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You can survive university by being book smart, but once you start working an academic degree is no guarantee for success. You have to prove your skills again and again. Working life requires social skills, the ability to set yourself apart and perseverance. So how can you prepare yourself for the working life already during your studies?

Here are nine steps that you can, and should apply already during your studies. It’s like winning the lottery when you don’t have to start from zero once you graduate.

  1. BUILD A NETWORK. The importance of relationships in the working life cannot be stressed enough. You should start building them early on. Create a LinkedIn profile. Be active at your school: participate in student association events as well as events and company visits organized by your school. Every relationship you create can be valuable. Good small talk skills will save you from situations that often make Finns feel awkward.
  2. GO ARBROAD. Do an internship, an exchange, a backpacking trip, whatever. If you want an international position, you need some kind of experience from abroad. So many people have lived abroad these days that without the experience you will easily be overlooked.
  3. CREATE A PERSONAL BRAND. “When creating your personal brand, the same rules apply as with anything else in life; people are good at seeing through a fake act”, writes Barona’s explorer Valtteri Karjula. So how do you build a personal brand that is authentic but stands out at the same time? Read our tips for personal branding here.
  4. GET WORK EXPERIENCE. Not just at a summer job. This will make you more desirable on the job market. Work experience doesn’t always have to be from your “own field”. In the end, very few people know exactly what their field will be in the future. By working while studying you can show that you have skills that are extremely valuable for employers: project management and planning skills. You can manage several things simultaneously.
  5. FOLLOW SOCIAL MEDIA IN A PROFESSIONAL WAY. Especially discussions surrounding the branch you’re interested in. If you start following the branch only as you’re graduating, it will be more challenging to enter the working life. Start by following companies you’re interested in and your professional role models on social media and read the news of your branch daily.
  6. GET MORE (DIGITAL) SKILLS. Digital skills. That’s what we’re expected to have – in nearly every field. Fortunately, there are multiple webinars and courses (also free of charge), that can help you develop skills on nearly anything.
  7. FINISH YOUR THESIS. It’s not rare to be swept away by work at the expense of a thesis. It’s natural for employers to want to grab the future star employees right away and have them hooked by giving more and more responsibilities. If you’re already having a difficult time letting go of work, the situation will not get any easier with time. If you don’t finish your thesis now, you might feel very sorry in 10 years’ time.
  8. HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE FOR JOB HUNTING. Few people get the first position they apply for. There will usually be many rejections before you get your dream job, or even your first job after graduating. It’s best to prepare yourself for the job hunt and to be persistent. Believe in yourself and use all the resources you can think of – you can be sure that the one who gets the job is using all their resources.
  9. HAVE AN EXCELLENT RÉSUMÉ AND JOB APPLICATION. Oldie but goldie. What if you don’t know how to create a visual résumé? You’re not particularly skilled at writing? Fortunately, there are many solutions available today. The internet is filled with easy tools to aid you in making a visual résumé, for example canva.com that’s just as easy to use as Word. If you can’t express your skills in a traditional letter, how about making a PowerPoint presentation? Or a video application? Even though your résumé and job application are personal and may feel embarrassing, it’s always worth it to ask for help when making them. Ask the best wordsmith you know for help and have someone proofread everything.

Download an expert’s guide to writing your job application and résumé.

+1. TRY AND CHALLENGE. As someone who has already transitioned into the working life, my best tip is to try different kinds of things. “Trying” doesn’t have to mean bouncing from one company to another and from one field to another, but also questioning your old ways of functioning and challenging yourself. Most people discover their strengths only after they start working – and the easiest way to find them is by giving your all from day one.

Writer: Laura Heikkinen, Living, loving and writing about transition to working life. M.Sc. business graduate working at Barona’s marketing team.