(RNN) – It's long been said that the road to success is paved with good intentions.
And with college enrollment at an all-time high, it's clear that America's future workforce wants to experience future success.
However, a new study suggests that students fail to aggressively prepare for their careers by taking initiative outside of the classroom.
Gen Y research group Millennial Branding and learning resource site StudentAdvisor.com surveyed more than 200 students about the steps they are taking to get a job after graduation.
The study found that 85 percent of students believe that having an internship is important to their future career. Unfortunately, only 40 percent said they had at least one internship, and 23 percent said their internships lasted between one and four months.
Despite unemployment trends over the past few years, Millennial Branding founder Dan Schawbel said the lack of students working in internships isn't due to a lack of availability.
"I think the biggest issue is that teachers and career services people tell students to wait to get an internship until their junior year," Schawbel said. "But you can't get an internship if your resume is blank."
Schawbel explained that your first internship experience doesn't have to be complex.
"It can be very broad. You can work for your parents, you can work for your school. It's very general work if you think about it," he said. "You shouldn't be allowed to graduate without an internship. No Internship, no diploma."
A key to gaining internship experience is finding the appropriate mentor who can help you develop your career. But despite how important mentoring is, only 13 percent of students with mentors said their mentor knows something about their field and can give professional advice.
Much of this may be connected to the study's conclusion that only 10 percent have found a professional mentor though social networking.
"All you need to do is find one person who is willing to mentor you and you're ready to rock," explained Schawbel. "But in order to do that, you have to be willing to contact a lot of people."
He added that using LinkedIn is one of the easiest ways to find a mentor because students can easily browse a database of professionals categorized by job titles and companies.
Unfortunately, only about 33 percent of students have LinkedIn profiles, leaving a key networking resource underutilized.
"College students are missing out on a very valuable resource by not leveraging LinkedIn," said StudentAdvisor.com's Dean Tsouvalas in a statement.
"Internship opportunities, and the ability to network alumni or gain incredible insight into a company, are all there, waiting for students to take advantage."
Additionally, the study found that 93 percent of students do not have an understanding of personal branding, which includes using LinkedIn, business cards, blogs and other social media to market themselves.
And unless students improve the way they attract potential employers, Schawbel believes that finding employment will be increasingly difficult.
"Students should strive to market themselves online through social networks, and actively network offline, in order to secure internships and jobs."
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