Most of you will agree when we claim that a college degree just isn’t what it used to be. Note the word degree, and not education, because we think that receiving a college education is still a vital and necessary experience. The fact is that, unlike in previous generations, a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a job upon graduation. In fact, according to a recent study by the New York Federal Reserve,
the percentage [of recent college graduates] who are unemployed or
“underemployed” — working in a job that typically does not require a bachelor’s
degree — has risen, particularly since the 2001 recession. Moreover, the quality
of the jobs held by the underemployed has declined, with today’s recent
graduates increasingly accepting low-wage jobs or working part-time.
Unfortunate as it may be, this does make some sense: of the 953,00 jobs created by August 2013, 77 percent of those jobs were part-time, with a large portion of those jobs being in the service sector. While vital to the American economy, those aren’t the kinds of jobs that are targeted towards individuals holding college degrees and, likewise, they’re probably not a college graduate’s first choice when it comes to deciding on the place to start a career. With less full-time, degree-requiring jobs and more college graduates than ever, it seems pretty clear that relying solely on degrees to gain jobs is not an option readily at anyone’s disposal. What is available however: thinking outside the box and bolstering a degree with desirable skills and traits not necessarily learned in college. Here are a few that you should consider if you’re trying to make yourself more appealing to employers, and might even help you win a promotion if you already do have a job:
So you didn’t study computer science or engineering in college. We don’t blame you, it’s not like you were trying to be the next Steve Jobs or anything. That still doesn’t need to be your goal in order to pick up a little know-how on coding, though. You know as well as we do that everything seems to be on the web today, and with jobs in software development, programming and systems analysis projected to grow by 22 percent through the next six years, taking a class on Ruby, Java or HTML might not be such a bad idea. At some point in the future, employers might even require that you be familiar with basic programming, especially if you’re going to be working in an office-based setting. And if you decide to branch out on your own and start your own business, the web is probably going to be your new home for a while. You can often find courses in coding and programming languages online, for free – check out edX for some of their interesting offerings.
There’s a reason why learning a foreign is often a requirement in primary and secondary school education; along with exposing students to culture, speaking a second language can improve brain function and cognition. An added benefit is that it can also make you more appealing to employers. More business is being conducted on a global scale than ever before, with employers in different sectors seeking to expand their businesses to countries all over the world. Having employees able to converse effectively in the native languages of those countries is vital to the business of expansion. Consider taking an immersion class in a language that’s relevant to the field you want to break into; some that are sure to be useful are Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. Note: the key is to develop a near-native proficiency in the language. Watching a few telenovelas every once in a while isn’t going to cut it, so turn off the television and go speak to someone already.
Have you ever lined up a promising interview for a dream job, only to blow it because you couldn’t seem to say anything else besides “um,” “er,” and “like”? As ingrained in our Generation-Y minds as they are, those fillers undermine our ability to convey our thoughts effectively because they make us sound uncertain of ourselves. Employers don’t want to hire people who can’t convince consumers to buy the products or services they’re trying to sell (because, let’s face it, everybody’s selling something these days). Look into public speaking courses. They’ll teach you how to vary your vocabulary, cut out the fillers that pepper your speech, engage listeners through body language, and mold your language to fit your audience. They’ll also allow you to build confidence when speaking to people, so pitching yourself to a potential employer at a networking event or pitching an idea to a board room full of executives will only cause you mild anxiety instead of bringing on a full-blown panic attack.
What do you think are valuable skills jobseekers should be investing time and effort into developing? Let us know in the comments below.