When I was brought in for internship interviews, I was shocked to discover from all of the business owners and managers how many applicants didn’t provide a portfolio, sample work or even a decent resume. One interviewer stated, “I would have never bothered to pay attention to your fellow peers at a job fair, because none of them had what you have.” That shocked and humbled me at the same time. I felt like I didn’t do anything outside of putting forth the usual effort required to get a decent internship or any job for that matter. So, I broke down what I did to prepare, and how it can possibly help future college-goers.

I wrote. A lot. Granted, I actually enjoy writing as a hobby, which encouraged me to practice in the wee hours of the night. I kept several diaries, wrote several one-shot, nonsensical stories and cringe-worthy Harry Potter fan fiction. Eventually, all that writing turned into a 500+ page original work of fiction that is in the works of being published.

My advice: I get that writing is not everyone’s idea of a good time. So, put time into what you DO enjoy, no matter how odd it may seem. You never know what a passion can turn into.

I kept up with computer software and tech trends. I appreciate the time I was born because it gave me the opportunity to, not only value technological advances, but to be open and understanding to future changes. I went from tape players to the Microsoft Zune (yes, I actually owned that instead of an ipod), the Nintendo 64 to the PS4, from dial-up to Wi-Fi, from PS CS2 to the Adobe Cloud. If there was software I couldn’t access, I would take advantage of resources offered by schools or friends. Time are ever-changing, whether you like it or not – embrace it.

I changed my major – thrice. I started with dental hygiene because it seemed easy and made a decent earning. When I realized I didn’t want to stare at strangers’ tonsils for the rest of my life, I changed to business administration, because it was generalized and had plenty of job opportunities. When I changed for the 3rd and final time, it was because I realized that I deserved to do what I loved and had the potential to make money in the process.

My advice: There’s a job for everything. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s all corporations and government positions. We’re fortunate enough to live in a time where you actually CAN do what you love for a living. Just make sure you realize all this ahead of time to avoid my lengthy mistake.

I partied responsibly. I’m not a complete goodie-two-shoes. However, I didn’t get into drugs or clubs and I never hung out with strangers. This is common sense stuff. Plus, clubs cost too much money. Party with people you know and trust – it’s more fun that way anyways.

I taught myself. I get it. The education system is a highly flawed government structure comprised of too many standardized tests and not enough teachers teaching. However, the internet is a beautiful thing, full of uncensored knowledge just waiting for a willing host (kind of like a parasite, huh?) If I wanted to learn something I could just turn to handy dandy Google.

My advice: Want to know more about HTML? Photoshop? The General History of Everything? Google tutorials or subscribe to educational blogs.

I traded volunteer work for relevant experience. People love free work. Since my interest lies in graphic design, I was always offering services to people. Business cards, logos, web design, brochures – whatever I could do to add projects to a future portfolio. To me, this wasn’t work, because I enjoyed it. Every once in a while, I would get paid for my efforts anyways.

My advice: Everyone acknowledges the conundrum that is ‘not being able to get a job without experience/not being able to get experience without a degree.’ This is AVOIDABLE. Just because you’re not getting paid to do something, doesn’t mean it counts any less as relevant experience. Volunteer your services whenever an opportunity arises and keep track of your efforts.

Because of the aforementioned, I had a portfolio ready! But it’s not as simple as slapping all of your work into a binder. Depending on what field of work you’re pursuing, a portfolio can look several different ways. I took the initiative to research how to set up a graphic design portfolio, even going so far as to pay for a special template. Putting forth the effort will be well worth it, and impress future employers.

I branded myself. To go along with my portfolio, I did more than write up a simple resume. I created my own business card and logo to set myself apart from the competition. Plus, there’s no better feeling that to be able to hand out your own business card to an employer expecting nothing more than a Microsoft Office print-out.

My advice: You don’t have to be a designer to create your own brand. There is always an aspiring designer looking to build their own portfolio. Send out a mass email to the computer department at your school, ask a friend, or take advantage of free design software online.

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