Take the Right Classes
Engineering and liberal arts majors have one thing in common: To be successful, both need to understand the context in which people earn money. They have to be comfortable in a variety of areas and seek a well-rounded education, which means while in college take the right classes. According to Forbes, the six essential courses every university student should take are economics, statistics, computer programming, calculus I, communications and financial planning and management. These courses can teach students the roles of value and costs, and understand and manage data, make quick estimations, communicate effectively, and manage money.
Choose a Money-Making Major
You might have your heart set on a creative writing or philosophy degree, so keep in mind some college majors don't net big salaries. If you want to have a successful career doing something you love, do it. But if raking in cash is high on your list, you've got to choose a money-making major. The authors of “College Majors Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs” — a detailed book linking College Board majors with careers — mined through Census Bureau statistics and college grad surveys and studies to find $53,976 as the median pay for grads working full time in 2010. But mechanical, chemical, computer and electrical engineering majors surpassed that number by at least $20,000. Pre-med nearly doubled it. To make the big bucks early on, you've got to be in the right industry.
Do More than One Internship
Completing several internships throughout a college career demonstrates initiative, and work ethic is what lands the high-paying positions. Internships enhance a student's resume, increase knowledge, skills and confidence, and expand professional networks. With experience and connections in place, grads won't have to take low-paying jobs after graduation to build what an internship could've done for them.
Start Networking Early
Top companies aren't looking to merely fill entry-level positions or hire interns for menial tasks — they are looking to land the best of the best, the top talent. As college graduates compete with each other for high-paying positions, companies are doing the same with each other. To establish themselves as worthy career destinations, companies are increasing their presence on campuses by participating in career fairs, educational development sessions and informational seminars. Aside from internship experience, job seekers should expand their networks by attending such forums and establishing an online presence — and do it early.
Make Yourself Marketable
Being active in a professional association and maintaining a smart online profile can show potential employers that a graduate knows how to handle himself or herself. All the education in the world will do nothing for a person who doesn't know how to properly market himself or herself. Companies choose from hundreds of applicants and have their pick of the top graduates. What makes you special? Determine your strengths and market them online, in your resume, and at career fairs and forums.
Nail the Interview but Be Choosy
Too many graduates undervalue themselves and take the first jobs they are offered. This doesn't mean job seekers should turn down every opportunity that doesn't fit their wish lists, but they should be choosy. If interviewing for three jobs in two weeks, let your potential employer know you are interested but have other options to consider and need a week to decide. If you have the right skills and nailed the interview, the employer will wait.
Keep Improving After Getting the Job
To get promoted quickly to higher levels of authority, responsibility and pay, develop a positive image. Start earlier, worker harder, dress more professionally and stay later to develop a hard working reputation, and smile while doing it. A boss will be more likely to choose an employee above the rest when that person continually pushes to the front, volunteers for every assignment and patterns him or herself after the leaders, not the followers.