As a student or recent grad – the most important thing is to be open to everything that comes your way. This is the best time to meet people that will become lifetime supporters, mentors and allies.
Work abroad – I recommend working overseas to everyone. BUNAC offers international work permits for students and recent grads (and others) 18+ to 35 years old, depending on the country ( see my blog post about the BUNAC experience). CIEE – international study abroad and teach abroad programs for students / recent graduates. Transitions Abroad and Verve are great websites that continually list new ideas for working / volunteering / studying abroad.
Consider working in Washington, D.C. – a mecca for young people – work in the halls of power right out of school: Every powerful nonprofit as well as international organization, and of course, government organization are located here and close enough to Europe and NYC for quick / cheap trips. You may also want look for programs prior to graduation – taking a semester there to intern and completing school after – as there are special opportunities available only if you are currently enrolled in college.
If you’re interested in working abroad for the US State Department and becoming a US Foreign Service Officer– prepare to take a very difficult test that will challenge your knowledge of history, politics, and geography. There are additional opportunities with the US Department of State including programs for student interns, fellowship and even opportunities for High School students.
The United Nations in New York City offers paid internships to recent college grads.
UNESCO is the cultural and environmental arm of the UN. UNESCO is based in Paris and has programs in education, science, and culture around the world – including its many world heritage sites – you may have a chance to work in Paris, NY or in one of their world heritage sites.
The Peace Corps provides real work experience, life abroad and fluency in language skills plus forgiveness of some student loans – and not all the postings are in developing countries (Bonus -after working in the Peace Corps for two years you are eligible ahead of the general public for all government jobs – if you want that type of thing). (Kelly talks about her experience in the Peace Corps)
Teaching English abroad – this can be done through several programs or independently (often, no formal training is required – just native English speakers – (see my experience here & teaching English in Spain here). Caution: Do your research – many fly by night “placement” companies take your money and lure you in with false promises:
CIEE Teach Abroad
Transitions Abroad has a listing of overseas schools, jobs, articles and resources.
The Japan Exchange & Teaching Program (for Japan only – very well respected organization and one of the better paying)
US National Parks jobs – most of these are seasonal – so you could do this in the summer between semesters or after graduating. The best jobs go fast. These will also probably be advertised at your school – and you can look by park too – Yellowstone or Yosemite, for example. You can also work for one of the big concessionaires like Xanterra – see my blog about Jonas’ summer job at Rocky Mountain National Park.
For future entrepreneurs, Venture for America is a program that places young, talented graduates in the trenches of start-up companies for two years, providing training and mentorship in emerging cities like Detroit, New Orleans and Providence.
Finally, STA Travel is the best student travel and opportunity site with the cheapest fares, tours and discounts for students (and teachers).