Five Ways to Gain Experience on Your Resume Before Graduation

In the past two years, Gen Y has been exposed to the harsh realities of the current economic climate. The truth surrounding the job market is that not all new graduates are guaranteed their dream jobs; this can be further illustrated by the Huffington Post's series The (Un)employment Chronicles: Voices Of The Degreed And Jobless. In fact, many current students have seen the ever-pressing need to expand their resumes with real-world experience before their job search has begun.

Below are five ways college students can increase their depth of experience and stand out on a resume:

1. Search for courses where participation is reliant on a student challenge:
Great professors look for unique ways to expose their students to the real world. Be proactive, search for classes whose professors are offering a unique experience, such as competiting in a student challenge. Some professors may have students compete in case study challenges; others may favor hands-on competitions such as the Google Online Marketing Challenge or the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge.

2. Enroll in a class that awards certifications upon course completion:
Relevant certifications look great on a resume, portfolio or LinkedIn profile. Almost every college major can be enhanced when accompanied with certifications and fortunately, many colleges and universities offer to prepare their students for certifications upon particular course completion. Whether a teacher with CPR, an MBA with Six Sigma or an HR student with PHR, all will spruce up a resume and help new graduates stand apart from peers within their major. Find ideas for certifications here, but make sure not to pay for a certificate, which can be acquired through a course offering.

3. Join a networking association:
Networking associations often offer membership rates with student discounts and participating in networking associations can offer an array of benefits to college students. As a student, the network itself will be of value if targeted in the correct area of interest. Ask a career counselor which associations are most frequented by alumni within the appropriate major or try searching LinkedIn to find associations mentioned on the profiles of professionals within the appropriate industry.

4. Look for a mentor and ask to volunteer or intern:
The transparency offered in social networking on the web with websites like Twitter make it much easier than it used to be to find a mentor, engage in conversation, introduce oneself and develop a relationship that can result in volunteering or interning. Any relevant experience is good experience while a student is still pursuing a degree; just remember to have realistic expectations of how much time a mentor can invest in students and stay even more realistic regarding any financial stipends offered.

5. Become a resource and tutor students:
Becoming a tutor is a fantastic way to build credible resume qualifications, while also grabbing references and connections along the way. Try contacting the student center and inquire whether they are excepting new tutor applications. If not, go out and tutor students independently of the school. Tutoring students is an excellent way of becoming a resource and proving advanced comprehension within a subject matter.

Are the aforementioned suggestions not for you? Try becoming a Resident Advisor or organize a student event. Whatever the method, be sure to graduate with a resume complete with skills proving accountability, responsibility and overall intelligent decision-making.