From day one of college, put a strategic plan in place to make your dream job come true.

Network Like Your Future Job Depends On It

Network Like Your Future Job Depends On It

Let’s be honest: most freshmen will end up changing their minds about what they want to do in the future. I did. I began my university career with the idea that I wanted to become an economist. Then I got teased and peer-pressured out of that field (“Isn’t economics for old white guys?”) and ended up pursuing a degree in political science.

At the time, no one told me that I was squandering some great future professional resources, so I thought I would share some guidance on what to do and what not to do as you move through your college career.

Stick With at Least One Thing.

As a student, I vaguely knew that I should try to work the same job for as long as possible. Even though I job-hopped a bit during college, I worked in the same department through most of my college years. I usually held more than one job, but I always worked in food services so that I could continue to eat while exploring other interests.

Working for extended periods of time in one department looks great on your resume.

Your future employers love to see that you already know how to work and that you'll stick with a job.Click To Tweet

Once you leave your university and begin working in the “real world,” you’ll have a network of people who know you well, and your future employer will value the soft skills that you acquired at work.

In my previous role as a supervisor, I worked with students on soft skills that employers take for granted – things like interpersonal communication, punctuality, accountability, and coping with criticism. There are some people who “get” it. There are many others who need to work on these skills.

Network With Five Potential Future References.

When you begin to look for jobs, you will need to provide references. These are people in your network who can speak to your ability and professionalism.

How do you identify these people? They could be almost anybody in your network: your current supervisor, a high school teacher or administrator who you still keep in touch with, or the head of a small organization that you volunteered for four years in a row.

The key is to develop substantive connections who can push a great reference when you need it.Click To Tweet

Why five potential future references? Because not everyone will be available at the same time. You can also pick two from the five as most suitable for the position that you’re applying for. Remember that not all references are created equally.

Cultivate and Maintain Your Online Brand.

Clean up your online presence: political posts, weird pictures, and any content that may be considered questionable by your future employer.

Get in the habit of being a lot more self-aware about the information that you’re putting out about yourself. You are your own brand. There have been numerous reports of people losing jobs due to online comments made in the past. The current Miss Teen USA nearly lost her crown due to questionable tweets that she made several years ago.

Remember, what you post on the internet lasts forever.Click To Tweet

Get assistance with creating a professional profile on sites like LinkedIn. Know how to work in the space where your future employers already exist.

Get Uncomfortable.

Network with people who are outside of your current circle. Some of the best connections that I’ve made have been with people who pushed me to think outside of the box.

You don’t have to always agree with them or even fully understand what they’re saying, but the ability to listen to and respect other points of view is a great skill to have.

Have Fun.

Ultimately, the process of networking is all about creating and maintaining relationships with people whom you know, like, and trust. Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary. In the end, just be yourself.

For more from author Michelle Jackson, click here