1. Build a powerful Failure Factory.
Life isn't fair. We all fall down. If you are a machine built for performance and excellence, your extreme approach to life will create intense highs and intense lows. Thus you need a Failure Factory built to process failure to ensure future success. People are inspired by, careers are built upon and dreams flourish by handling failure and disappointment with grace, patience, a growth perspective, boldness and a willingness to learn and change.
During a period of self-discovery and life changes like the college years, you must attack life with a well-established Failure Factory and put yourself out there regardless of how high or low the chances are for success. Ask for that job, call that recruiter one more time, run for that campus office, send twice as many resumes, etc. Approach the start of your career with zeal and no fear of failure. Life will have plenty of opportunities to try to steal those two things from you later.
2. Work to see things differently.
An approach to life that aids in the creation of a powerful leadership ability is always seeking out the new, the fresh, the unique, and the uncommon in everyday life. Your value in the workplace will seed from many sources. This is one that is hard to relate on a resume, will cause many "workplace veterans" to beat you down and is an extreme career builder. Practice sharpening this skill now. Approach your classes, college-life, job searching, networking, etc. in your own unique way. It is amazing how you see different things when you make an effort to see things differently.
A good example is your relationship with your professors, advisors, and other university personnel. If you wanted a job from me, the first people I would call aren't your references list (everyone white washes those). I would call the campus people who I know have worked with you. I would ask these people questions to learn about your key leadership indicators - work-ethic, social skills, like-ability, problem-solving skills, etc. Many of your peers don't give a second thought to the impression their actions leave on these important people. They skip class, listen to music in class, never seek sage counsel, don't mind their appearance, etc. You should see things differently and understand how many chances you have over the course of your college career to build a network of fans. You may never directly need them, but if you ever do they are huge allies to have.
3. Diligently repeat the Three C's every day.
Aristotle said we are what we do repeatedly. College is such a crazy, busy, fast-moving time that many college students forget to leverage the span of years it covers to slowly build more value than just a diploma. The job market beats down the status quo, but rewards the diligent souls who invest in their abilities. The Productive Flourishing blog did a post in 2009 illuminating three key "daily habits" college students should get into their routine.
Beyond these, there are industry specific items (based on your major) you should be working on. This is where a mentor, job shadowing and/or internships come in handy. You can pick-up clues about certain knowledge-points, competencies, etc. that will come in extra-handy not only on the job, but in the ever-daunting process of landing said job.
4. Be a servant of others.
Leadership at it's best is many things. Leadership at it's core is serving others. Invest time in college helping others (being a friend worth having), serving others (volunteering and/or running for office) and developing the muscles that enables you to lift others higher than yourself. College can be a very self-serving time. Its supposed to be - you are getting yourself built right so you can go out and get hired, start your career and change the world. Thus, it is impressive on many levels when you can travel through this selfish time with a focus on building others. Hopefully, it will be a mission that lasts a lifetime. The benefits of it certainly does.
Good luck and enjoy these days. They will prove to be some of the most spirited of your life.
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