If college were just about getting a degree, success in the “real world” would be a lot easier than it is. Many students don’t realize that credit hours and curriculum guides only provide the baseline for career success. Savvy students who take advantage of learning opportunities outside the college classroom are the ones who end up with an edge in the marketplace.
Here are ideas for how you can make the most of your time − in and out of class:
- Expand your network. You may Facebook regularly and actively tweet, but you will need a different kind of network after college. If you are a business student, you have it easy. You will have many opportunities to interact with corporate recruiters who visit campus. But if you are, say, a theater major, your future success depends on your willingness to get out and meet people in your field. Professional networking is even more critical − and more challenging − if you’re, say , an English Lit major. Given that there aren’t a lot of jobs these days that require expertise in dead poets, you will need to explore various venues and organizations to see how your skills match the needs of the marketplace. Volunteer work may be the way to start your network. Or you can look for professional organizations that meet locally. The key is: Get out there and get connected!
- Work on your face- to-face skills. Texting and tweeting may be popular ways of communicating among your peers, but they are not the best tools for accomplishing important tasks. Technology can make some interactions easier, but there will be times when you have to tackle projects face to face. Getting people to work together successfully is a skill that takes practice. Lucky for you, college offers plenty of opportunities to practice − through class projects, volunteer efforts or sorority activities. And the more you practice, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to look for a job. When employers say they want workers with good communication skills, they usually are not talking about hiring good spellers. They want people who can work with others, share ideas, provide leadership − and get things done.
- Learn to make knowledge connections. There are likely thousands of other young people earning the same degree you are and competing for a limited number of job opportunities. What makes you stand out? If you limit your college learning to what is taught in the classroom or in your degree program, you will just be like everyone else. What employers look for are people who can combine different pieces of knowledge in innovative ways. Look for opportunities to connect your academic program to other knowledge areas and skills. Be original, be innovative and be creative. The market rewards NEW knowledge, not common knowledge.