Working during college: Tips to prepare for your future career

Students work for different reasons while attending college. As students work during their college years, they can use the experience to prepare for their future career.

From an academic perspective, getting through college can be a challenge. Even with financial assistance from grants, loans and scholarships, paying for college can be a challenge. To help pay for college and other expenses related to college, some students have a job. In a New Citi/Seventeen Survey on Business Wire, findings from a 2013 national survey of over 1,000 high school seniors and college students revealed that nearly four out of five college students are working while attending school, with the average student working 19 hours per week during the school year. This survey explored the way students save, spend and manage the finances of college life. If your college expenses are covered, it is still possible to work while you are in school.

If you’re a student who plans to work while in college or currently working in college, work for more than the paycheck to pay for school, other living expenses or for extra money in general. Consider these items as additional benefits while working, even if you’re on work study through financial aid:

  • Are you aware of the skills you have? If so, seek to sharpen your existing skills. Also, seek to learn new skills. If you haven’t done this already, make a journal of the skills you have. As you’re working, record in your journal the skills you’re learning so you can put them in your resume.
  • Build positive relationships with co-workers and your supervisors. This is a lead in building your network and could lead to future opportunities down the road. Plus, building positive relationships with your supervisors can lead to a good reference letter.
  • Work to make a positive impact. A positive impact means you made something better for the business or organization for which you are employed. The positive impact will allow your supervisors to write about it in a future reference letter.
  • Think about future employment with the business or organization. Even if you’re at an entry-level position, once you receive your degree, investigate how you can transfer or transition to another department for employment where you can use your degree.

Would you like ideas on some jobs that can assist you in building skills for the future? If so, Courtney Rubin in U.S. News and World Report for Education gives ideas for jobs in college that can build skills or “skills-boosting” jobs.

As you work during college, remember to focus on building the skills and relationships needed to prepare yourself for future employment after you receive your degree. You may also find Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Career Preparation resources helpful as you continue the path through your future.

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