As colleges and universities across the country are beginning to start classes for the new academic year, students must step foot on campus with a central focus on their personal career development. This is crucial because with the rising costs for a college education, many millennials are graduating with an overwhelming amount of debt. To make things worse, a lot of recent graduates are unemployed or forced to settle for low-wage jobs.
Part of the reason some graduates struggle to find meaningful employment is because they don’t bring adequate skills to the table. (In fact, based on a national survey, 66% of hiring managers believe that the average college graduate does not have sufficient job skills.)
Entrepreneur Derric Studamire (@MasterofInnerG), who graduated from Morehouse College last spring, believes that students must become more proactive to increase their career opportunities and full-time job offers post graduation. During his last few semesters as a college student, Studamire, who’s worked with heavyweights including NASA, partnered with other career-minded students to get an early start on launching their careers to found the Infinity Club Investment Group (ICIG), an organization that seeks to help young adults succeed in their careers by becoming more financially literate.
Studamire further developed his workforce skill set by honing his written and verbal communication skills as an English tutor for his college. “To stand out from other students vying for competitive career opportunities, I decided that I wouldn’t be afraid to delay gratification and offer to work for free to prove myself.â€
I caught up with Studamire for other tips for college students tips that will help them become more employable in thiscountry’s fierce labor market:
What was your most beneficial career building opportunity that you took advantage of as a college student that helped boost your confidence, skills, and career?
Taking a break from school to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) really elevated my career. This experience was an invaluable resume builder and it taught me how large federal agencies operate. Consequently, I was able to further define my career path because I learned that I don’t want to land a career with large bureaucratic agencies or companies. In short, completing an internship was high on my priority list and I encourage all students to seek internship opportunities if they want to gain a significant edge when seeking to find good jobs.
How important is having a high GPA versus practical real world experience when seeking employment opportunities as a young careerist?
GPA is icing on the cake, but experience is the cake. To the surprise of many college graduates, pound cake without any icing will often suffice. Many hiring managers will hire a young job seeker who has a fair GPA with great professional experience over someone who just has a good GPA. This is why gaining real world experience through internships or volunteering opportunities is advantageous.
What are some career development aspects or opportunities that the average college student fails to take full advantage of?
A lot of students fail to realize the high dividends that building strong relationships with professors and faculty members can pay. They have access to scores of students, alumni, and large professional networks. Therefore theyare able to connect students with like-minded individuals that can add tremendous value as students prepare to enter the labor market. In addition, students fail to realize that another way they can sharpen their career portfolio is by getting involved with their colleges’ alumni association.This association can help students cultivate their network in and beyond college. Other most commonly overlooked opportunities are leadership positions with student-based clubs and organizations. It’s indispensable that millennials graduate with a proven track record of being an excellent leader because companies are looking to hire self-driven leaders.
How can students equip themselves with a career development game plan while they are in college?
First, students should equip themselves with a concise vision statement. Writing down a vision allows students to start with the end in mind and have an idea as to where they want to be after graduation.
Then they must discover which skills will help them become the best candidates for jobs in their career field so they can fulfill their vision. Most importantly, they must begin developing these respective skills which will enable them to graduate with industry knowledge and skills. Taking a career focused independent study course would also add value to a students’ skill-set.
How can college students catch the eyes of employers and recruiters?
Once students have effectively identified their vision and cultivated industry specific skills, they will be in a better position to demonstrate their level of employability during the job search. It’s also vital for them to research companies and organizations prior to going to interviews and job fairs. To standout, job seekers should give specific solutions to the top problems or issues for each employer. As networking guru George Fraser says,you must add value without being eager to consume.
In summary, the job market is tough but it’s not impossible to penetrate. You must strategically define your vision, develop industry specific skills, and demonstrate that you can bring valuable solutions to the table. Taking these career bound actions will help you to greatly increase your chances of landing a meaningful career after you graduate!
Antoine Moss, Ph.D., (@2PositiveTweets) is a nationally recognized resource on internships, early career achievement, leadership and motivation. CEO and founder of CEO Style Consulting L.L.C., Moss empowers professionals and organizations to reach their full potential, and serves as speaker, workshop instructor and consultant. The author of Learn to Intern CEO Style, Moss has been a featured expert on outlets including Fox 8 TV News and George Fraser’s 2011 Power Networking Conference.