Five Steps: Build a Career Before Graduating from College


Five Steps: Build a Career Before Graduating from College
Contributed by Karen Dikson

In 2015, the Georgetown University center on Education and the Workforce released a report showing that around 14 million college students were working. That’s over 70% of college students. Around 76% of graduate students and 40% of undergraduate students work full-time.

The question is: how many of those students are working towards career progress? The reports show that most of them must work to pay for their education. Since the work does not provide enough finances for tuition and expenses, they must take loans, too.

If you must work, why don’t you do it with a higher purpose? If you choose your positions wisely, you won’t start looking for a job after graduation with a clean sleeve. You’ll already have experience that shows how good you are. We’ll suggest 5 tips that help you start building a career while you’re still at college.

1. Be a Freelancer!

Freelancing can be a real job in today’s economy. People from all around the world are making money through writing, graphic design, coding, photography, and many other skills. Whatever skill you have, you can turn it into a profession that will be related to your future career.

Robert M., a student at Monash University, works as a freelance writer at Best Essays. He shared his experience with us: “During my first year at college, I was wondering: do I want to be a writer or a social worker? I decided to combine these two passions and write about social issues. This company gave me an opportunity to do something I loved and get good money for it. I believe this is a great contribution towards my future career. Every project demands extensive research. I’m learning a lot and I’m boosting my writing skills on the go.”

2. Start a Blog

Did you know that a good blog can bring you good money? That’s not all. A great blog can also make you an authority in the niche you choose for your profession. For example, let’s say you want to be a graphic designer after you finish college. You can create an impressive blog that covers all points of graphic design. You will share your tips and knowledge, and you’ll showcase your projects.

The sooner you start working on your blog, the greater your opportunities will be. A successful online project will look great on your portfolio. It will open the doors to your future.

3. Consider Internships

If you must work for the money, maybe this won’t be an option for you. However, you should consider an internship, even if it’s just for a month during the summer break. The biggest advantage of an internship is focus. When you opt for a position related to the career you want in future, you’re basically building that career during college.

An internship gives you great chances to build a professional network. If you prove yourself as a great worker and you get people to notice you, the organization that gives you an internship opportunity may offer you a job after graduation.

4. Take Part in Professional Events and Conferences

Colleges organize career events for a reason: during an occasion like this, the best students get a chance to be noticed from different organizations. They can develop their professional network and make connections with potential mentors. When you get a chance to attend an event of this type, you need to be very active. It’s not the right time to be humble and shy. Talk to these people; they are there to meet and attract the most talented students.

Don’t stop there! Find conferences related to the profession you’re focused on and attend them. Professional events offer you great chances to build your network. Connect with the people you meet via LinkedIn, so they will be updated about your progress.

5. Get a Job that Demands Communication

When you choose to work throughout your studies, choose your positions very carefully. Organizing the books in a bookshop is a good way to spend your time, but such position won’t get you in touch with many people. Store cashier, barista, help desk representative… – these are some of the most common jobs a student can get. The good thing about them is that they directly face you with people. No matter what career you choose for your future, communication skills will be crucial for your success.

Don’t perceive this as a job you need to have just because you lack the money to pay for college. That attitude leads to frustrations. Think of it as an opportunity to develop important skills that help you become a better applicant to any job after graduation.

It’s never too early to start doing something that will make your CV look good. A student has many opportunities to start building a career before graduation. You just need focus!


About our guest Contributor. Karen Dikson is a college instructor and blogger from New Jersey. She writes for several educational websites, including Huffington Post. She loves teaching, writing and helping her students to reach their goals. Connect with Karen via Twitter.


Just Do What Justice Sonia Sotomayor Did – By Marcia Cantarella, Ph.D.

Reprinted by permission from the Huffington Post


Marcia Cantarella, Ph.D.

Marcia Cantarella, Ph.D.

Having been a dean at Princeton, and also having had the privilege of meeting Justice Sotomayor, I was delighted to read an interview with her in the Princeton alumni magazine. By now all know that she was a child of the Bronx, did not grow up in a family of means, and struggled to achieve what she has along the way. I have many friends who were among the first women at Princeton and also some who were like Justice Sotomayor, minorities among that minority of women. The challenges that they have described — especially those who were also ethnic minorities and low-income — mirror the challenges described now by far more students across all kinds of schools and not just the halls of the Ivy League. Many of these students do not make it through college at all. Justice Sotomayor’s interview has lessons that are as applicable today as when she was a freshman.

She talks about how she felt different more for her poverty than her gender or ethnicity, but that any of those factors could have made her feel like an outsider. I have found over the years that students feel difference keenly and that often they feel difference where it does not exist. All freshmen feel that the kid next to them is smarter (or cuter, or cooler…). The need to belong is strongest during adolescence and we sometimes forget that college students are still that. I do not want to minimize what she felt. Indeed the reality of her sense of difference made it more difficult to navigate. And that is pretty typical for those in her circumstances. It is one of the reasons that talented students from backgrounds like hers do not even try to get into places like Princeton. They, with some reason, realize that they will be different from their more affluent classmates and will lack aspects of cultural and other exposure those classmates may have.

Sotomayor’s solution is one I have long recommended. Find a community that resonates with your own experience. It may be an ethnic club or organization. For her it was Princeton’s Third World Center. For young men in CUNY or other schools, it may be a Black Male Initiative. For some students it is a religious group on campus. It may be one with a vocational focus like the pre-med or pre-law societies. These can provide a comfort zone and safe space where there are people who understand you. One young man I know is very much the geeky science nerd who felt that not only did no one “get him” but as a black male he was even more adrift. A science enrichment program for students of color gave him exactly what he needed to feel he belonged somewhere and could navigate the campus from that base. And that is the important thing. Sotomayor says not to limit yourself to that one group, but to use it to become more comfortable in the larger community and then to engage with it as well.

She speaks to the importance of ultimately taking the risk of being part of a larger community and taking part in clubs and activities that are new. These provide the networks needed for success but also a comfort level with all kinds of people. You get stronger when you take these kinds of risks and get beyond your comfort zone. Your world becomes larger and your life richer and your opportunities greater. But she also says it is important to keep close to your roots and to bring your family and community along with you. You can enrich their lives by sharing your own. I have known many immigrant students who bring to their families a whole new world view, introductions to new friends and broader cultural exposure as a result of their college experience.

Sotomayor also speaks of the vital importance of finding someone to talk to. In her case it was a faculty member. As a dean I have been that person for many students on the campuses where I have served. It may be a coach or an adviser. Just find someone that you can ask questions of — especially the ones that you think may be “stupid” or which may label you as an outsider. The reality is that any new student feels like an outsider but no one wants to admit to it. But not asking questions or for help is actually dangerous. It is also counter to the culture of college which is all about inquiry.

She says she found her mentor’s advice to start gradually and take basic courses before advanced ones served her well and gave her the good grounding she needed. She also was advised to take subjects new to her (economics and sociology) that ended up being vital to her work later in ways she would never have imagined. Finding someone to guide and advise her and taking that advice to heart has been key to her success and began in college.

I have heard her messages from others who have also achieved to a far greater degree than they ever imagined. Some I know from personal knowledge and some from media interviews. But the themes are the same. Take the risk, find the allies, seek support. It works over and over. Try. Just do what Justice Sotomayor did.


Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur: Networking Your Way to Success

By Donell Edwards

As the publisher of The College World Reporter© (CWR) one of my goals is to encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship among college students and all of our readers. Because we believe in the very near future, due to an unstable economy and the effects of rapidly and continuously changing technology, economic survival will depend on the ability to become entrepreneurs and business owners. Our position was recently validated in the article, Why Everyone Will Have To Become An Entrepreneur, published in the May 13, 2012 edition of Forbes’ Online Action Trumps Everything Blog.

The purpose of this article is to provide readers with an understanding of what entrepreneurship is, and the importance of networking in becoming a successful business owner or entrepreneur. As mentioned previously, we believe college students are in a very favorable position to become entrepreneurs or business owners. College students have access to a plethora of research, information, professional advice, counselors, and resources that are essentially free, that would cost an incredible amount of money if these services and resources had to be paid for.

In addition, there are many examples of phenomenally successful college student entrepreneurs who started businesses while still in college. For example, in 1973 Harvard University students Bill Gates and Paul Allen joined forces to launch the software company that changed everything, Microsoft. Yale University student Frederick (Fred) W. Smith wrote a term paper that later became the blueprint for the multi-billion dollar Federal Express (FedEx) overnight delivery service.  In 1984, while still a college student at the University of Texas-Austin, Michael Dell launched his computer company, which later became Dell Computers, from his dorm room. In 1999, Northeastern University student Shawn Fanning founded the popular music sharing service Napster.  Most recently, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who while students at Stanford University became co-founders of Google.   And in 2004, Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg launched what has become the phenomenon that is known around the world as Facebook from his dorm room.

These are just a few examples of what can be accomplished by college students, or anyone else for that matter that has a dream, or has a hobby that they are passionate about.  But it does not just happen.  And not everyone possesses the skills and other qualities required to be a successful entrepreneur. But anyone can learn.

So, do you have what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.  First of all, what is an entrepreneur.  To answer this question we asked one of the most widely recognized authorities in the world on entrepreneurship and networking to explain what is required to be a successful entrepreneur.   Dr. George Fraser is an internationally renowned speaker and New York Times best-selling author, and is considered an expert on networking and entrepreneurship by many knowledgeable people on that subject.

Dr. George Fraser

Dr. George Fraser

Dr. Fraser says in order to become a successful entrepreneur,  “I think that, are you a risk taker? I mean that ‘s what entrepreneurship is, it’s risks, it’s taking risks, it’s managed risks, it’s controlled risks.  But do you, are you a self-starter?  Do you need someone telling you and giving you directions each and every day? Are you a risk taker? Do you enjoy creating and making your own way? Do you have the work ethic? In other words, to be a successful entrepreneur requires 8 -12 hours of work a day? So ‘A’, do you have the work ethic, do you enjoy working long hours, because that’s what it’s going to take, especially if it’s something that you love; that ‘s number one.  Are you a risk taker, or does that stress you out, does it angst you out, taking risks? Those are the fundamental litmus tests for entrepreneurs, work ethic, taking risks, self-starting. Are you like that? And do you enjoy those things? Because that’s what it’s going to require, you’re going to have to work hard, you’re going to have to take risks, and you’re going to have to be a self-starter. No one is going to be there to tell you what to do and when to do it, you’re going to have to figure it out yourself.  So, do you have the discipline necessary, to go, secure the information necessary, to be successful in whatever business you’re going to be in.  Or do you just want to learn by your own mistakes? And, by the way if you’re doing that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes.”  So, are you a risk taker? Are you prepared to put everything on the line, because that is what it is going to take.

By ‘everything’ I mean your time, your energy, your financial resources, your emotions, the potential of stressful family and personal relationships, and the unexpected.  That’s what it will take to be a successful entrepreneur.  But there is nothing like the reward of achieving success with a project that you envisioned, started, developed, and successfully brought to fruition.”

At the beginning of this article networking was mentioned as a key element in achieving success as an entrepreneur.  What is networking, and why is it so important?

According to Dr. Fraser,  “Networking is the identification and the building of relationships, for the purpose of sharing information, opportunities, and resources.  And the emphasis on that definition is on the building of relationships.   Sharing; because all of life is about relationships.  All of life is about working with and through other people. In fact there is no success that you can attain, sustain, or maintain on your own, by yourself, in a vacuum.  In fact the most powerful asset that you will have in the 21st century will not be your computer.  It will be your relationships.  It will be your relationships.  Why?  Because all entrepreneurship, all job searches, all upward mobility in the public and private sector workplace, all organization building, all community building, all nation building, are inherently, networking initiatives, that it is your ability to shape the scope of your search for human resources, and bring those resources to bear on your challenges and opportunities in life, is what will ultimately determine your level of excellence for success in life.  It’s all about relationships.”

It should be noted that there are all types of relationships, there are good relationships, bad relationships, mutually beneficial relationships, toxic relationships, and the list goes on.  To determine what relationships are most beneficial in building a powerful and effective network, begin with those closest to you, your inner circle of family and friends.   Dr. Fraser says he learned a very important lesson from observing those who were successful:  “I learned the need to remove toxic people and bloodsuckers from my life; people who drain you of your time of your energy and of your patience. This is very, very important, it is very easy to say, very difficult to do, why? Because many of those friends or those people are your family members, or your significant others, or people who claim to be your close friend. I say you need to really, really discern and to discriminate who you are hanging out with, who are your circle of friends?  Introduce me to your five closest friends and that will tell me who you are.”

So thus far we have learned that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, one must be a risk-taker, and one must become skilled at the art of building relationships, and one must carefully examine his or her inner circle to ensure that only those who are positive influences are included.

Since networking is such a vital part of the success of an entrepreneur, let’s spend a little more time discussing how to acquire the skills required to build positive relationships.   Dr. Fraser offers some insight into how this can be done.   Although his comments are directed to college students, anyone can follow this advice and succeed.   Dr. Fraser says, “There are so many ways that our young people should be practicing this whole idea of cultivating, nurturing, and building relationships. First they have to learn this whole art and science of networking.  And I think, I think really, college students, and I talk with them about this all the time, one of the most important things they can do to begin building their network is to volunteer.  So that they can learn new skills that they would not ordinarily have a chance to learn. And secondly, it puts them in front of people that they would not ordinarily meet, and it helps them to display the skills which they have and to make an impression on people who can impact their lives through job opportunities, through entrepreneurial opportunities.  So I think, having a sort of volunteer mindset, so that you can go out into the marketplace, and meet people; there is no question that every student in your college should be either volunteering for a summer position, or if they are smart enough and if they are good enough, they should put themselves in a position to be recruited to be a summer intern at a major corporation.  If for no other reason than to meet the important people in that organization and to make an impression.  If they can’t get a summer internship, then they need to volunteer in organizations where there are important people who are in areas in which they may have an interest.”

Volunteering is a great way for anyone to increase their knowledge, gain new and additional experience, and meet important people who may help advance their careers or help achieve their goals as an entrepreneur.   So seek out organizations and corporations that afford opportunities to volunteer. Be active as a volunteer in the community, get to know key leaders.  Take advantage of every opportunity to volunteer.

To summarize, the fundamental qualities required to become a successful entrepreneur are:

  • Being a risk-taker.
  • Learning to become an effective networker by building relationships.
  • Become an eager and enthusiastic volunteer.
  • And closely watching one’s inner circle of family and friends to ensure that negative influences are eliminated.

Although education and training are very important, these can be acquired, but the essential, fundamental qualities just mentioned must be present for anyone who desires to be a successful entrepreneur, or they must be learned and fully developed before you can network your way to success.

Related Article:  America’s Coolest College Start-ups 2013

About George Fraser:  George C. Fraser is the author of two critically acclaimed books:  Success Runs In Our Race; The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African American Community and Race For Success; The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks In America.  He is the founder of the annual PowerNetworking Conference, where thousands of Black professionals, business owners, and community leaders gather to discuss and do business with each other.  Mr. Fraser is also the Chairman of Phoenix Village Academy, which consists of three Afrocentric charter schools that serves Cleveland and Akron, Ohio inner city children.  Over the past decade, the prestigious publication, Vital Speeches of the Day, has selected, reprinted and distributed worldwide, five of Mr. Fraser’s speeches; a first for any professional speaker in America, regardless of color.