For new grads, employment hinges on just a few variables. What type of work experience do you have and what have you learned on the job? What interests you and why are you approaching the employer about the opportunity? And then, the great divider for entry level applicants: how did you perform academically?
Your academic performance is about more than just good grades. The one thing you have in common with every other recent grad – all those thousands of people applying for the same jobs as you – is the courses you took while in college! It’s the single uniform measure that employers can use to determine your skill set. Here are tips for making your academics stand out from the crowd.
Choose a minor (or double major) that will benefit your career path
In decades past, college was an automatic upgrade to professionalism. Liberal arts, technical skills, whatever: get that Bachelor’s Degree and head off into the sunset.
The world of employment has moved on and your college major can make a big impact on your career prospects. There’s a way you can help yourself if you aren't completely sure what path you want to take or just want to have a broader skill set to offer employers – choose a competitive minor or double-major.
Hypothetically, you could be graduating from college with a degree in Spanish – along with several hundred other newly minted, Spanish-fluent, young professionals eager for work. What’s going to secure you a job? A secondary skill set targeting a specific industry. Business Management, Network Security, Social Work – each of these separate concentrations may offer a specific pathway to employment that differentiates you from the pack.
Be smart about electives
Electives offer lots of temptations. You could take rock-climbing or yoga for credit, or pick up a quick and easy intro-level course that seems interesting and not too terribly difficult.
OR, you could use your elective opportunities to show that you’re competitive and driven. Snap up an extra 400-level or even graduate-level course. These aren’t classes that are designed to be more difficult, they’re just intended for a more advanced audience. Participate, as an undergrad, in coursework featuring group projects, discussion, and in-depth reading as opposed to the simple power-point based lectures and exams you’ll receive in those lazy elective options. Make sure you highlight these courses on your resume and create a portfolio online of your work!
Pick courses designed to teach job skills
Not all college courses are created equal. Some classes are designed to give you a greater understanding of the world, or to drill deep into the academic pursuits that have advanced civilization for eons.
And some classes are designed to make you better at your job. You need to strike the right balance! Courses on theory and history are important. They’ll make you a well-rounded citizen and a polished, mature employee. But they won’t necessarily teach you real job skills, and you need those classes too.
- Certification-prep is an important component of a technical course, so make sure you’re signing up for classes that will get you certified. Whatever your field, there is something that can strengthen your resume. N+, CPR, CPA prep, nursing boards: all of these certs require relevant coursework.
- If you have the option to get hands-on experience through for-credit internships, take as many as you can. Don’t limit yourself to one required internship - think more broadly. If you can attend clinical rotations or do job-shadowing as part of a class, those are similar opportunities to show off your real-world professional exposure on your resume. And don't forget, studies show that between 60-73% of student interns later receive a job offer from that employer!
Be smart about plotting out your college coursework, and give yourself the best possible chance to stand out from the crowd!