Last Friday I wrote about the benefits of college students’ participating in professional conferences as a “Surefire Way to Make the Degree-Career Connection,” (19 October, 2012). If you’re looking for more ideas to improve your chances of finding gainful employment after graduation, there are some additional creative ways to build and demonstrate the very skills potential employers are looking for; these can also be collaborative and fun.
So grab a few classmates or friends and consider engaging in these three examples to boost and document your skills in communication, entrepreneurship, and attitude.
Be a Writer
According to US News Money’s, “7 Things Employers Want from New Grads,” (15 May, 2012), 98% of companies looking to hire college graduates want them to have good communication skills, especially written. Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, also adds that: “The ability to coordinate with others is closely related; 92% of employers said they also consider it important (qtd. in “7 Things Employers Want from New Grads,” 15 May, 2012). Although you should take your college courses in composition and communication seriously, but here’s a fun way to improve your writing and collaboration skills.
November is National Novel Writing Month, and participation is free to you and your friends. Sponsored each year by “a small and mighty non-profit” called The Office of Letters and Light, NaNoWriMo seeks to bring together those not only with a passion for writing, but also those who wish to improve their composing skills quickly. Nothing says improvement like writing at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.
By signing up and committing to this free activity, you and your friends can join others pursuing the same shared goal. The organization sends motivational emails on a daily basis to encourage participants toward producing their great literary work and helps them coordinate virtual and face-to-face writing meet-ups.
As a former participant in NaNoWriMo, I can tell you that there is nothing like obsessing over a project such as this, finding yourself able to make more progress than you had dreamed possible, while working with others. Consider inviting with some classmates to produce the draft of a book about your career field or a topic within it. Potential employers will be impressed if you share your adventure with writing and collaboration via NaNoWriMo, even if you do not make it to the full 50,000 word goal.
Be an Entrepreneur
You may not be able to get onto Donald Trump’s The Apprentice as a contestant, but that shouldn’t stop you from engaging in similar pursuits. According to US News Money, potential employers also want to see college graduates who exhibit entrepreneurial spirit in a leadership role in which they conduct themselves professionally. As a way of addressing this, students should focus on setting up their own business related to their major, and they should create a clean, dynamic presence online (15 May, 2012). This does not need to be a full-time pursuit; just a few hours a week devoted to building your experience is sufficient.
Not sure what you can do? Think first about your own major, talents, and interests. What do you know how to do? What can you already offer in your field of study? As an accounting major, could you start a side business helping people balance their checkbooks? Assisting other small businesses with their books? Do you have any hobbies connected to your major that may work into a business? Are you an information technology major with an interest in fantasy football who could run workshops for less knowledgeable gamers?
If you’re having trouble thinking of an idea, consult some lists, such as The Simple Dollar’s “50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own” (11 April, 2009), or brainstorm ideas with your friends. Don’t forget to consider non-profit options and ways to develop a strong, positive, professional online presence, especially on social media sites.
Be a Personal Trainer
Have you ever watched personal trainers like Chris Powell on TV? Have you noticed how driven, energetic, and positive they are? According to US News Money, potential employers are also looking for this positive attitude among their job candidates (15 May, 2012). Although the above two suggestions should set you on your way to demonstrating being driven and energetic, a pleasant disposition can be a bit more difficult to obtain. For example, the stress of classes and grades along with other possible responsibilities, such as raising a family and being underemployed can make us all a tad unpleasant to be around if we aren’t careful.
Advice on how to achieve this energetic, positive attitude is plentiful. For example, Lifescripts’ Rose Alexander offers “12 Ways to Keep a Positive Attitude” that nicely reflect the sage advice of experts (01 October, 2007). In summation, these include being thankful for everything in your life including the option to interview for a position and being more selfless (e.g., Alexander suggests helping someone else or complimenting them). Among your friends and current school, work, and/or family situation, practice demonstrating a positive attitude and see what the results are. By turning your energy and focus away from yourself in a positive way, you will find that others are attracted to you. They may even offer you a job.
Overall, keep in mind that you can not be passive about your education and gainful employment. However, you can and must be proactive. Find out what skills employers are looking for, and then develop and document them by means of such activities as those in this post. Don’t forget to include your friends in your pursuits. You can be collaborative and even have fun while doing it.
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