I’ll never forget my first week at the University of Guelph. I walked into my first-year Hospitality & Tourism class and listened as my professor stood at the front of the classroom and told us that we were not at university just to study and learn, but to build the foundation of our careers. Those words have stuck with me and have guided many decisions I’ve made since then, as well as how I measure my own success.
Here are my 4 tips on how to build the foundation of your career during your time in university:
1. Build connections and network
I know this is said over and over again, but that’s because it’s true. I landed my first internship over a casual conversation about leadership with an industry professional. I wasn’t looking for an internship at the time, but that 5-minute conversation lead to an amazing summer packed with new opportunities.
2. Develop your soft skills
If you can communicate effectively, present ideas, be a leader, and manage your time effectively you can learn anything else. DECA is an amazing organization that will help you develop those skills you need to succeed.
3. Work in your field before you graduate
Start looking for summer internships in December or January that will give you experience in your field of study. This is important for landing that first job out of university, but to also discover where your passions lie and what you value in your career. University is a time of self discovery, and sometimes what you thought you wanted to do isn’t actually what you want to do. That’s ok, but now is the best time to learn it.
4. Take the time to help people
My personal rule is that if someone asks me for help and it will take me less than 10 minutes, I always say yes. Your time at university is an opportunity to build your brand. You never know when taking 10 minutes to help someone else will open up a new door for you in the future.
I believe that the most valuable lesson I’ve learned so far is that studying is only half the battle. There are so many talented young adults graduating from university, and one day you will be competing against them for the first step in your career. Focus on building your career while you study and you’ll be more likely to land that first job, and more likely to succeed.
Vice President of Operations, DECA U Guelph 2017-2018