Getting A Leg Up

Legging Up Your Competition

Let's face it. When you graduate from college you need an edge over the competition, right? Every year thousands of college students just like you enter the job market looking for the same thing you are, a job / career. Since that is the case you need something other than a paper degree to get your first job.

Here are a few suggestions you can do while you are still in school:

Project-based experience

Many schools give their students an opportunity to work with a local organization related to your field on a project the company needs help on. For many of these companies they are viewing this student help in the same manner they would if a consultant were to come in and help them with this project.

There are some regional organizations around the country like the Pittsburgh Technology Council who organize formal programs for students and companies to participate in a project based experience. Some of the companies who participated in the Pittsburgh Technology Council's program gave students a real world project whereas other created a fictitious one. A few of the companies who gave students an existing problem to solve actually used the student's results and saved the company money.

Talk to your professors, career services directors, co-op coordinators, or anyone on your campus that could possibly set an opportunity up for you or for a group of students at a local company. If you would be willing to work with a company for six or eight weeks, unpaid, on a project like this it could give you a huge leg up on your competition. The contacts you can make and the experience you can put on your resume is more valuable than money.

Job Shadowing

Another great way to get a leg up on your competition is to consider shadowing someone who already works in your field of study. If you are a biology major it might be worth your time to contact someone at a hospital or life sciences company who has a biology degree and learn how they are using their degree, or how did they landed their first job, etc... Many job shadowing experiences are very informal and short term; one day, or at the most one week. It would be in your best interest to talk with a professor or career services department to try and make this initial contact. If you work with the college the company may view it more as an educational experience rather than an attempt to get a job at this company. Again the networking and the experience is more valuable than money.

There are many other ways to get a leg up on the job seekers competition but we don't have time for them all in this article. Here are a couple more suggestions:

Informational interviewing

Internships (spring, summer or fall)

Cooperative education (usually a two year internship with the same company)

As we stated at the beginning of this article anything you can do to get a leg up on your fellow job seeking competitors, do it. As you probably guessed after reading this article one of the best ways to get a leg up is to do as much networking as possible while you are in college, and get as much real world experiences as possible. This principle will hold true for every job you acquire so you may as well start early.

Justin Driscoll is a writer and speaker to college students and recent college grads on career development issues. Learn more about Justin or to read more of his articles visit his web site,

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