Whether you’re ready to hear it or not, unfortunately your time in college is not going to last forever. If I could go back in time and do my entire undergrad all over again, the only thing I’d consider changing is the effort I put into building up my resume during my freshman and sophomore years of college. When I was a freshman, I distinctly remember feeling like I was too young and too inexperienced to even apply for internships and jobs in my field of interest. Looking back, I now understand…applying to these opportunities is the only way to gain experience in your field of interest! What’s the worst that can result from sending in an application? A rejection? That’s not the worst thing in the world. The point I’m trying to hammer home is that it's really never too early to begin applying to internships and jobs that interest you, because a strong resume is what will set you apart from other applicants when your time in college comes to an end.
A common theme that is beginning to build throughout this particular “How to College” series is resourcefulness, and this is not a coincidence. Successful students and successful people utilize the resources around them to the best of their ability in order to get the most out of every little opportunity that can emerge. These resources can fall anywhere between professors, advisors, job fairs, career centers, and even your fellow classmates. Now, it might seem a little nerve-racking applying to your first job or internship, (believe me, I was mortified applying to mine!) so there is absolutely no shame in asking for a little bit of help. If you have access to career services facilities or resume workshops on campus, make a point to reach out to a staff member and schedule a one-on-one session to look over your past experiences and translate them into the perfect resume tailored to your ideal internship or job.
As I mentioned earlier, if I could go back in time and give my freshman-year-self a piece of advice, it would sound like “spend your summer break wisely” and “get some experience under your belt”. I remember feeling like I wasn’t old enough to have a “real” job in the career field that interested me, so I often struggled while researching job options and internships during my early college years. Though it was true that I didn’t have much experience then, I still could have applied myself to smaller opportunities in the communities around me. One thing that will always look wonderful on a resume is a large volunteer experience section, because it shows that you are an active, engaged, and well-rounded job applicant. If you’re struggling to fill up your resume, search for volunteer opportunities in your college community or hometown, because it is certainly unlikely that your free labor is going to be turned down by any non-profit or government organization. There is often a variety of simple volunteer opportunities within every town - such as at local food banks, homeless shelters, animal shelters, or clothing drives hosted by local churches.
If you already have a set career path in mind for your future, it’s a great idea to start tailoring your resume towards employers in your field of interest. For example, as I went to college for a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and a concentration in Political Science, I applied for fellowships with local statewide campaigns, the Millennium Campus Network, and the United Nations Academic Impact Program. Additionally, during my senior year of college I completed two immigration law internships with both a non-profit organization and the Immigration Justice Clinic at Pace Law School. If it’s not obvious by now, I am very interested in U.S. immigration policy and am currently seeking career paths into this complex field. During my time serving in AmeriCorps NCCC, I had the great pleasure to serve immigrants and refugees facing food security issues in the Denver Metro Area, working with a non-profit organization called the Village Exchange Center. These experiences were not about the cash earnings, because more often than not there was no pay, however the skills and perspectives I gained from these organizations will always be with me as I continue into my professional career path.
Preparing for your future while in college is never going to be an easy task, and sometimes it’s going to feel like there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel. However, I encourage you to take the first step by researching jobs and internships that interest you, look into the desired qualifications stated by the employer, and get to work building that resume ASAP. If you don’t know where to start - be like me and ask for help! Be curious, be open-minded, and be prepared to never stop learning.