Yes, it’s important to study and do well in school, but how much have you studied what recruiters are looking for in job candidates? Undergraduates who believe that the only thing they need to do during university life is to score high on exams may discover that recruiters are seeking candidates with more than just a 4.0 GPA. Here are 7 things that students can do before graduation from college to make themselves more palatable and prepared for the job market.
Volunteer and do extracurricular activities
Volunteering is not done for the sole purpose of the self-satisfaction you get from helping others. It’s not just a matter of humanity and social responsibility. Practicing civic-minded, voluntary practices adds credibility to a resume.
- Employers consider some volunteer work as legitimate work experience for undergraduates. They care about your free-time and how you make use of it.
- Volunteering work helps to develop your soft skills as it offers opportunities to work within a structured team and use communication, negotiation, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
- Responsibility for tasks, a small sub-team, and even time management requires considerable leadership and independence skills. Time management is honed through balancing work and studying.
Why do we need these skills? Recruiters pay a huge amount of attention to soft skills when evaluating candidates. A 2016 Harvard Business Review article mentions that an analysis of millions of job ads by the workforce analytics firm Burning Glass found that those requiring a bachelor’s degree ‘list’ more soft skills than technical skills among the set of requirements. Jeff Weiner, chief executive officer of the LinkedIn Corporation, mentioned in an interview with CNBC that interpersonal (soft skills) are the most required but not found in graduates, based on research and analysis on LinkedIn profiles.
Take on an initiative
Start or do something new – it’s essential for life at a university. Creating an initiative is worth the undertaking, even at the risk of being unsuccessful. An article in Forbes mentions that starting a blog, a comedy group, a conference, a student club, or even a startup will be of great value to recent graduates. If the initiative succeeds, it’s beneficial to mention it in your interview, and if it didn’t succeed, it will give a good impression of your entrepreneurial mindset.
In this changing and innovative market, employers seek to hire people who can suggest new ideas and solutions, who have an entrepreneurial spirit. Chris Smith, a partner and co-founder at the management consulting firm ARRYVE said that “I’m a big fan of people with entrepreneurial spirit because once they’re hired, they provide the entrepreneurially spirited with an outlet for their creativity and ambition.”
All aboard the internship
It’s very essential for undergraduates to do internships, whether in their major of study or in another major they’d like to work in.
- Internships help to evaluate strengths and weaknesses. A supervisor expects a percentage of mistakes and offers help by giving feedback, evaluating tasks, and correcting mistakes, which will help an intern know the right thing to do.
- Internships help you to apply the theoretical parts of studies, and as a result, cause discovery of whether this is the right career path. If it’s the right one, continue, but if it isn’t the right one, negotiate a career shift.
- Internships provide an opportunity to understand the business world and work environment. Want to learn and practice professionalism and business etiquette? Putting an internship section on a resume is a plus, as employers consider it a practical experience.
- A portion of students who do well in their internships get hired in the same company after graduation, or their chance of getting a job increases. A survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that “66.4 percent of Class of 2019 graduates who had a paid internship received a job offer.”
Broaden your network
It’s crucial for university students to have a good network and many contacts with people who work in the same field.
- Participate in an internship and get to know people who work at this company, attend competitions or events in the specific field.
- Do class projects with people from the industry and visit them on their premises.
- Make an excellent first impression. “One of the best students in our field, academically and practically, walked into our office today.”
- Ask them for their contacts and touch base frequently.
LinkedIn Business Solutions blog highlights that the “HR analytics team at LinkedIn believes that employee referrals are the most efficient way to hire and, more importantly, a hire sourced via a referral generally stays around longer and performs better.” Be aware that connections may lead to company introductions and faster hiring.
Get an acceptable grade point average (GPA)
Some students think GPA doesn’t matter and companies don’t look for high GPA achievers. Indeed, GPA is not everything companies look for, but it is one of many things that you’ll be evaluated on.
- Getting a high GPA means that you are responsible and committed to your studies and this is a good indication of personality and work ethic.
- To receive a scholarship or financial aid for postgraduate studies, get an excellent GPA. After graduation, you’ll be right out of school with limited work experience so employers don’t have much to go off of when evaluating your professional standing. Do you take responsibility seriously? Can you perform tasks well? Are you a hard worker who’s committed to assignments?
- Getting a high GPA doesn’t mean giving up all other activities. Employers may prefer to hire a candidate who can do many things at the same time, and is able to balance multiple schedules successfully. Robin Reshwan, the founder and president of CS Advising and Collegial Services posits in an article on U.S. News that “Most professionals who did well in college tend to regard a strong GPA as an indicator that a potential employee can handle pressure, learns quickly and is motivated to succeed, and some highly competitive roles or very desirable employers use GPA standards as a way to cut down the list of potential employees to consider.”
Learn the basics of our business world
Prior to graduation, master the universal skillsets and requirements which are prominent in the business world:
- Undergraduates should know how to write, review, and tailor an excellent curriculum vitae (CV) or resume based on the company and the field.
- Learn how to write a great cover letter. Employers may require one alongside the resume.
- Be familiar with writing a professional, well-written email, as it may be the first tool to contact employers.
- Be aware that social media isn’t limited to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Other professional platforms exist such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and JobCase.
- Know how to do well in an interview. Get advice and tips from professionals and through applying for institutions. Get the experience of doing multiple interviews and correcting mistakes on a continuous basis.
- Be advanced in using Microsoft Office programs; Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are three which are fundamental to the job market.
- Be a fast typer on the computer. The average typing speed is 40 word per minute; less than this average could be a problem.
- For non-native speakers of English, learn how to speak the English language fluently as it’s the global language of business. Even the native speakers must learn how to use English professionally, especially in the case of writing.
- It’s advantageous if a student knows more than one language.
Characteristics and traits
Fundamental ways to enhance key characteristics that a well-rounded undergraduate should have:
- Be independent and able to fully function by yourself. Be financially independent (at least partially) and adept at money management by working a part-time job or paid internship. The experiences help to simulate the professional world that awaits you after graduation, where you will be responsible for yourself.
- Be a money manager. Personal money management refers to the process of an individual balancing their income with their financial needs so they never find themselves short of funds. It’s a priority that this skill be mastered before graduation, because one day, even Destiny’s Child won’t be able to pay your bills.
- Be a self-branding wizard. Another important skill is self-branding or personal branding. Learn how to market yourself, even if it’s on a small scale, such as at a university, at student clubs, small companies, or NGOs to develop a good command of this skill. After graduation, a well-branded and marketed professional is a logical, attractive choice for employers. Ashley Stahl, a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author at Forbes magazine notes that “Personal branding is crucial to cultivating a successful career.”
- Recognize opportunities. Opportunity recognition is the ability to identify new opportunities that were unknown. Opportunity exploitation is the ability to receive gains, benefits, and returns from the discovery (recognition) of a potential opportunity. Life can be full of opportunities, like jobs, internships, scholarships, volunteering, etc., and it helps to have the ability to identify and then make use of options around you.
Mina Fangrari is a Senior at the Arab Academy for Science Technology & Maritime Transport (AASTMT), majors in Supply Chain and Logistics Management and is the recipient of two fully funded scholarships from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Mina was previously director of the AAST Entrepreneurship Society and was awarded the Dean’s List (Fall 2018) at the University of the Incarnate Word, Texas, for his academic achievement; and by the Institute of International Education for his academic performance and community service. Mina had many internship experiences at multinational companies in the fields of Supply Chain, logistics, and marketing. He is an amateur soft-skills, entrepreneurship, and critical thinking trainer. He is also the founder of the Prodigy Videos program. He studied 720 hours of the English language and the Professional Skills Training Program at The American University in Cairo.
Read Mina’s blog, Six Tips for a Career in Supply Chain Management.