• Your career path is unlikely to be a straight one that leads directly to your dream job.
  • There are things you can do in college, like interning and finding a mentor, that can position you as a qualified candidate for your dream job.
  • Here are the four smartest things author Audrey Noble did in college that helped kick-start her career.

When I graduated in 2014, the golden age ofmagazineswas on its way out, so I had to work hard to land one of the few availablejobsin my preferred area of media.

No matter your field, many people who are applying for your desired job may be just as, if not more, qualified than you. For example, I grew up and went to college inLos Angeles, with no connections to the magazine world (which is largely based in New York City).

I knew that myresuméwasn’t going to be filled with the same big-name brands someone who had gone to school and done multiple internships in Manhattan, so I looked for ways to find an my “in” while I was in college across the country.

If I hadn't done things like find a mentor and go on informational interviews, I may not have gotten the job that kicked off my career. Here are the four of thesmartestthings I did before graduating that got me to where I am today.

1. Interning

Foto: Use your time in college to gain experience.sourceDima Tsyrenschikov/Strelka Institute/Attribution License/Flickr

This is an obvious one, but I cannot stress enough the importance of interning while in school. Not only does an internship give you real, hands-on experience in your field, but it also shows future employers that you're serious about your future. You internship doesn't have to be at a well-known company - job experience is what many potential employers are looking for.

I interned with stylists and up-and-coming websites in LA starting the summer before my sophomore year so that my resumé showcased my interest in the industry. Down the road, my experience was enough for well-known magazines to consider my application when I was applying for internships and full-time positions.

2. Finding a mentor

Foto: Find guidance in someone who is established in the industry.sourceAndrey Noskov/Strelka Institute/Attribution LicenseFlickr

I was lucky enough to intern for Allure in New York City one summer between my junior and senior year. There, I worked for two beauty assistants who I still consider my mentors today. We kept in contact after my internship ended and when I graduated, they would recommend me to people they knew were hiring and pass my info along to the right people so that I could be considered for the position.

Magazines is a small industry where everyone knows everyone, so it's helpful as a job-seeker to find people who will refer you. My mentors also helped me when I was struggling, whether I needed advice on an edit test or general emotional support.

3. Going on informational interviews

Foto: Meet potential employers for a casual coffee.sourceKoichi Kamoshida/Getty

I found that the best way to learn about job openings was through the connections I made by going on informational interviews. When an assistant or editor position opens up, the first candidates considered are usually recommendations from staff or contacts of the hiring manager.

To make connections, I cold-emailed editors to see if they would meet me for a quick coffee while I was interning in the city or have a phone call when I was back at school in LA. I did my research, studied the mastheads of my favorite magazines, and sent a personalized email to each editor.

In each email, I told the editor that I was a student who wanted to pursue a career in the magazine industry. I listed my internship and other experience and concluded the email saying that I would love to hear about their career path and any advice they may have for me.

I received at least one response from every magazine I reached out to. However, if you don't hear back from anyone, don't be discouraged. Review your email closely for anything that could be putting people off, then keep reaching out. You will eventually connect with someone.

4. Keeping in touch

Foto: Maintaining those relationships is key.sourceWin McNamee/Getty Images

Maintain the relationships you've established. The professionals you've connected with are likely very busy, so it's on you to make sure they remember you. Once a month or so, I would touch base over the phone with my contacts, email them about an article they had written, or send them something they might find interesting. Occasionally, I asked about job openings.

I was six months into my-post college internship when I emailed an editorial assistant I had kept in touch with back when I was in school and asked if she knew of any positions opening up at her magazine.

Turns out, I had emailed at the right time, as she had just put in her two weeks' notice. She told me to send my resumé to be considered for her position. After a few rounds of interviewing and an edit test, I got my first job as a beauty assistant at Vanity Fair. And the rest is history.