At the closing of my office hours, a college student asked, “How can I become more professionally competitive before graduation?”. When I inquired about her unique skills and experiences, she simply responded, “Well, I’ll soon have a college degree. Isn’t that enough?”.
Unfortunately, her response is quite common among college students. Why do they think that a college degree equates to being valuable in the job market or even entitles them to a job after graduation? IT DOESN’T! Passing a class does not mean you have the qualifications to lead and administer many jobs. If fact, I would not hire many of my graduating college students.
A University colleague had mentioned that a basic college degree is just that, basic. He noted that many employers complain about how their new college graduate employees lack basic skills and struggle keeping up in today’s evolving business climate. An increasingly popular expectation is that job applicants should have at least a college degree which makes other applicants with a unique skill, an advanced or professional degree, or some leadership or professional experience more valuable. Having a mere college degree doesn’t mean you’ll be competitive in today’s job market and certainly doesn’t guarantee anyone a job after graduation.
I recommend that students develop and demonstrate unique skills before or during college that make them more competitive in our international job market. So what does it take to stand out from the thousands of job seeking applicants? I note a few key skills that can significantly make your resume shine in our globalized economy.
The first skill is to learn a second language. (Many people outside the U.S. are laughing right now since it’s common for them to be fluent in two, three, or four languages). But for U.S. college students, learn a new language. Bridging multiple languages is a true asset in almost all job markets and as globalization increases mobility, you can work in any location that you want, presupposing you have the ability to effectively communicate with the people in that area. If you want to be highly competitive and a desired applicant, know at least a second language.
The second skill, is customer service communication skills. Regardless of your occupation, you most likely work with people in some degree. Think of everyone you work with as a customer and provide your value to satisfy your responsibility to them. As our planet blends into one big melting pot of nationalities, ethnicities, languages, religions, and life styles, you’re ability to work with diverse groups will make you a true competitor in the job market. Operate from a server’s frame and practice interpersonal skills to be an effective communicator.
The last skill I recommend you consider having is social network skills. This skill can be scary and intimidating for many but it’s an increasingly important skill for job seekers. Even basic social networking skills can increase your worth as an employee if you market yourself professionally. In the next few years, our world will experience significant dependency on technological applications. So if you haven’t already, get in on the action by learning how to professionally use Facebook, Twitter, HootSuite, blogs, etc. and market your skills to future employers.
If I could go back in time to relive my college experience I would acquire all of these skills by committing to one academic and professional activity: Study Abroad. Living in a non-English speaking country would help me learn a new language, effectively work with diverse groups, build leadership skills, and because I’d want to document my experience while sinuously communicating with family and friends back home, I’d also learn social media and technology communication skills.
When I read a college graduate’s application who has international experience on their resume, I see a competitive applicant. For other helpful tips to increase your competitive edge, check out Social Business, Study Abroad or Skype Tips.