College Lessons That Prepare You for the Working World

Prep for your career without missing out on the college experience

When you're in college, the "real world" may seem very far away. However, the decisions you make during your college career have a major impact on what happens once you graduate and enter the professional world. While I had my college missteps like everyone else, there were a few things I did during my time on campus that have proven most helpful in my professional journey.

I didn't declare my major right away.

What I did: Although I was fairly certain I wanted to major in business, I spent the first few semesters exploring new subjects. It helped me tap into the topics that mattered most to me and choose a major and minor that made sense for me. No one should be expected to know exactly what they want to do the moment they graduate from high school.

What you can do: Use the beginning of your college career to take a variety of survey courses that expose you to different disciplines. You never know -- this may completely change the direction of your future career!

I found a mentor.

What I did: Once I declared a major, I talked to upperclassmen in my courses and learned about all the business professors. One classmate told me about an internship he got through a professor who taught higher-level business courses. I made it a point to get to know this professor and asked if she would be my unofficial advisor. Through that initial relationship she became my mentor, and by senior year had offered me an internship with her management consulting firm. This opportunity opened many doors for me and taught me important lessons about working in the "real world."

What you can do: Talk to your professors -- that's what they're there for! Identify someone who can serve as your advisor, whether it's an official or unofficial arrangement. They can provide invaluable guidance as you explore career paths and help you secure the right types of internships that will make a difference once you graduate.

I started my professional network.

What I did: I became very active on campus, which allowed me to meet people in and outside of my major. I rowed on the women's crew team, pledged the co-ed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, became the president of the Business Club and volunteered in local schools through our campus ministry program.

What you can do: Get involved in a few activities while you're in school. This will give you a chance to build your leadership skills, which are incredibly marketable on your resume once you graduate. Additionally, these activities are opportunities to practice your networking skills. From class projects to sports team fundraisers, every activity is a chance to make a connection and lay the foundation for a strong professional network.

Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders, the online job-matching service for all career-driven professionals. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and "Like" her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.