If you are fresh out of high school and considering attending college for the fall semester of 2015, you are considered a millennial. For millennials today, the hard truth is that more and more employers are requiring a college degree (or some college), whilst higher education does not necessarily lead you to getting hired. According to Accenture, 49% of graduates from 2014 and 41% from 2013 report being underemployed. Meanwhile, just 15% of this year's graduates expect to earn $25,000 or less in their first job. Therefore, as a member of the millennial generation, it is your job to make yourself more valuable if you want to be successful on the job market. The way to do this is to increase your value.
You have to find a way make yourself more valuable and convince potential employers that they will get a return on their investment if they hire you. In essence, you have to increase your worth. The young person of the 21st century not only needs to have hard skills and soft skills; they also have to have "the other". The other is something that sets you a part from other applicants on the job market. You are not only competing with your immediate peers, but due to globalization and technology you are competing with young people your age from all across the world. The other may be another language, learning how to code, learning sign language or it may be another hard skill outside of your major in college that you develop an expertise in - it is the X factor.
According to the Projection of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018, 63 percent of all job openings by 2018 will require workers with at least some college education. Although public support of higher education is down, employers are cutting back (or at least not expanding) their training programs. They are, in essence, expecting candidates to show up fully qualified.
So, how does the 21st century college student make him/ herself more valuable?
Assuming your plan is to go on to college after high school, incoming freshman of 2015 need to consider the following approach - that is - the 4 selves. The 4 selves is loosely modeled after the Johari Window, which is a tool to examining ones self-awareness by examining 4 aspects of oneself. This adaptation of the Johari Window, when applied to making yourself more valuable to future employers and maximizing the benefit of college, involves your intellectual self, financial self, social self and linguistic self.
First, your intellectual self involves obtaining a skill set and becoming an expert in one or two areas. One of these skills should be a hard skill - that is, something tangible and measurable, such as developing an expertise or trade in computer programming, carpentry, data mining, using a specialized database or program. Remember, job seekers today need the "other", that is something that sets you a part from other applicants. College students today should not solely focus on simply majoring in something but picking up a minor (or a usable skill learned outside of school).
Second, your financial self involves what you owe (or your debt), who you owe (creditors, loans, etc.) and what you make. With the rising cost of tuition, incoming college students need to ferociously seek out scholarships and grant opportunities before committing to a college. You should choose a school that is willing to pay YOU to attend. Choose a school willing to offer you the most amount of money and don't get hung up on the name of the school. College is mostly about what you do with your degree and making smart decisions during and after graduation. Community college for two years and then a transfer to a reputable four-year university is a great way to keep cost down. Minimizing student loan debt should be one of your first priorities when deciding on which college campus you want to attend. Increasing your worth is all about decreasing your debt. Upon graduation you will have a head start on life if you have less debt than your peers - this includes minimizing credit card usage during college. This increases your likelihood of being able to afford reliable transportation, relocating for a job after graduating, obtaining better housing or even buying a house a few years out of college.
Third, your social self involves your network. During your four years on a college campus you should use every opportunity to network up. This means, collect and save contact information from potential employers, internship supervisors you may have worked for, professors who have connections to the industry you want to work in, etc. Your Twitter followers and Facebook friends are not necessarily your network (though these connections can prove to be very valuable). Upon graduation it is not likely that your college classmates will get you a job. Your peers can only get you so far. Saving contact information and staying in touch with people in the industry you are interested in, gives you a starting point when its time to go on the job market.
And finally, your linguistic self involves your ability to speak and write. The number one skill-set employers consistently look for is communication skills. Interpersonal communication skills are considered soft skills, however your ability to speak and sell yourself will always set you a part from others. The most successful people are able to speak in public and do it well. Many employers complain about the writing skills of young people coming out of college. Want to set yourself a part? Hone in on your writing skills and build up your communication skills, particularly your public speaking skills.
Challenge yourself to use elective credits to take advanced public speaking courses where you will learn writing and delivery. If you have a skill-set and have developed your intellectual self, people will want you to talk about it. This can also become another source of income, if you are able to conduct trainings and workshops to large groups of people. You should consider these four areas when deciding on which university you will attend this fall - ask yourself:
1. Intellectual self: Does this campus emphasize internship opportunities? Do they offer career placement? Do they offer the major I am seeking? How will this campus support the skill-sets I am interested in developing? Is their library up-to-date?
2. Financial self: Does this campus offer more bang for the buck? Do I want to have student loan debt of $1000 a month upon graduation or $200 a month upon graduation? Does the university know my worth? Are they offering me reduced tuition?
3. Social self: Does this campus have quality professors? Does it offer a mix of full-time and adjunct faculty that can serve as your network? Are there study-abroad opportunities? Do they use their resources to bring in guest speakers and lecturers? Do they have a close working relationship with their alumni?
4. Linguistic self: Does this campus offer a writing center? What are the hours of the writing center? Do they host job fairs where you can practice your public speaking skillset with real employers? Do they encourage peer-to-peer interaction in the classroom? Does the core curriculum have a focus on public speaking and writing? Does the campus have a variety of opportunities to get involved in clubs and organizations you care about?
Increasing your value between freshman year and senior year should be your sole focus. On a college campus increasing your worth involves focusing on these main areas - your 4 selves. Financial opportunities flow when you can communicate (linguistic self) to the right people (social self) who are willing to pay you (financial self) for what you know (or what they think you know) (intellectual self).
College does not guarantee you a job or six figures in this competitive market, but as more employers require college degrees you have to maximize the benefit of attending college, while minimizing your debt. If college is the path you choose to realize your goals.