A lot of college graduates enter their freshman year with the belief that their degree and major alone will open doors for them almost instantaneously upon graduation. And while it may have been the case in the past, it certainly isn’t the case now.
Regardless of the complaints of other job-seekers, the course your career takes after you graduate is still entirely within your own grasp. Instead of lamenting the way things are, why not prepare yourself? Here are two simple questions you can use to make yourself employable in today’s ever-changing labor market.
What Can You Do?
You may have a freshly-printed degree tucked under your arm, but what can you do exactly? If you believe your abilities extend to the name of the major you have printed on your degree, you’re likely to be bumped out of the running by a candidate who has worked smarter, not harder, than you.
First of all, it’s essential you take stock of the skills you have learned during your time as a college student. Ask yourself, where can you add real value as an employee? Are any of the skills you have learned valued in the workplace today? If you come up short, this is the time to be strategic. Which skills can you learn now in addition to your major, outside of your university, which put you head and shoulders above any graduates in your year?
To determine the skills you need, simply head to any reputable job site and search for the graduate positions you’ll end up applying for once you enter the workforce. As you browse the vacancies, focus on the skill section. Write down the concrete skills that keep cropping up. Once you’ve identified the skills the real world requires, determine whether there is an online course that can certify you in this area.
If you want to lift your game even higher, look at the emerging skills that complement your major. It’s smart to target emerging skills; because they are new, fewer people will have them, giving you an instant competitive advantage.
Let’s say you’re a marketing student, to complement your major, you could look at skills related to technology, big data, analysis, copywriting, and inbound marketing – all skills that are absolutely in demand in 2016.
If you have real certifiable skills in any area, as long as they complement your major, you’re well on your way to being a sought after potential employee; you can do something others cannot. Fill that gap and you’ll make yourself invaluable.
What Have You Done?
As a recent graduate, you probably think your track record doesn’t matter too much and that you’ll get experience on the job. And while this is true, you’ll gain a huge competitive advantage if you engage in activities that prove your value now.
To start with, make a list of every single thing you have done outside of your college and high school years. Next, identify the activities that demonstrate a time where you added value. A track record of adding value tells potential employers you not only follow through with what you say you’ll do, but it also shows you have skills that aren’t just all talk – you do what you say you can do!
This is one reason why some employers are reluctant to take on graduates lacking a track record; essentially, they are taking a gamble on whether you are going to follow through in the workplace. If you start your track record before you even graduate, you give potential employers less reason to doubt you, and all the more reason to hire you!
If you can’t think of a single thing you’ve done, it’s not too late to start. What areas interest you naturally? Which areas do you feel you could offer positive change or a revolutionary approach? Is there an existing program that aligns with your beliefs in your community? Why not join them as a volunteer?
The key thing is to take on a role where you contributions are measurable because you’ll need to show your actions have produced positive results. With this method, you’ll not only gain an advantage at the job seeking stage, you’ll also make a real positive difference in the world which is a great thing.
A Strategic Approach
Scored that dream job and thinking about how to remain competitive in the workplace? The answer is, as you probably predicted, keeping your skill set as sharp and as fresh as possible. Be an early adapter of new skills, read widely, identify trends, and skim job advertisements to see which complementary skills you could add to your range of talents.
When you hear of others lament about a lack of opportunities or cutthroat competition, don’t despair. Plan for success by updating your relevant, marketable skills instead. When you continually focus on the value you provide, you too can have the career of your dreams.
Sarah Caroline Bell is a writer based in Seoul. To contact her or view more of her work, visit www.themscript.com.