Photo by Alex Jones
College is supposed to prepare you for the real world, so you can find a job and contribute to society. But that’s a big responsibility to expect universities to do on their own. While a 2015 report by Hart Research Associates found that 64 percent of employers feel colleges could improve graduates chances of career success, by helping them learn both field-specific and broad skills, it’s important for students to also find ways to develop these skills.
Communication skills, being able to manage and complete a long-term project, and experience working with a team, are some of the big skill sets graduates seem to be missing. It might seem impossible, but you can gain these experiences while balancing a full course load.
Many people would say that internships are the only way to go. But there are other options. Here are three skills you’ll need after graduation and how you can master them before entering the job market:
Written and verbal communication skills are important in both the classroom and the office. You’d think that what you learn about writing reports or giving presentations in college would, therefore, translate to your career — but it doesn’t.
The way scholars communicate is very different from how professionals do. Taking classes that focus solely on written and verbal communication gives you the chance to study and learn the differences. These types of courses have you read and listen to examples of communications and analyze what makes them effective in various settings.
Learning about all the different ways to express yourself will give you a diverse toolbox to pull from once you have a job. It’ll help you communicate appropriately with clients and coworkers, and allow you to produce quality project reports and presentations.
Experience working on long-term projects
A 2015 survey from Gallup found that graduates that had taken part in a project that lasted for more than a semester were 1.8 times more engaged in the workplace, something employers value highly.
Unfortunately, unless you complete an honors thesis, most projects you do in college only take a week to a month. Then you turn it in, get a grade, and move on. In the workplace, projects are multifaceted and ongoing, constantly undergoing changes at every stage. They require different organizational and management skills.
If your classes don’t offer you the chance to work on a long-term project, try joining a club. Whether it’s fundraising events, performances, or other types of enterprises, clubs balance multiple long-term projects at one time, just like companies do.
Research the different types of clubs your university has and what they do. Then get involved. Whether you jump in on an event that’s already being organized or you start planning a fundraiser from the beginning, juggling all the tasks involved will give you the experience employers are looking for.
Ability to work with a team
If you need to gain professional experience working with a team, try starting a business with a group of friends. Work together to find ways to get your business going, manage the finances, and solve problems along the way. This will teach you how to brainstorm with others and resolve disputes that may arise.
Keep the idea small, so it doesn’t interfere with your coursework. And remember that this is a project, not your life’s work. Come up with a start and end date for the business, so that possible employers realize your business was about gaining experience, not an endeavor that failed.
What other skills will you need after graduation and how can you get them?
****For this great post, Campus to Career thanks Val Matta!!****
About the author: Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.