How to squeeze absolutely the most from your college dollars

College teaches coursework; that’s obvious. Did you know that college also teaches important skills to help you land, keep or create the career of your dreams?

It’s true. When you ask job recruiters to name what they seek in an ideal

Linus Pauling: good student (Wikimedia Commons)

Linus Pauling: good student (Wikimedia Commons)

entry-level hire, it isn’t academic brilliance (although that helps!). It’s a collection of qualities you had the opportunity to pick up in college but may have bypassed because they weren’t required for a grade.

Here are some simple things you can do to build great qualities that will put you ahead of a grad with a better GPA who doesn’t have them.

Get to class on time. Always. Punctuality is essential to holding a job or running a business. Our college, smack in between Los Angeles-area freeways and with a parking shortage, offers you lemonade from those lemons. It will build the habits of getting up, getting out and arriving early enough to report on time.

Do original work. College is a good place to plagiarize, if you must, because you’ll only fail classes and get sanctions for it. Try it in your career, and you’ll get fired – and you’ll get a reputation that may make it impossible to get hired again. If you’re inclined to claim others’ work as your own, work out those demons in college. Better yet, give yourself enough time to do your work — most plagiarism comes from rushing – and ask librarians and professors for guidance on research and writing.

Do your best. A common saying in the hallways nowadays is “Even Cs get degrees.” Some people interpret that as permission to party hearty and slack off. To others, it means following instructions and doing your best, and not hanging your head if the work isn’t brilliant. A lot of what you do in college is a first-time experience. Very few people hopped on a bicycle and rode it perfectly the first time. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Then, when you’re a newbie in your career, you’ll be assertive enough to grow yet patient enough to learn. (Did we mention that learning is a lifelong thing?)

Join student chapters of professional organizations and attend professional events. These will start your networking before you graduate. Besides, professionals love enthusiastic students because they want to pass the torch to good people. Networking takes a while. It isn’t about sucking up to someone to get a job; it’s about building a relationship that may have immediate or long-term rewards of various kinds. You’ll also pick up valuable tips about what’s happening in your future industry that will help you to figure out where the jobs are when you graduate.

Thank everyone who helps you along the way. This includes librarians, teaching assistants, internship coordinators and even guest speakers who gave you insight or inspired you. It’s sad to say, but saying “thank you” will make you memorable because so few people do it. Yet they are magic words. The people you thank will be more inclined to help you the next time because you let them know that you appreciated them. In work life, nobody likes what appears to be arrogance or entitlement, even if it really isn’t, and the trait of thanking people will endear you to coworkers.

No sniveling! Hey, you’re the one who enrolled in a boatload of tough courses. Now it’s up to you to get the work done on time; it’s not up to your professors to accommodate your workload for other classes. A better way: Space out the tough courses throughout your college years so that – you’ve got it! – you can do your best in all of them. In your career, especially if you’re an achiever, sometimes you will just have to buckle down and finish projects to which you’ve committed, even if it means pulling a few all-nighters.

You thought all of this would be history after graduation, didn’t you? Well, that’s why they call it Commencement – it’s only the beginning. By using all of your opportunities now, you will not only squeeze the most out of your college tuition and fees, but you’ll also step out of school well prepared to shine as a new hire.

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