Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Build Skills BEFORE You Graduate

As I visit college campuses and meet the next generation of leaders, the question  I am asked most often is, "How do I land the job I want with no real experience?". Having a degree does not automatically qualify one for a job; students should strive to develop practical experience for the theoretical knowledge they are gaining through courses and projects.

So how can you obtain work experience if no one will give you an opportunity? I have heard this question many times too, and mostly everyone who has entered the job market had the same dilemma. There is a way to demonstrate your ambition and build a brand even before you graduate. The key is to plan early and often during your college career to acquire internships, campus jobs, volunteer gigs, and side hustles that will help you garner the skills employers are seeking. 

While you are working to land your dream job, think about the options you currently have at your disposal. The road to graduation may seem long, but the time will pass before you know it. Start planning now to gain critical skills and set yourself up for success.

  • Don't be romanced by job titles that sound important but the responsibilities don't challenge you. Instead, find roles that encourage you to learn AND contribute to the work product, resulting in enhanced skills.  
  • Have an open mind about where you can gain experience. There may be companies you are targeting, however, don't overlook an opportunity because it doesn't come in the package you want.
  • Talk with your career development office, a career coach, or a mentor to gain insight for creative ways to develop your skills.
  • Make sure your resume is "skills focused" and not "job focused" if the jobs you have worked are not in the industry or area that you are aiming for.

In the end, your college career plan should support the skills you need to be a viable candidate. Building your resume and developing relationships with professionals who will advocate for you during your job search is most important during this time. 

Review the list below and create your college career plan by focusing now on how to practically obtain skills that will make you easily marketable once you graduate. 

1) Find a job description that interest you and assess the qualifications to identify where you need to improve.

2) Determine how you can get the required skills in a different way. For example, if you desire to be a healthcare administrator, what kinds of assignments or projects can you secure that will give you the same experience?

3) Volunteer with a non-profit organization to gain a leadership role, further demonstrating your potential.

4) Make "real" connections by networking and building relationships with professionals in your desired industry. 

5) Create a LinkedIn profile and personal business cards to highlight your professionalism and showcase your brand.

6) Join industry groups and special interest meetups to gain access to people who have your interest. 

7) Create your own project to get the skills you need.

8) Be deliberate about obtaining technical, leadership, and relational skills. All three will make you well-rounded and attractive to any employer.

Stacey Rivers is an author, mom, wife and IT Talent Professional. Find her current book "50 Essential Tips To Getting & Keeping The Right Job" on Amazon.