Seizing opportunities: A student’s guide to preparing for a great career

Too many students spend far too much time stressing about getting the proper experience before leaving college and entering the professional work field. But the truth of the matter is, experience is right in front of them. Students simply need to snatch up the opportunities provided and use them to their advantage.

Max Pond

With a degree in public relations, Max Pond now works as a source team marketer at a digital marketing agency in Lehi, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Max Pond)

Maxwell Pond, public relations graduate from Brigham Young University, talks about just how important taking those opportunities are and how doing just that shaped his career.

“Gaining experience now will separate you from your peers,” Pond said. “I thoroughly believe my career was kick started by the fact that BYU offered me so many opportunities to be involved. I took the opportunities to excel and it definitely paid off.”

Universities provide their students with plenty of opportunities to get a leg up when they leave, many of which students fail to recognize as experience that can be added to a resume.

Major classes

Many, if not all, of the courses students are required to take provide them with experience and knowledge essential for their future careers.

When asked what classes added value to his resume, Pond brought up his research class.

“[Research classes] probably more than any other, provide a glimpse into what your future job will look like—a client has a problem that they don’t know how to solve and they’ve come to you to fix it,” Pond said.

Research classes provide students with an essential tool for the communications industry. Employers are looking for people who know how to research. Most communications students have taken at least one research course; all they need to do is add it to their resumes.

Working for real clients

In addition to simply teaching curriculum, communications classes also offer great opportunities for students to work with actual clients without needing prior experience.

“[The] public relations program is incredible because it offers so many opportunities for students to get in working with real clients,” Pond said. “Three items on my resume came from experience I acquired from my classes.”

The experience students gain doing work for clients while in school is invaluable. It allows for them to gain professional experience while being under the guidance of their professors.

Too many students view these opportunities as school work rather than adding them to their resumes. Having the experience of working with clients while in school can also assist students in landing great internships to help kick start their careers.

“Just because you did it for school does not mean it’s not worthy experience. That’s why you’re going to school in the first place, right? Get your money’s worth!” Pond said.

Student organizations

Another great opportunity for students looking to give their resumes a boost while still in school is getting involved with student organizations. Being involved with PRSSA or on campus labs boost experience. Sure it may take a little extra time and effort, but not only does it look impressive on a resume, but it also provides hands on experience and additional learning opportunities that would otherwise be missed.

Pond expresses his regret in not being more involved in such organizations, “The thing is, I could have afforded spending both the time and money to be part of an organization. If something can make you more employable, and it’s well within your reach, why not take it?”

Internships. Internships. Internships.

“Having at least three internships prior to starting a career is the new norm,” Pond said. “Graduating without experience just isn’t what it used to be.”

Interning is also a great way to get a foot in the door and land a job at a particular company. A recent study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers revealed that employers filled 39.1 percent of their entry-level positions from their own internship programs.

To help students succeed, universities often have internship offices to provide access to what’s available. Perusing the department’s website for open internships can be a great way to see what’s available both on campus and off.

Universities have done all the leg work in providing opportunities for their students to succeed. All students need to do is recognize the opportunities they’ve been given and use them to their full advantage.

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