Your college job should make your resume stand out

Don’t wait until you graduate to gain professional work experience; start with a college job.

As your college years come tumbling to an end, the real world will be hovering before you, all foreign and foreboding, like some sort of exclusive society with a secret handshake. And there youâÄôll be, standing on the outside, as if in the nosebleed seats at some sold-out concert, scheming a plot to finagle your way to the floor. If you had connections, this would be no problem: you would be getting your rock on at the front of the stage. In other words, you would have an âÄúinâÄù to your career. But for the rest of us who picked some obscure, not-as-useful-as-we-thought major âÄî one where your professor begins the class laughing, acknowledging that none of you will be able to get a job âÄî need to plan ahead. There are a few tricks to getting the square peg in the round whole and scoring a job. There are undergraduate jobs that will get you real experience for what you are going into, even on campus. ItâÄôs always crucial to think about how a job will sound on your resume, and how you can talk yourself up or single out the duties that relate to your field. For many majors, there is obvious work that translates to professional experience: working as a yoga instructor at the University recreation center, writing for a school publication, acting in the theatre, working as a camp counselor or as a daycare instructor. If there is an obvious job that is related to your career, it will guarantee you a standout resume. However, some majors do not provide easy avenues for professional experience, so you might need to make more effort for the recognition. Say youâÄôre a nutrition major and youâÄôre working at a movie theatre, you could ask your manager to allow you to research a few health-conscious food items the theatre could buy. Or you could create a chart that displays the sugar and fat content in the current choices. Now instead of just working at a movie theatre, you worked part time to implement health awareness and provided the management with nutritional advice for snack options. If you canâÄôt ask for extra duties at your current job, there are several options for gaining experience. The top three: find a mentor, volunteer or get involved in a group. Seeking a mentor is much easier than finding an internship and can often lead to one. Many colleges at the University have professional contacts that are willing to be mentors. The Career Center in McNeal Hall also has many resources. If there is a company in which you are specifically interested, search their website for an e-mail or a phone number, detail the type of person with whom youâÄôd like to get in contact and explain that you are looking for a mentor. This will allow you the opportunity to meet with someone on a regular basis, shadow them at work, attend a meeting or take part in a project. This is a very informal way of getting to know a company or deciding on a specific career. You can also volunteer in your field. There are many locations that accept volunteers for events, conferences and as an ongoing part of certain organizations. Being a long-standing volunteer will show your dedication. Another option is to get involved in a student group, or start your own. This will give you the chance to bring in professionals to speak to the group âÄî whom you can begin to network with. The contacts you gain from your undergraduate experience are going to give you the most advantage in your post-college job search. DonâÄôt be afraid to ask a professional, even a professor to an informational lunch or interview. The more career advice and experience you get, the less foreign you will feel upon graduating and the closer to the stage you will be at that sold out concert called employment. Ashley welcomes comments at [email protected]