In Arnie Fertig’s post today on US News Money, “For Today’s College Kids, Landing a Job is About More Than Classwork,” Fertig talks about how today’s college students have to do so much more than just get straight-A’s to secure a good job after graduation, given the tight job market. He goes on to recommend that students use college to build their portfolio and their network, both of which are solid pieces of advice that we’ve reiterated here several times.

But, for the benefit of Education Today’s readers, I’d like to add to Fertig’s advice. Some of these are between the lines of Fertig’s post, but they’re worth explaining. Here are five tips to help college students improve their career placement after graduation:

1. Know what your field values.

Before can start collecting work experience, you have to know what kind of experience is valued in your field. If you are working toward a career in business management, most office experience will be worthwhile, but especially experience where you are managing something. In more specialized career fields, however, that kind of experience won’t be worth much. For instance, if you are working toward a career in web design, companies will want to see actual websites that you’ve designed and built. In the film industry, you build your resume film by film. Healthcare jobs usually favor those who have worked in hospitals previously.

So know what your career field values first. Then go after it.

2. Internship! Internship! Internship!

Almost across the board, no matter what your career field, internships are the perfect way to gain meaningful work experience prior to graduation. While internships aren’t the only way to gain this experience, they are usually matched to peculiar skill level and experience of college students. They’re also made to prepare you for a fruitful, full-time career later on.

If you can’t find an internship in your field, you might consider “making” one by approaching a company and pitching the idea to them. Internships are usually attractive to companies because interns cost less (sometimes nothing) and it’s a very short time commitment, typically three to four months.

3. Don’t be afraid to work for free.

In some fields, college students will be expected to work for free, despite whatever other living expenses they may have. Don’t let this deter you. Work out your finances ahead of time so you can, with a little hard work, still pay for your living expenses while taking on an unpaid job or internship. The opportunity and the experience are well worth the sacrifice.

4. Take every opportunity to network.

During the most stressful periods of the college experience, you may feel so overwhelmed with papers and exams that rubbing shoulders with recruiters or other professionals may feel like a luxury you can’t afford. Keeping your eye on your real objective-which is not straight-A’s but a great career-you realize that you have to fit this in. Networking is actually higher on your list of priorities than any midterm.

Fortunately, most decent colleges make a point of bringing these networking opportunities to you. These opportunities come in the form of faculty, guest speakers, career fairs, networking lunches, and more, and they all offer the chance to meet people from your field, get advice, exchange contact information, and set up future prospects.

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