Ah, you made it--senior year. It doesn't seem like that long ago you were cutting your teeth on those first college exams and, just before that, thumbing through your best college options and shaping credentials to gain entrance into a preferred school.
That's behind you now, but if you're an aspiring entrepreneur, a similar process is coming around again. With a bit of tweaking, the skills you obtained gaining entrance to college--not to mention what you've learned the past four years--will serve you well in the coming months as you prepare for that first foray into the business world.
As a branding expert, hiring manager and someone who successfully launched a business exactly two years after graduation, here's my advice to the Class of 2019.
1. Get linked.
Let's face it; most of you will not launch a business right out of college--you'll need to get a job, experience, contacts and a little bit of money first. LinkedIn is your online resume, and employers like candidates connected with other professionals in the field. Make it a point to polish your account, and seek and share information on topics in your envisioned industry. LinkedIn is a good place to meet other professionals, garner insights and get endorsements.
Your LinkedIn profile should show recruiters and employers that you're ready to make an impact. In my case, when I started my company, I actually landed my first client through LinkedIn. But that would have never happened if I hadn't invested years of work into building out my presence--and that began during my senior year.
2. Get a headshot.
While polishing that LinkedIn page, put a big ol' smile on it. Headshots are crucial to professional profiles, from LinkedIn to the company's website when you are hired all the way to branching off on your own. It's your own visual moniker, so you want something with a look and quality you can be proud of. Many university career service offices offer free headshots, but if not, it's worth the spend.
3. Gussy up.
The comfy tattered blue jeans and faded sweat top were fine for Econ class, but keep in mind that business-casual or business-formal clothing will be a key component of your personal brand and how you're perceived in a business setting. Consider versatile business clothes for your wardrobe as an investment.
A proper business formal outfit is a must, at the minimum, for interviews with potential employers. Even if unnecessary for your daily job or field, there will always be future events or situations when you'll need them -- perhaps beginning with your headshot.
4. Groom social media accounts.
LinkedIn should be impeccable, but don't forget your other social media accounts. The class of 2019 emerges at the center of social media prime time. You've probably had a Facebook profile and been active on Twitter, Instagram and the like for years.
Now is a good time to clean them up: delete old posts, change privacy settings, clean up your tagged and posted photos. The rule of thumb is, make the account something you could share with grandma. Starting fresh might be wise. Create a business Twitter account and keep it focused on career and professional interests.
5. Grow your university network.
Professors and adjuncts are more than instructors; they are mentors and network connections. Take the time to introduce yourself and get to know them. They have connections and can provide you with guidance and opportunities for future professional endeavors.
Take advantage of university resources before you graduate: Attend career fairs and alumni events to utilize all networking aspects. Alumni networks are powerful and are a common way to land that first job. And as an entrepreneur, I've maintained close ties with my alma matter, a connection that has become a powerful pipeline for talented interns each semester and full-time employees.
6. Get writing.
The most important thing you can do for your career and your personal brand is to write. Every profession requires writing. I stood out from the crowd at the two companies I worked for prior to going independent by regularly contributing to the company blog. I wasn't asked to do it--I just did it. If your writing skills need sharpening, remember that practice makes perfect. Whether you contribute to a field publication on your favorite topics or simply keep a blog, practice hones writing skills.
Enjoy your senior year -- you deserve it. Get your school business done, enjoy the college experience and savor that final year as only a seasoned senior can. But remain mindful of the next journey and the grueling work that goes into launching your own business. And remember, steps taken now can amplify your options and opportunities come May.