message her to say "Hi, this is [insert your name here], a college student. I love to read your blogs."
Use platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to build your network. Twitter & LinkedIn are the best here - you can create a personal profile in each of these and build your own digital presence from within.
You can also send Cold Emails for Networking and other opportunities.
While there are more nuances to this, the art of sending cold emails can be summed up to a numbers game. If you send 100 people who don't know you an email saying how you would like to work for them, get mentorship, have a chat, there's a more than decent chance that at least 5 people would respond back.
As HBR recommends, Be appreciative - and a little vulnerable. Author Tucker Max writes, “This gets results. Even just adding ‘Thank you so much! I am really grateful’ to a request doubles response rates. And tell people it’s fine if they are too busy. Giving them a way out actually makes them more likely to help you.”
Building genuine connection from here on is a two-way process. You need to stay in touch with them, learn from them, share ideas and build a valuable relationship. And all of this is done without any sense of immediate favor. It's networking for the future, where this person could help you with referrals, introductions, research and Industry access.
3. Industry Validation
Staying up-to-date with the in-demand tools and skills trending in the Industry you want to work in is very important. So, for a Finance or a B.Com. student, you would want them to learn tools such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Tableau, SAS, SAP, Tally, etc. While a marketing student would need to focus more on learning about tools like Adobe Photoshop or Google Analytics.
As this McKinsey report suggests, there is a huge skill gap in most industries. And companies would be more than happy to recruit new candidates if it means they could bridge this skill gap with their knowledge of industry tools.
You can get updates on these tools and skills by following companies, recruiters and industries on Twitter and Facebook. But the best way to stay up to date is by following job boards such as Naukri, Indeed, or even LinkedIn. You can leverage the information Recruiters put there to find and master tools which are hot in your coveted industry.
4. Getting involved with online/offline event, clubs, communities and campaigns
Doing so helps you grow and showcase your leadership skills, organizational abilities, your social media savviness, business acumen and expertise.
Your active participation in online communities, clubs and events and campaigns helps you stand apart from the others.
We would suggest you start off with events and campaigns that create awareness regarding certain global issues or socio-political catastrophes. Join TEDx events, get involved with your college's clubs or the placement cell, appear in a variety of fests, take part in competitions and other activities that include speaking on a stage or handling behind the scenes work.
Memberships such as the SHRM membership for HR students or the Indian Finance Association membership for finance students will help you stay up to date with the latest in the field.
The most significant benefit of joining such organizations is the community of support and a network of professionals. These memberships will help you understand the industry and the tools which are being used, who are the top performers, who are hiring and what they would require from you to get hired.
5. Having Volunteering on your resume
Whatever the reason behind volunteering, be it social media brownie points or filling out a resume, it is one of those sections that helps give your CV an edge over others.
Employers look for volunteering experience in candidates because it shows that you have interest in an area and that you care about it enough to invest your limited time at college to do some good.
It also helps as the resume of a young college student might look sparse but volunteering helps fill some gaps. To really improve on your resume, you would want to go out of your way to do something remarkable - whether it is with a NGO or a social cause. If you can do something which generates a lot of hits on social media, you will be noticed by recruiters even more.
6. Applying for Internships
When employers see that you have some experience, they are more prepared to hire you. More than that, they are more willing to pay you better on your first few jobs as well. So, adding work experience to your resume is something that should be done as soon as possible.
But how do you get internships? Here's a brief guide: