Whether you are reflecting back on freshman year, or heading into it now, the clichés of your college years are the same. You’ll encounter several chants, lanyards galore and let’s not forget the pile of free t-shirts soon to be in your closet.
My first semester freshman year was a blur of dorm room posters, movie nights, free pizza and way too many student club invitations. What did I do? I completely ignored it. My first year of college, I watched Netflix and hung out with my group of friends in the cafeteria. Branching out was not on my agenda.
In my second semester, my professor urged me to compete in a public speaking competition. Not only did I enter, but after placing second, I had the startling realization that becoming involved was actually fun. Not to mention, it gave me a variety of connections for potential opportunities and internships.
After that, I steadily embraced school spirit. I went to games, volunteered at events, worked on campus and communicated with my professors out of class. Here are some reasons why I recommend getting involved on your campus this upcoming semester:
1. You learn new things about yourself. OK, so you’ve never grown anything in your life … but one meeting at the gardening club won’t kill you, and you might have a hidden skill that was waiting to bloom. The same goes for creative writing clubs, acting clubs, singing clubs, etc. — I know your campus has them all.
2. It’s all about networking. Most of my internship opportunities occured because someone spoke on my behalf. Saying you have skills is one thing, but having a supervisor attest to those skills moves your résumé to the top of the stack. A lot of employers attend university job fairs along with many other events, so all you have to do is grab your blazer, résumé and go.
3. You make like-minded friends. One of my biggest allies over the past few years has been my roommate, an incredibly gifted advertising major. She is always there to offer her skills to help me succeed, and vice-versa. I met her through work at the student media center on campus, and soon enough we were the dream team. I help her write, and she helps me with graphic design. What drew us together was our mutual dedication to succeeding in school. So go find the peanut butter to your jelly!
4. It won’t always be free. As the saying goes, you never know what you have until it’s gone. Résumé critiquing and interview preparation are costly once you graduate. Make the most of all the great career planning services your campus has to offer while they’re still free.
5. Your professors are there to help you. I am not saying take them to dinner, but dropping by their office more than once a semester will only benefit you. The professors I’ve established relationships with are always encouraging and helpful. They have critiqued my résumés, cover letters and even the blog you’re reading now. The effort you put in will be appreciated and their experience is sure to warrant great advice.
6. It connects you with others after you graduate. Once I receive my diploma and move into my career, I look forward to the day when I come across someone who says, “No way! You were in student government? I was a treasurer!” There are many outlets on your campus that current students and alumni have utilized. Greek life, on-campus jobs and clubs are all talking points when you network with others in your professional environment.
Putting these tips into action can open doors for you in ways you might not have thought possible. College is filled with opportunities to help you succeed professionally outside of the classroom. All it takes is time management, drive and a dash of school spirit. So the next time your inbox is flooded with invitations to an upcoming job fair, make sure to go. Then make it a habit to work more of these opportunities into your schedule. It will pay off in the long run.
Which school-related opportunities have helped you in your professional life?
Brittney Darner is a senior at the University of North Florida majoring in communications with a concentration in public relations. She is an intern at the Jacksonville Port Authority, as well as brand manager for her school’s student media center. You can follow her on Twitter @BrittneyDarner or learn more on her website.