According to Career Builder™, over 51% of college graduates under 30 say they are underemployed and research shows that the majority of those individuals are doing work that does not require a college education.  With the average cost of tuition, room and board at a four-year public institution hovering just over $35,000 (students at private four-year colleges can expect to pay nearly $170,000 for their degrees), it only makes sense to make sure you get the most out of this significant investment of your time and resources.*

The good news is – you can be in the 49% who find the jobs they want by doing a few simple things that will prepare you to be a successful applicant.  These are proven to make a difference, so start checking them off now!

  1. MEET your professors.  The faculty have seen many thousands of students come and go. They are often consulted by recruiters and asked for recommendations.  They know where their best students are working and they know they’ll never hear from the mediocre ones when the semester is over.  Be memorable.  Ask questions, solicit advice and stay in touch.
  2. VISIT your school’s Career Center.  The people who worked there are specially trained and committed to help students find their passion, create resumés, find internships and land jobs. They run career fairs, on-campus interviews, and many have long-standing relationships with corporate recruiters.  Visit early, visit often – trust me, they are just waiting to lend a hand.
  3. PICK a club, any club.  Most schools have hundreds to choose from.  If meeting up with other like-minded students who also enjoy hiking or gaming isn’t enough reason to get involved in something, think about this:  In a few years you’ll be sitting across the table from a hiring manager, or a medical school admissions officer, and she’s going to ask you what you did for fun. Or how you relax.  Or if you held any leadership positions.  Or how you gave back to your college community.  And you are going to say… what?
  4. JOIN study groups.  Do this whenever they are offered, and if they are not offered start one and announce it to the class.  Students in study groups get better grades and hold each other accountable.  It’s also a great way to meet people, especially on campuses with large lecture halls.
  5. IDENTIFY 3-5 entry level jobs you’d like to explore. Use the Career Center to help you find people you can interview now (called “Informational Interviewing”) to collect information on the jobs you’re considering. Ideally, do this in your freshman or sophomore year so you can confirm you’ve got the right major and so you can pursue meaningful internships that will contribute to your preparation for the job you want after college.
  6. FIND a part-time job.  Part-time work allows students to master the time-management skills necessary for academic success. In fact studies show that students who work 12 hours or less each week perform as well or better than students who don’t work at all.  A part-time job will also lessen your reliance on student loans and give you vital experience that will help you build skills, clarify your goals and make important connections in the workplace.

*The College Board, 2015