8 Surprising Things You Can Do While Attending College That’ll Help You Get a Job When You Get Out (but have nothing to do with academics).
- Polish up your social media presence: According to Forbes magazine, at least one in three employers use social media to screen applicants. Why? Because they want to find out if you can present yourself “professionally” (65% of employers are using social media) and want to know more about your qualifications (45%). They also want to know if you’re doing stuff that might make you a bad employee…a survey by CareerBuilder found that 34% of employers have rejected candidates based on content in their social media profiles. So next time you get the urge to post that selfie or that “hilarious” picture of you at a party ask yourself this one simple question: “Is it worth possibly not getting a job when I graduate because I want to look cool in front of my Facebook friends?” We’re thinking the answer is “no.”
- Learn to speak Chinese, Portuguese, or Russian (and get yourself a passport): While only 28% of companies in the US say that they have open positions that they can’t find qualified people to fill, there are huge opportunities out there in the rest of the world if you’re willing to take the leap and move away from the US. According to a recent study published on CareerBuilder.com there’s a huge “skills gap” in developing countries with plenty of wide-open spaces for qualified graduates. CareerBuilder found that a whopping 74% of companies in China had jobs they couldn’t fill, followed by Brazil (63%), and Russia (57%).
- Learn (and practice) how to act like a professional: When the York College of Pennsylvania asked employers what kinds of mistakes job candidates often make, most of them said that it was the interviewee’s lack of professionalism that cost them the job. Employers in the survey reported that nearly a third of candidates didn’t show up on time, nearly half didn’t dress appropriately, and a quarter of interviewees couldn’t even speak using basic grammar. Pretty basic stuff…but not stuff you’re going to learn in college where sweatpants are considered formalwear and fewer and fewer professors seem to be holding students accountable for getting things in on time. While it may seem that you have all the time in the world when you’re in school, those four or five years go by pretty quickly and if you don’t start building the habits of professionalism now chances are you’re not going to suddenly change on the day of that first interview.
- Intern…anywhere! If you ask people who’ve been out of college for a while what they wish they would have done more of, many of them will tell you that they wish they’d spent more time doing internships. Why? Because the biggest problem with finding a job when you graduate is the ol’ “work experience” paradox: employers won’t hire you if you don’t have experience and you can’t get experience without having a job. Sure, internships might pay nothing (or next to nothing), but you’re probably never going to have another time in your life when working for nothing is even possible. And not only do internships help you gain experience but they’ll also help you “try on” a number of professions to see if they’re really right for you, they’ll help you make contacts in the “real world” you can turn to for recommendations or advice later on, and, best of all, they’ll often give you an “in” you can parlay into a real job once you graduate.
- Build a portfolio. Contrary to what most people would have you believe when you’re thinking about going to colleges, it’s often not the degree that gets you the job after you graduate (though you certainly need one if you want to pursue a professional career) but the experience and skills you bring to the employer. In a world where jobs are scarce and everyone that you’re competing with for those jobs has a degree, what’s going to set you apart from the pack is being able to prove that you actually can do what you say you can do. Designers and other creative professionals have always known this and a big part of their college experience is built around building up a portfolio—a collection of their best work—that they can use once they head out into the job market. But you don’t have to be a creative type to have a portfolio: even if you’re heading into accounting, marketing, or IT, chances are that you’ve done some things that you’re really proud of in college that show off your skills. Make sure you keep them (along with other good examples of work you may have done while employed at part time jobs or while interning) and then put them together in a presentable way (you might want to ask one of those “creative types” to help you with this) so that you can bring them along on interviews. It’ll really make you stand out!
- Do as many group projects as possible. Look…if you’ve made it far enough in your academic career to be visiting Academbot (and reading articles like this), chances are that you’ve had to suffer through your share of group projects…probably since the 4th grade. And yes, we understand that everyone hates them. No doubt. But have you ever thought of why people hate them? Often it’s because the responsible members of the group end up doing all the work while the rest of the slackers get to take the credit. Why? Because nobody wants to take charge and appear “mean” or “bossy.” Well guess what? In the real world, somebody’s always going to be in charge (even if it’s just you being in charge of your own business) and that person has to know how to lead, communicate, delegate, persuade, and motivate the people they’re in charge of. And while some people may be born leaders (the jury’s still out on that one, however), most leadership skills are ones that you learn over time. Considering how bad they usually are, group projects are great places for you to practice leadership skills and develop them over time for when you need them in the workplace.
- Shut up: In most surveys that ask employers what kinds of skills they want employees to have, “communication” is usually right up there at the top of the list. And while written and verbal communication skills are essential (see #3) to getting a job, many students get plenty of practice writing and talking in class, almost nobody gets any training or practice in how to actually listen to other people. Sadly, according to many experts it turns out that active listening might actually be the most important business communication skill there is! In fact, people who are good at active listening often can use it to compensate for their lack of other skills…at least for awhile. Use the time you have in school to practice active listening whenever you can. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to speak, believe us.
- Learn to sell. Yeah, yeah, yeah…we know that everyone hates (but often has to suffer through) customer-facing “service” jobs like retail or food service when they’re in school. Serving food, working the register at a “big box” store, or spending all day folding (and re-folding and re-folding) clothes that “customers” drop on the floor or shove back into the rack are such common occupations to students that they’re almost a cliché. But while we recognize that jobs like these can be soul-crushingly boring, we also know that they offer you an opportunity to hone one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn no matter what field you go into: selling. “Selling?” you may be asking, “I sure as heck don’t want to be a salesperson!” OK. Fine. Chill. While thinking “sales” might make you picture guys in loud suits selling used cars, the fact is that pretty much every profession you can think of requires “sales” skills in order to be successful. If you’re a designer or a writer who likes to eat every once in a while, you’re going to have to be constantly selling your work to potential clients, current clients, or potential employers. If you’re a scientist you’re going to have to convince granting agencies why your research is more important than the thousands of other grant applications they’ve received. If you’re an IT person you’re going to have to sell your boss on why the company should invest in a new system that you believe can make a huge difference in the business. And even if you’re a teacher you’re going to be finding yourself “selling” the material you’re teaching to your students each and every day…and probably also selling their parents on why its so important that they contribute money or time to your classroom. The bottom line is this: no matter how much you hate asking customers about applying for a store credit card a thousand times a day or feel like you’re going to gouge out your own eyeballs with a spoon every time you have to push desert on customers who already look like they’ve passed into a food coma, the skills you’ll develop by doing these things will really pay off later in life. Big time.
Do you think any of these items will be helpful? Which ones will be the most helpful? Do you think you'll actually do them?Getting a Job