The first semester of college can be overwhelming for even the most mature 18-year-olds.
On top of the little things like registering for classes and figuring out where everything is, freshmen are finding their way in an entirely new social setting — one filled with countless parties, clubs, and activities to choose from.
With all that on their minds, it’s no wonder post-college plans can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Here are nine things you can do to make sure there’s a great job waiting for you when the parties come to an end — while still having an awesome first year.
1. Learn at least one hard skill you can use forever.
Even if you’re dead-set on being the next great novelist, there’s always a chance you’ll change your mind sometime in the next four years (depending on whom you ask, anywhere from 50% to 70% of students change majors during college).
In that case, it’s good to have a few hard skills you can count on to get your foot in the door at a variety of jobs.
Learning a language is always useful, and you’d be surprised how many doors you’ll open by having a strong knowledge of Microsoft Excel.
Take it from someone who spent most of his freshman year playing Super Smash Brothers and embarrassing himself at parties: it’s a lot easier to learn these skills in the structured environment of a college course than it is to push yourself to study after a full day of work.
2. Make friends with your professors.
One commonly listed regret among college graduates, especially those who went to schools with large class sizes, is that they did not develop personal relationships with their professors.
If for no other reason than because you’ll one day be asking them for recommendations, make time to visit your professors during office hours. This can be intimidating at first, but offering guidance to young people is why many of them chose to go into academia in the first place.
In addition to providing you with their wisdom and expertise, professors who are established in their fields can help connect you with internships and valuable research opportunities.
3. Get involved with on-campus activities.
It’s a common piece of advice, but it’s a good one. There are hundreds of different clubs and student groups you can join, and chances are you’ll find at least a few that pique your interest.
If you want to be a reporter, join your student newspaper. If you want to be a politician, get involved with student government.
Even if you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate, it’s a good idea to dive into something you care about because the leadership experience you get working in a student organisation can help you stand out to employers.
And the sooner you join one of these groups, the faster you can start climbing the ladder.
4. Make a good impression with everyone you meet.
Whether its your parents’ friends at dinner when you’re home for the holidays, or the woman who sits next to you in your psychology recitation, everyone you meet is someone who can help you with your career later on.
While you will almost invariably say things to people you’ll later regret — nobody gets through college without changing a little bit — you can put your best foot forward by dressing appropriately, maintaining confident body language, and being a good listener.
Don’t forget to smile!
5. Be proactive about finding something to do over the summer.
It doesn’t have to be an internship (although, it’s recommended you get one of those early, too). Whether it’s travelling somewhere you’ve never been before or making money working at a local restaurant, it’s important to make the most of your summers off.
No matter what you choose to do, make sure you start planning early. You’d hate to miss the deadline for your dream internship or come home to find all the good summer jobs have already been taken.
6. Visit your college’s careers center early and often.
By the time senior year rolls around, the career center will be flooded with anxious students desperate to land a post-grad gig.
One way to make sure you have the attention of your school’s career counselors is to begin developing a relationship with them from the time you get on campus.
Career counselors can help you prepare the perfect resume, point you in the direction of great internships, and connect you with successful alumni. Even if you have no idea what you want to do after college, the careers center can be of use by offering personality tests that can give you a sense of which jobs you might be good at.
7. And finally, have fun.
No one wants to hire someone who’s miserable all the time.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.