Go Pro: A Guide to Presenting Yourself Professionally

You’ve just been accepted to college. In four short years you will graduate and head out into the “real world,” where you are expected to find a well-paying job, establish your career, and settle down. Sounds simple enough, right? Yet many students wait too long to begin the process of preparing for their professional lives. As graduation day looms, they find themselves feeling overwhelmed and unprepared to venture out to find their first “adult” jobs. With a few simple steps you can prevent these feelings. The earlier you begin networking, get your name recognized by potential employers, and know the ins and outs of portraying yourself in a professional light, the better.

Clean up Your Facebook

Those tongue-out, peace sign mirror pics you took may have seemed cute in high school but now you may not want them littering your Facebook profile. By the time you get to college, it is smart to think of Facebook as a professional platform. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, employers believe that a Facebook profile can reflect an applicant’s potential job performance. Assume that they’ll be looking, and keep it clean. To present yourself in the most positive light, re-think your privacy settings, refrain from using obscene language, and de-tag any pictures showing traces of immature or illegal behavior.

Create a LinkedIn Profile

Many college students are using LinkedIn.com as a way to network with potential employers. It only takes a few minutes to set up a profile where you can upload a picture, share your resume and list your qualifications and interests. After your profile is complete, you can begin branching out and linking with others. Your “connections” can be friends, co-workers, classmates or people working in your industry. You can also set “updates” (similar to Facebook statuses) and LinkedIn will suggest people with whom you may want to connect, based on different components of your profile.

Dress Professionally 

Have you ever heard the saying, “Dress to impress?” Once you get to college, it becomes increasingly important to dress professionally when you’re interviewing for an internship or attending a career fair.  It is always better to overdress rather than underdress. Bring a pair of dress slacks or a dress skirt, closed-toe shoes and a collared shirt or blouse to school. It can even be a good idea to splurge for a suit for more formal interviews. First impressions matter, and are made before you even open your mouth. Dressing well shows the potential employer that you respect them and the position you are applying for, and can be the difference between snagging the job or having it snagged from you.

Build Your Resume

The earlier you start creating a resume, the better. Do not worry about how much or how little you are able to put on it when you start, as it will be a work in progress. Additionally, many universities offer resume workshops or counseling, often at little or no cost. The workshops will help you organize the resume to include your education, work experiences, and special skills. Save the resume as a word document so that you can edit and change it as much as you need to, and print out a few copies to grab on the go when you head out to a career fair or impromptu interview.

By the time you graduate college, you will have enough to worry about. Take these steps early on in your college career and presenting yourself professionally will feel natural.

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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