I've learned a variety of professional skills throughout my college career, but I can't help but wish I'd known these things before going into college. Hopefully, those who are just starting college will learn a thing or two that I wish I'd learned a long time ago.
1. When at work events, always hold your drink in your left hand.
This is so you can shake people's hands with your right. When I write it out, it seems like common sense, but it's something I didn't know until last week when a friend of mine, who took an etiquette class, taught me.
My life is forever changed by this simple rule.
2. Business cards are more important than you think.
I always considered business cards as reserved for extremely successful businesspeople or professional offices like the financial aid office at your university. But, I learned in college that anyone can, and should, have business cards.
Include your full name and contact information and always carry a few on your person. This way, if you ever run into someone who may provide a potential opportunity, you can connect with them in a more professional manner than just saying, "Look me up on LinkedIn," or adding them to your phone contacts.
3. Never post ANYTHING on social media that you wouldn't want your boss or next potential employer to see.
You've probably heard this a thousand times, but I've known plenty of people who have had issues with this one because no one ever told them this major piece of advice. They post a photo of them out drinking, or smoking, or doing something risqué, and either someone shows their employer the photo, or the employer finds it themselves through a quick Google search. If you wouldn't want your boss to see it, don't post it!
4. Always ask people before you use them as a reference.
You can't just throw the name and phone number of anyone you've ever worked with on a job application or your reference list. Make sure you ask them beforehand. Also, try to avoid anyone you are related to or are friends with. Keep your references strictly professional whenever possible.
Keeping things professional looks better on applications and it strengthens your credibility as opposed to just having your mom say you're a good person.
5. Document all of your experiences on LinkedIn.
On LinkedIn, which I was first introduced to as a "professional version of Facebook," you don't have to worry about keeping all your jobs and experiences on one sheet of paper for your resume. On LinkedIn, you can save all your job descriptions, dates, and links to your work saved in one place. You can even refer potential employers to your LinkedIn for additional information not found on your resume.
Social networking isn't all bad.
6. Tailor your resume and cover letter to the organization you're applying to.
When I made my first resume in high school, I assumed I would send the same version to every job I applied to. But, in college, I learned that, especially as you add more experiences to your resume, you can choose to leave the irrelevant ones out depending on the job you are applying to, with more focus and description on positions and experience you have that is directly relevant to that job.
If you want your resume to stand out, use templates from Canva and create a personal brand for yourself, especially if you're in the communications field.
7. Always save your resume as a PDF, not a Word Document.
This will preserve the formatting. Even if you have perfected your resume formatting in Word, it will not stay put if the person you send the resume to doesn't have the same exact version of Word as you. If not, the formatting will be messed up and make you look unprofessional. Saving and sending your resume as a PDF not only keeps the formatting looking perfect and you looking professional, but you add an extra layer of protection since it can't be edited.
8. Never burn professional bridges and networks, ever.
If you find that you want to leave your job, do so in a professional manner. Have a private conversation with your supervisor and give them at least two weeks of notice, or offer to stay on until they find a replacement. One of my professors taught me that one.
Don't burn bridges once you leave. Keep your lines of communication open and become connected on LinkedIn. You may change your mind or work together again in the future in a different setting, and you don't want to make things awkward or block any potential future opportunities because of something you don't want right now.
9. Please, hit "reply" to e-mails, not "reply all."
Unless you are intending to reply to everyone on the e-mail chain, of course. Too many times I've received emails that were not meant for me because someone hit "reply all" when they intended to only reply to the sender. Don't be that guy.