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Seven Things College Millennials Can Do Right Now to Prepare for the Workplace

Bentley’s PreparedU research study outlined a number of possible solutions to help millennials, higher education faculty and staff, and business leaders better meet one another’s needs. What does that mean in practical terms for college-age millennials? We asked a panel of experts from Boston-area schools. 

1. Know who you are and what you want. Keep an open mind. Conduct research. When it comes to careers, engage in things like mock interviews, team-related tests, and ability and interest assessment tools.

2. Try as many things as you can. Don’t settle for the easy or obvious. Test yourself. Explore a course that’s out of your comfort zone. Make friends with someone from a different culture. Try a new sport. Intern at nonprofit if you think you’re headed to Wall Street — and vice versa.

3. Figure out how to blend your passions with a career. Whether you want to be in business, education, social work or medicine, you need to explore the “fit.” For example, you might really like science but discover that relating to sick people is not your thing. So you might make a better researcher than a doctor.

4. Learn as much as you can from your parents about school and work. They have a wealth of experience, know you well, and want only the best for you. Ask them what they would do all over again and what they would do differently. Take advantage of their insight and experience but remember that, in the end, it’s your life.

5. Understand that college is for your total development, not just for fulfilling academic requirements. Make it a point to grow emotionally, culturally and socially, because these will be as important as any professional or technical knowledge you garner. And when it comes to academics, push yourself. Don’t settle for the “gut” course. Take a demanding course load that will challenge you and, by the way, prepare you for the multitasking, constantly busy and “on call” culture that is increasingly part of many careers. Put yourself in a position to understand what a career really involves. Whatever your interest, make sure you get an early start with your career planning office. Mine the contacts that they can offer and network like crazy. If you’re lucky, they’ll have resources dedicated to your specific major and career interest.

6. Get experience that matters — and a lot of it doesn’t. For example, internships that are essentially clerical and don’t offer professional development aren’t worth the time. Same goes for internships and other “immersion” experiences that don’t have a lot of supervision or, even better, mentoring. The whole point is to learn as much as you can about the company and the business it’s in. That doesn’t mean you have to like every internship. Your objective is to discover what you want to do — and what you don’t. That applies not only to the work itself but to the kind of role you’re in. Whether in class or on the job, make sure you pay as much attention to the soft skills as the hard so you can reduce the frustrations and tension and concentrate on the rewards.

7. Find friends who push you and inspire you. It’s true in every aspect of life. When the bar is set high, you’ll elevate your game. Friends also can provide a sounding board on classes, careers and, yes, planning the rest of your life. Friends who are in classes ahead of you also can become mentors and provide recommendations to employers who are looking for more good employees just like your friends! 

The PreparedU Project gratefully acknowledges the contributions of these outstanding millennials: Brian Shea, Andrew Johnston, Sophia Sirage, and Bridget LeMon from Bentley, Miles Powell from UMass Amherst, Casey Hogan from Northeastern University, Sara Khosrowjerdi from Tufts, and Vance Soares from Northeastern University.

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Great Advice

Excellent article!