If you’re still studying at high school or college, it’s tempting to put anything to do with your career in a mental box labeled “To Worry About Later.” However, a proactive approach to your career can save you loads of time, effort, and anxiety a few years down the line. These tips are all things you can start on now so that you are ready by the time you graduate. 

Curate Your Online Reputation

Chances are that you have heard it a million times, but the fact still remains that you need to curate your online persona for a professional audience. This means both limiting public access to any embarrassing or unprofessional content of you online and creating a new, professional brand through which employers can find you.

First of all, make sure all social media accounts where you may share sensitive, controversial, or overly personal information are set to private (the trend of keeping a “finsta” comes in handy here). Ensure everything on a public account is something you’d be happy for a potential employer to see. You also need to focus on building a brand, which will vary depending on your career path: an online persona for a music manager looks different than that of a designer. InternetReputation.com has great additional tips on personal brand building, including setting up a Google Alert for your own name so you can keep track of what people say about you. 

Work on Your Resume

The sooner you start putting together your resume, the easier it will be when you start applying for jobs. Having it ready means that you are always prepared to apply for an opportunity when it arises, giving you an advantage over other candidates. If you’re not sure where to start, Monster.com has good advice on writing a college resume that will impress potential employers.

Working on your resume while you are still a student also helps you identify any gaps, which you can then fill with volunteering, work experience, or accreditations. Oh, and don’t assume that you need a fancy advanced degree for your resume to look good. There are plenty of ways to boost your resume without spending additional tens of thousands of dollars.

Get Experience

It’s never too soon to start collecting valuable professional experience. Both high school and college students can look for summer internship opportunities, part-time work, or even volunteering to get them started. 

You don’t have to wait until someone hires you to start gathering professional experience. A side hustle is a great first step into a full-time career, especially if your goal is to be an entrepreneur or self-employed. You could, for instance, start an e-commerce business from your own bedroom — check out this roadmap by Oberlo if you don’t know where to begin.

Build Your Network

It’s an unfortunate reality of working life, but networking is one of the most crucial things you will ever do for your career. You can start building your network as early as high school, but college is where a whole new world of potential contacts opens itself up to you, so take advantage of it. 

Build relationships with as many people as you can, including professors and college admin staff. Join a variety of clubs and take on active roles in them if you have the time. And remember: Networking isn’t just about awkward, boring events. Every friendship you build in college is an important part of your network, so it’s also all about having fun and socializing with and getting to know diverse groups of people.

Finally, listen to your parents. Yes, the current job market is miles away from what they had to navigate. Yes, things have changed. Yes, they may not know much about your dream industry. However, your parents will most likely have some very useful advice about the things that haven’t changed, and which apply to most jobs. These things include interview tips, leveraging your college’s career resources, and the best times to start looking for an internship.