January 20, 2018

Boost Your Marketability from the Second You Step on Campus

Boost your marketability from the moment you step on campus - photo copyright 2011 Rick Sherrell

As this blog post comes out, we are getting deeper into summer and your first days of college are still the furthest thing from your mind. So, I’ll save some student-prof talk for when we are closer to that time.

For now, I’m going to ask you to start thinking about your future career—and I’m going to give you a job to do this summer: (Yes, I know you are covered in sunblock, sitting under an umbrella the size of a satellite dish, and enjoying a magazine that you haven’t been able to read for the past year, but stay with me).

Do a little searching on Monster.com or other similar job sites. Look up some descriptions for a potential job you’d like to do once you are finished with your college education. (Yes, I know you haven’t even started college yet… I’m asking you to think ahead!).

When you look at those job descriptions, aside from the “hard” skills, I want you to look at the “soft” skills. Specifically, check out the “communication skills” that are required. What will those look like? Here are some listed from actual job ads:

  • High level of interpersonal skills to work with upper management and exceptional ability to work in teams
  • Continually mine existing accounts for opportunities to expand existing relationships (interpersonal)
  • Strong communication skills both written and verbal with the ability to gain consensus for project deliverables (interpersonal, group)
  • Demonstrates proficiency by exhibiting the following skills, competencies, and behaviors: Patient Care Experience, Team Commitment (interpersonal, group)

Surprised to see so many communication skills that you didn’t expect? The National Association of Colleges and Employers 2011 report ranks verbal communication as the #1 most desirable employability skill. This means that you should expect communication ability to be a likely part of every job you apply for. And, if the economy remains as questionable as it is of this writing, you are going to want those communication skills to catapult you over the competition that holds the same degree you do.

I know what you’re thinking as you sip your iced tea and reposition yourself on your beach chair, “Okay… so I need communication skills when I get out and work. What does that have to do with my first term in college?”

When you start taking your classes, look for assignments, projects, research papers, presentations, etc. that can build and prove your experience in those communication areas. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Your Environmental Science class requires group projects. You have to keep an agenda, track your meeting minutes, and produce a high-quality final paper and presentation.
  • Your Business Ethics class does some charitable or service learning, like the students in this article on the American Association of Community College website.
  • Your Western Civilization class requires you to engage in regular dialogue on a discussion forum.
  • Your Literature class requires you to pass documents back and forth via e-mail with your classmates for peer review.
  • Your Public Speaking class requires a persuasive speech with PowerPoint.

BOOM! Check out all of your communication training!

You don’t need to be paid in order to have valuable experience that an employer will want. After all, you are doing work in college. You might as well “spin” that work on your resume or in a future interview to show what you know about communication. If you get strong grades on that work, you have even more to impress an employer. But if some of those projects don’t go as well, think of the lessons you learned anyway: The difficult moments may be shareable if you took away something that you’d do different, say, in a future team situation (like make sure that everyone has a primary and back up role to cover all tasks).

So, in two years or four years, or whenever your degree is done, watch out, fellow degree holders: YOU have communication capital to showcase! You will be the competition that others have to worry about!

About the Author: Ellen Bremen (17 Posts)

Ellen Bremen is tenured faculty at Highline Community College and the author of Say This, NOT That to Your Professor: 36 Talking Tips for College Success (NorLights Press, April 2012). Ellen stops at nothing to help students strengthen their communication skills: Peanut butter and jelly to illustrate problematic messages, pipe cleaners to teach communication models, and Post-it notes to reduce speaking anxiety. Ellen holds degrees in Post-Secondary Education and Communication. As an interpersonal communication expert, Ellen has watched students struggle to navigate their classes, especially their communication with professors. Ellen's goal? To help students correctly--not cluelessly--speak/deal with those who teach them. The outcome? Better student-prof relationships, improved grades, and confident and competent communication skills for college and beyond. Ellen's philosophy: College is THE safe training ground for students to practice and hone assertive and professional communication skills. Then, students can transition this sought-after skill to their professional and personal lives. Ellen looks forward to answering students' simple and complex questions about communication in college, and particularly professor-related challenges.

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