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You’re a junior in college, beginning to sweat about getting a job after graduation, listening to all the horrifying urban legends about recent grads from elite colleges who are still unemployed. But there’s not much you can do yet about your future, except nailing a good GPA, posting your profile on LinkedIn, and checking in with your college’s career services office about summer internships.

Ok, so here’s a thought: take the GMAT (or the LSAT, or the GRE–or even all three, what Grad.spot calls the “unholy trinity of graduate school testing) while you’re “still smart.” Within the first three years out of college, you will probably want to apply to graduate school. Especially if the job you are able to get out of college is not what you want to be doing the rest of your life.

But once you get out in the young professional world, it will not be so easy to prepare for grad school. You’ll be getting up early, commuting, working long hours, perhaps with travel. At the end of the day, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is attending a prep class, doing a course online, or even practicing from a book.

Your test-taking chops will not be as sharp after a few years in the professional world. It’s hard to imagine now, because you take exams all the time. But remember doing a varsity sport in high school? In-season you were in great shape. Off-season, if you didn’t work out at the gym or go out for a daily run, you got rusty. If you didn’t continue to play the sport in college, you wouldn’t even think of walking in cold to a competition.

Testing is that way too. The farther you move away from an academic environment, the more rusty you become. So take the tests now. And if your’re not sure what kind of grad school you may be interested down the road, you might want to…take them all.

Related posts: Your College’s Career Center, Can I Get an MBA if I Wasn’t a Business Major in College? Preparing for Business School: GRE or GMAT?, Time to Apply to B-School?, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship…What To Do?

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AT LAST!

You finished your summer internship and you’re back on campus. Time to dive into September frat parties, catch up with friends, make sure you’re enrolled in the right classes with the best professors from RateMyProfessors.com. Another college semester is underway!

Not quite. You’ve got a few things to do before your summer internship fades into history…

1. Update your resume. Describe what you accomplished in your summer job, before you forget. If it was an internship, what were your responsibilities, what did you initiate, what did you achieve? If you didn’t have great opportunities to change the world, you still may have gained exposure to how systems work in your field, and that is valuable too. Tweak it later, but at least write it down.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t joined LinkedIn yet, now is the time: LinkedIn’09GradGuide. If you feel confident enough in your relationship with professionals you have met or worked for this summer, ask them to write you a LinkedIn recommendation. While you’re at it, join a few groups, like your high school and college alumni groups, and professional groups aligned with your field of study.

\3. Show appreciation for internship supervisors and colleagues. Send a thank you note to your boss for the learning opportunity you had this summer. In this economy, internships are hard to come by, and if you were fortunate enough to obtain one, show gratitude!

Stay connected with your supervisor and professionals you have met during your internship. If there is something that you can do for them (i.e., an introduction to a professor who does research in an area they are interested in, a sports event at your college they may enjoy attending, etc.), go out of your way to offer it. After all, they did you a big favor by hiring you and spending time training you this summer!

4. Get your updated resume to your school’s career service office. Before you know it, the recuriting process for next summer’s internships will be underway. So before you become immersed in your fall studies, get an updated resume over to career services. Then it’s on autopilot and you can relax for a few months.

5. File important stuff. A research study or regression you did, confidential information that shouldn’t be floating around your frat, whatever. Get organized. You never know when you might need this stuff.

Now you’re ready for September.

Relevant reading: Getting from College to Career : 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World by Lindsey Pollak,  From College to Career: Entry-Level Resumes for Any Major from Accounting to Zoology by Donald Asher.

Related posts: College Internship and Entry Level ResumesYour College’s Career Center, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart,Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance.

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You’re a college junior, composing a paper on your laptop, FaceBooking and IM’ing at the same time. You have a text from Mom asking you to check  email because she sent you vital travel info but you never check. What other communcation tools do you need?

LinkedIn? What’s that? Oh, that boring site for business contacts. Put up a profile? Oh, puhlease…

But you’d like to get a summer internship, and a job when you graduate, in a tough economy. The career placement office made you put together a resume, and it might be good to have a public, professional presence online. Employers may be looking, and you’d have a high Google rank with an instant profile. Ok, so there are some benefits for college students on LinkedIn.

Some of your friends have websites or blogs. The artist with the online portfolio, the biotech major with his posted research, the journalism major with her active blog. LinkedIn can instantly link to those collections of a student’s work!

That guy that graduated last year, he’s working for the company you’re interested in, and maybe he could pass your name along to somebody. But how to find him? Oh, he’s probably on LinkedIn. He could forward your profile or recommend your work, because you were on that team project together.

Come to think of it, LinkedIn might be a good way to keep in touch. They have all these Groups: High school and college alumni, the company you worked for last summer, professional associations for your field, people from your hometown, or summer camp. All those people grow up, find jobs, become important—just like you. It might not be a bad idea to keep up with them, or be there so they could find you.

Ok, ok, you’ll join. LinkedIn has a 2009 Grad Guide to help get started (has not been updated but it still works).

Relevant reading: I’m on LinkedIn: Now What? by Jason Alba, What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future by Richard N. Bolles, How’d You Score That Gig?: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs and How To Get Them by Alexandra Leavit, Getting from College to Career : 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World by Lindsey Pollak, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World by Alexandra Leavit.

Related posts: College Internship and Entry Level Resumes, Your College’s Career Center,So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?, What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Er-Internship, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance, What Is Informational Interviewing?

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Summer internships, especially paid ones, are tough to land in any economy. But it is especially difficult during a period of  high unemployment. And you are competing with the huge population of baby boomlet students, just as you did in the college application process. So it is possible that you were not able to get an internship for this summer. However, there are many valuable alternative ways to spend a college summer, which will be personally gratifying and resume-building as well. Here are ten ideas:

1. Take a course. Get a requirement out of the way, especially a hard one. Give it full focus, perform better, and have an easier workload this fall. Or take an elective at an accredited school near home if your college will give credit. If you attend a private college, take summer courses at your state university to save money on tuition. For exposure to elite academics in a stimulating urban environment, consider Harvard Summer School, London School of Economics, Georgetown, GWU, Columbia, NYU, or USC, to name only a few.

2. Attend a workshop. Gain professional tools as valuable as an internship, or perhaps more.  If you didn’t land that Wall Street summer gig, how about four weekends at the CFA-accredited Investment Banking Institute, offered in ten U.S. cities? Its student price is a bargain compared to executive education at prestigious universities, and you’re free during the week to do hourly work to pay for it.

3 Beef up your technical proficiencies. Add to your professional toolkit for a future job. Let’s say you are a fine arts student interested in exploring applied visual arts, such as digital graphics, videogaming, web design or animation. Buy a software program through Academic Superstore, which offers reduced prices for students. Or enroll in a non-matricultant online course (i.e.,  Academy of Art University.) The fine arts metaphor translates to any field.

4. Do volunteer work in your field. For medical, education and helping professions, it is essential to develop your human contact capabilites, not just academic skills. Volunteer work can help you assess the rewards and frustrations of dealing with clients in your prospective field, as well as different working environments. It may strengthen your grad school application. And it will undoubtedly enhance your experience as a human being. You will never have more time than you do right now to “give back.”

5. Do research. What about approaching a professor  to do unpaid research? Structure an independent study for academic credit. Undergraduate research is expected for graduate school applications in academic, science and medical fields (see Science Magazine‘s Science Careers and Student Doctor Network). If you plan to go into the workforce after college, research demonstrates your initiative and deep knowledge of your field. Your professor may also have connections that may lead to an entry level position.

6. Travel. Do one of your own college’s study abroad programs led by your own professors, other schools’ renowned programs (i.e., NYU, Syracuse, Boston U), or external programs that partner with universities (i.e., IES, CSA). You will enrich your experience in your major, or in your life, and you will never have as much time as you do now.

7. Take grad school prep courses and exams. If you plan graduate school straight from college, take advantage of this time window (vs. during a regular semester). If you plan to join the workforce and are considering eventual graduate work, take the test now. Tests are valid for five years. You’ll never be “smarter” than right now! Click here for GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, or GRE.

8. Learn a foreign language. Master a language for an employment edge in the future, such as Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or Hindi. Enroll in a college course or Berlitz program, or buy Rosetta Stone (this incredible software could even teach me, the most “unlikely to succeed” language student!). Consider Middlebury‘s renowned language schools, University of Chicago’s intensive language program, or University of Virginia’s Summer Language Institute.

9. Do informational interviews and job shadowing. What do you want to do when you grow up? Finally you have time to find out! Unless you grew up under a rock, you know adults in careers that hold interest for you. Your parents, extended family, family friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors: and people they know. It’s a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing. Whether they are young professionals or high-powered veterans, they’re likely to agree to an informational interview, since you are not specifically asking for a job.

Ask about rewards and frustrations, long term career path, and lifestyle. Remember, people love to tell their story and give advice, so let them!  Ask to “shadow” an individual for a day and find out what “life in the trenches” is really like. The bonus of this approach is, it often leads to landing a project, internship or job later on, directly or indirectly. Every time to meet with an adult professional face-to-face, you will learn something that will help you in career exploration, job interviews, or career decision-making.

10. Earn money. If you can find a semi-skilled summer job, that can also fit the bill. You may be able to take a workshop or online course in your spare time. The money you earn may allow you to do some educational travel at the end of the summer. Working during the summer may free you from having to do part-time work during the school year, resulting in stronger academic performance.

There is nothing more noble and than self-sufficiency, responsibility and elbow grease, and you can be sure future employers will be impressed with a proven work ethic. A summer job requiring physical labor in an outdoor environment can actually be a refreshing break from academia. There is always something to be learned from every experience, from supervisors, co-workers and customers. Soak it all in.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World, Your College’s Career Center, What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Er-Internship, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn? Does Your College GPA Matter? and What Is Informational Interviewing?

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