You have probably been told at some point, maybe in high school, that you need to go to college to get a better job. Maybe you have been told that you should go back to graduate school to get that promotion. Take a class to learn that new skill. Blah, blah, blah!
That’s why 20.4 million Americans are currently enrolled in some kind of degree-granting post-secondary institution.
It’s been made abundantly clear to us in recent years that a degree is not that golden ticket to lucrative employment. It is not a guarantee you will be hired or that you will be retained, but it does help substantially. In a recent survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment amongst degree holders is 4.2%, that’s just under half the national unemployment rate, which lingers right around 8.5% at this time.
We understand that a degree might help you land a job. But, how? How can you use your degree(s) to land a job, or to develop your career path?
Check out these three practical tips to use your degree to land a job faster:
A degree is earned after a student completes a regimented course load stipulated by a post-secondary institution. Sure? You are told what classes you must take in order to earn your degree. Some classes are more valuable than others though, especially to employers, so show them off.
Make sure that you have taken courses that are relevant to the job for which you have chosen to apply. For example, if you are looking to begin a career in interior design, it does not make any sense to highlight the choreography courses that you took as part of your Fine Arts degree. At the same time, any photography courses that you have taken might help you earn a job as an interior designer. You should learn as much information regarding art careers as possible before applying, so that you know which courses are applicable to your desired job.
If you are in school, or recently graduated, then reflect on the pertinent classes you have taken and list them on your resume and cover letter. Mention them in your interview and networking conversations, and always make a point to build off of them as experience. Be able to tell a short story related to a class project or experience that demonstrates you not only took the class, but you understood it and you can apply your knowledge, even after the final exam.
So it’s all about the classes, right? No, not really.
This is an age old networking tip that’s been around since the beginning of time. Some might have called it the good ol’ boy network. Whatever you call it, one of the best ways to land a job is to use your alumni connections.
First, you have to make those connections though. Before the Internet, we might have kept in touch with athletics, fraternity or sorority, close friends, and maybe a professor or two. Networking took a tremendous amount of effort, which is why those alumni connections were so valuable. Today, through social media, you can find all your close friends, as well as find and introduce yourself to everyone who has ever attended a class at your alma mater.
Don’t take the ease and convenience of connecting via social media for granted though. The value isn’t in having them listed among your 647 friends on Facebook, or hidden inside a rarely touched address book of 500+ connections on LinkedIn. The value is in developing sincere and meaningful connections with people who share common interests and goals.
Seek out alumni at the organizations to which you’re applying, and connect or reconnect with them. Networking with fellow alum is easier to some extent since you are already coming from a common educational background and maybe share some history with a professor or university tradition. Having a common past, may not guarantee a future job, but it can certainly help you to establish credibility and build trust early on.
Tie in experience
A common issue many new grads face is the education vs. experience issue. They have the education, but no relevant experience – barring them from even the most basic entry-level positions.
If you have a degree, but lack real world work experience, then tie your life experiences in with your educational background. Great professors find ways to help you do this by introducing you to real-life projects to solve in a class. For example, maybe you were assigned a project team to conduct a comprehensive case study for a local engineering firm struggling to solve a chipset design problem for a mobile device.
Whatever the experience in class, or laboratory, or group project, find a way to derive value from that experience that can be applied in the “real world.” If you have other work experience or took positions of leadership in notable organizations, connect your degree with the skills and tasks you developed in those roles and apply the experience to the real world job that you want.
So, in the end, it’s not really all about the classes. It’s just like everything else in life – living is about the journey, not the destination. Make your college experience and degree a valuable part of that journey. The things you learn and do, the places you go, and the people you meet are all very important experiences that develop you into who you are as a person and professional. That is how your degree can help get you hired.
What do you think? What other tips would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!