A digital graphic of Renae promoting her blog about work readiness tips.

11 Tips I Wish I Knew to be Successful in College

Read on for 11 helpful and insightful tips from Marketing Intern Renae Schuetter

The following is based on my personal experiences. Each student is unique and encounters different things. However, I think some of my suggestions will be beneficial for any college student!

Before we start, here’s a little bit about me. I’m a senior at Ferris State University, and I’m finishing my final three credits this Spring through a marketing internship at Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! (UPMW). My major is Business Administration with minors in Integrated Marketing Techniques and Legal Studies. Before my internship at UPMW, I interned at Amazon in Seattle as a General Marketing Intern. I believe I got that internship due to my involvement as the president of the American Marketing Association (AMA) for the 2020-2021 school year. During my presidency, we earned a spot in the top ten of international chapters of the colligate AMA.

Now that you know a little about me, I want to give you 11 tips I wish I knew earlier:

Get Involved

Getting involved in clubs, groups, sports, and more can be intimidating when you are in college. If you don’t know anyone it can be difficult to go alone. However, this is completely normal and something that everyone goes through. I saw an AMA poster on one of the whiteboards in my classroom and decided to check it out. I was so nervous on the way there and even once I got there. I felt much better when I started talking to members.

Joining clubs is important when you are in a professional college track. They are what set you apart from other students. They also help you make connections, build your resume, and gain experience. I suggest joining one club that is related to your major and one you just enjoy! If you try it and don’t like it, try a different one! I’ve tried a few clubs that didn’t fit me – and that’s okay! Most colleges and universities have plenty of student organizations.

Hold a Leadership Position

Getting involved in clubs and organizations as a member is beneficial and a great experience but being in a leadership position within these clubs can really help you become work-ready. This doesn’t mean you have to be the President of your club or even hold a leadership position. This can simply be overseeing a fundraiser or helping to organize an event. This gives you something to talk about in interviews and provides so much experience. Most clubs have many leadership positions – just ask around!

Update your Resume

This is something that might seem obvious, but it is so important. While you’re in college, your resume is going to change often. It is much easier to update it each time something changes rather than waiting to update it before you apply for a job. Accomplishments can be forgotten if your resume is not updated when they happen.

Another recommendation I have about resumes is to have a professor, friend, or professional look over your resume. When you’re looking at your own resume, it’s hard to make improvements, find typos, or critically assess it. Having others look it over it can help. Attending a resume workshop might seem boring or like a waste of time if you already have a “good resume,” but resumes can always be improved.

Create a LinkedIn Profile

When I started college, I didn’t know what LinkedIn was. I had heard about it a few times but didn’t think it was a platform I need to be on, at least for a while. However, it is a very useful tool for networking. Networking is crucial for any profession!

Find What You Like

Feeling content with your major is important to being successful in your career. Your major is a pathway to your career, so change it if you don’t like it! It is okay to switch majors or career paths! It’s important that you choose a career you enjoy and are passionate about.

Compete

This might not apply to all majors but taking part in competitions related to your field is beneficial to your future academic and professional careers. Doing this can help you decide what you want to do more specifically within your field. You’ll be able to find competitions to join at most universities. This helped me decide that I want to do more than sales!

Participate in Internships

This is something I really wish I knew earlier in college. I am from the Upper Peninsula, where internship opportunities can be scarce. I only knew of people doing an internship between their junior and senior years. However, it is beneficial to do as many internships as possible. I have recently made a friend who became an intern after her freshman year! Although that is not necessary, that helped build up her experience and get an advantage over her competition. I wish I had taken part in more internships, but I am very thankful for the experiences I had.

Another tip I have about internships or jobs is to apply early. Applying early gives you an advantage because if you apply late, they could’ve already filled the position that you were more fit for. For example, if you want to get a summer internship, you should be looking and applying during the fall semester and the very beginning of the winter semester.

Find a Mentor

A mentor is someone who can help guide you and give you suggestions. They help you get on the right path. This person can be a trusted friend, a professor, or an advisor. These people can give you advice pertinent to your collegiate experience and your even your career path. They can help you talk through hard decisions and act as a sounding board for your ideas. My advisor was so beneficial to me in all aspects. (Scot, if you are reading this, thanks so much!)

Make Up a Perfect Pitch

I didn’t know what a perfect pitch (AKA elevator pitch) was until I joined AMA. I can’t stress enough how important and beneficial it is to have a great 30-second pitch ready so you can easily talk about yourself and your strengths. This is difficult for those who may be a little on the timid side, but it is still possible to talk about yourself positively without “bragging.” It shows off your potential in a concise way. I use my pitch in every interview, have used it in classes, and used it in many other cases. Now, I am never nervous to meet someone of importance in an elevator.

Prepare for Interviews

Having a perfect pitch is a great first step to prepare for interviews! My personal tip, which I did and thank myself for, is to make a Word document with all the information that I need for each interview, and then update that document and customize it to the company. My document includes information about myself (strengths, weaknesses, why you want to work there, and accomplishments), commonly asked questions, commonly asked questions specific to the company (research what questions the company you’re applying for asks for your position), company background, and questions you have for them. If you are taking part in a phone or virtual interview, you can have this right in front of you! Even if it is in person, this is a document that you can write your notes on. I help my friends make their documents and it helps them so much!

Be Confident

Last, but certainly not least, be confident. Confidence is truly key! Being self-assured can go a long way. I encourage everyone to chase their dreams, even if they may seem scary or out of reach. Apply for your dream job or internship. Even if you don’t get it this time around, you will have learned, and it will open more doors. You can do it! You just have to believe in yourself.

Thank you so much for reading. For more information about work readiness, call your local Michigan Works! at 800-285-9675.