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The 7 Bare Necessities 

These are the essential recommendations. In my opinion, you should try your best to obtain the education, experience, qualifications, and experiences on this list before you graduate. Of course, everyone's path is different, so do not be discouraged if you have graduated without these experiences.

1. Begin with a few ends in mind.

Browse job announcements, search for information about specific types of jobs that stand out to you, and contact people who work in those jobs. Learn about the opportunities that are out there in the world.


Most people only know about a few high-profile jobs that get a lot of attention (i.e., doctor, lawyer, psychologist, teacher, nurse, and the newly popular child life specialist). There are many other jobs out in the world that you will never know about until you look. When you do, you might find several that sound interesting. Learn more about them and the qualifications to be competitive for them.


If you begin to notice themes (for instance, all the jobs you are interested in require a master's degree in social work), then you have a potential goal to work toward. Of course, these specific jobs might not be available when you graduate, however, you will have prepared for a set of related jobs that align with your interests. 

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3. Be seen and heard on campus.

But be sure you are seen and heard in a positive way. Go to class. Pay attention during class. Be respectful to others during the class. Engage during group projects. Go to special events (seminars, workshops, and social events). You don't have to go to every event, but aim for at least a few times a semester.


Be interested in others, and meet new people when you attend. Reconnect with others who you already know as well. Attending class and attending other campus events helps you to: 1) demonstrate that you are capable of appropriately interacting in a semi-professional setting, 2) allows faculty and staff members to get to know you, 3) allows you to learn about other opportunities (i.e., other seminars/workshops, campus resources, research opportunities, volunteer/service opportunities) that you might not hear about otherwise.


Often, students do not realize until it is too late that they need 3-5 references for many jobs and graduate programs. You want to be sure to leave a positive impression and get to know people well enough so that they feel comfortable writing letters or providing references for you. 

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5. Get what you (or someone) is paying for.

Try not to leave that campus without taking advantage of as many career center resources that your school might have. Also, take advantage of workshops that document your transferable skills. (For instance, many universities offer free workshops on things like Adobe, PhotoShop, Microsoft Office, etc.) After you graduate, you will be surprised how much these things cost when you are not connected to a college campus.


Take advantage of your student fee money now. Be proactive. Look for opportunities on campus posters and on the campus website. Don't forget to document your professional growth!

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7. Obtain experiences off campus to build skills and develop relationships.

This point is in the spirit as #6. Be selective and find an off-campus volunteer opportunity, internship, or job that is related to your professional interests. Then, show up and do your best. You will build skills, abilities, and connections for the future.

While this is listed last, it is certainly not least. In fact, some would argue that it is the most critical thing to do while you are in college. 

Reach out. Ask a professional engaged in interesting work to coffee to learn more from them. Ask if you can shadow the while they work for a day or a week. Keep your eyes open for professional development events, networking events, and jobs in your area (or even remotely or abroad). Obtaining high-impact experience is one of the best ways to figure out what work you are interested in doing (as well as what work you hate). It is also a great way to get to know other people and learn about opportunities you might not otherwise hear about. 

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2. Strategically choose a minor.

A good minor can provide you with a more well-rounded educational experience that will help to make you more competitive on the job market. In one psychology program that I previously worked for, students were provided with specific information about the best minors for their career interests. Even if you don't have that type of advice available to you in your own program, you can seek that information out on your own by visiting your career services office on campus or through the wonderful world of Google.

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4. Record your professional growth. (Then backup your record.)

Your parents might have kept a file with all of your report cards and cute drawings at your family home. Now it is time for you to take up the cause of recording your own professional history. Be sure your file is represented electronically (and you can also create a second hard copy if you want).


Create a professional email account. (Do not name it partygirl28. It should include some version of your real name.) It is important to create your own professional account because many universities cut off student email accounts soon after graduation. Link your professional email account to some reliable cloud storage (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.). Then, every time you attend a workshop, attend a training, get a job, get an internship, complete a volunteer experience, keep a record of it.


Your recording process can be as casual or as formal as you wish--mine is a simple Google Doc file. No matter what, be sure that you include the date, title, and location of each event/job/experience.


I do NOT recommend simply keeping all of this on your resume. Your resume often has to be tailored for certain jobs, and you cannot reasonably fit all of your experiences on one single resume. It is helpful to have a separate, master document that you can reference when you need to prepare materials for individual jobs or graduate programs. You can look at your overall list and determine which experiences to include for each specific job or school application.


Back your file up periodically by using an external hard drive, creating a hard copy, or sending it to another electronic system (such as a second email account or cloud drive.) Your future self will thank you, and you will be surprised by all of the interesting things you have done.

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6. Obtain experience on campus to build skills and develop relationships.

Your major will help you to document that you know information about human development and family studies, but you also need to demonstrate that you have on-the-job skills and abilities to compete in today's workforce. These can be as basic as the ability to communicate professionally, the ability to learn quickly, technology skills (such as proficiency in Microsoft Word), or the ability to organize a successful event. Someone needs to be able to speak to your professional skills when you go on the job market, so be sure that you give them something positive to talk about. Be selective--not overcommitted which I could write a textbook on--and get involved in a few campus organizations or take an on-campus job or internship. Show up when you say you will, go the extra mile, and leave your coworkers and supervisors with something positive to say about you in the future if you need to list them as references.

College Friends
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