If you’re currently in college or approaching graduation, you might be wondering how to enhance your skills for your future career or personal development. It can be challenging to know where to start and how to gain practical experience, as well as connect with experienced individuals who can guide you. Fortunately, there are several ways you can gain valuable experience and improve your skills even before you graduate.
List of ways to level up your experience before graduating:
- Other Activities
Though not in any particular order, I'll be going through each of them and explaining what they are and their pros and cons.
One of the easiest ways to add value to your profile is by starting with projects. If you’re a computer science student, you’ve likely heard of “side projects” or “personal projects.” These are projects that you work on independently or with a group, ranging from a simple website to a complex application. The goal is to learn something new and apply it to your project, and you can use these projects to demonstrate your skills to potential employers or clients.
Projects offer a great opportunity for continuous learning and growth. When it comes to selecting a project to work on, it’s entirely up to you. However, if it’s your first project, I suggest starting small, ideally, something that can be completed within a week or two (ex if you want to be a web developer simple Shopify, medium, notion clone). This will help you get a sense of what it’s like to build something from scratch, as well as teach you the basics of the tools you’re using. Once you’ve finished your first project, you can move on to larger and more complex projects.
What is the limit? How many projects should I have?
There is no limit to how many projects you can have. The more the better(generally). But I would recommend having at least 3-4 projects. This will help you showcase your skills and also help you learn new things. If you’re applying for a job don’t be discouraged while you’re in the middle of building these projects.
In my opinion, internships are the best way for college students to gain practical experience in their field of study. However, the tricky part is getting one in the first place. Usually, you would have to go through an interview process, which can be challenging for some people, especially if they don’t have much experience or are unsure of what questions to expect.
Although this post is not about how to land an internship, the first step is to start building projects. Creating and sharing personal projects on platforms like GitHub can showcase your skills and demonstrate your passion for the field. This can make a significant impact on recruiters who are looking for candidates with experience and passion for the work.
But why are internships so valuable? Landing a good internship can provide you with the opportunity to work in a team, with a clear direction, and typically with a deadline. This will allow you to learn so many essential skills, such as how to break down projects into smaller requirements and see how different people approach them.
Moreover, you will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals who can guide you and answer any questions you may have. Always remember to focus on understanding the problem rather than merely solving it. Take your time to think about the best approach and ask for guidance when you feel stuck.
In an internship, you don’t need to rush to complete tasks as it is not a competition or a race. Instead, take the time to understand the problems thoroughly and think about the best ways to solve them. This will enable you to learn more than you ever imagined and help you develop the confidence needed to excel in your career.
If you don’t want to work in a company and have a business idea, freelancing might be a good choice for you. As someone who paid most of their college tuition fees with the money earned from freelancing, I can attest to the fact that it is an excellent way to learn and grow.
During my time freelancing, I gained a variety of valuable skills, such as understanding people’s problems, collecting requirements, creating proposals and bargaining, estimating the time and cost of building projects, balancing my college work and freelancing work, working with people from different industries and specialties, delivering projects, applying feedback, and handling expectations when things take the time or go wrong.
Freelancing made me a better engineer overall, and I still believe it is one of the best ways to learn and grow. While there are several ways to find freelancing work, I usually worked with people I knew or those referred to me by previous clients. Helping local businesses with their websites and apps can be a great way to get started and feel like you’re making a difference in your community.
However, freelancing also has its challenges. You may only get in small, one-off projects that don’t allow you to learn new things or get trapped in a large project that lasts for years. Additionally, freelancing can be a solitary experience since you have to do everything on your own, which can help you develop a broader range of skills, but you may not specialize in a specific area.
Despite these challenges, I would still recommend trying freelancing to learn and grow as a professional. While there are websites to help you find clients, most of them do not allow you to meet the actual clients, making it difficult to build your network. Nonetheless, a few of my friends have built their businesses out of freelancing, making it a viable career choice for those who want to work for themselves.
4. Other Activities
In my opinion, participating in college clubs, hackathons, competitions, and conferences can be a great way to enhance your skills and confidence. These activities often involve collaborating with other students and professionals, which can allow you to solve problems together, divide tasks, and learn from each other.
While these experiences can come with challenges such as different ideas and getting stuck, overcoming them can help you grow and develop valuable skills for handling similar situations in the future.
Although these activities may not offer a clear sense of goal or monetary reward, they can complement internships and freelancing. Participating in competitions can also provide a benchmark for improvement and offer the opportunity to travel to new places.
In conclusion, taking part in college clubs, hackathons, competitions, and conferences can be a valuable addition to your skill-building journey.
There are other options like courses, etc but these are the ones I highly recommend. If you chose one or all of them, don’t forget to understand your limits doing too much will in end just exhaust you, which will lead to burnout. This can hold you back and you might lose confidence in yourself.