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How to Make Yourself Marketable While in College

Updated on May 21, 2014

Learn New Skills

In many professions, marketability can be improved with the introduction of new skills to a student's arsenal. From familiarity with computer programs to professional certifications, abilities not directly taught in school should be continually honed. This can help set students apart from those around them.

While college can be one of the most memorable times in a person's life, it often brings about equal parts enjoyment and stress. The long-term professional ramifications of collegiate performance can prove extremely daunting for students. In order to break into their industries of choice, students must do everything possible to catch the eyes of potential employers. The following suggestions aim to help graduating students portray themselves to employers in the best ways possible.

Taking the Next Step

Graduation is near.  Will you be ready?
Graduation is near. Will you be ready?

Maintain High Grades

Perhaps the most obvious way to impress employers while in college is to maintain a high grade point average. Some employers, especially those with strong reputations on a global scale, won't even consider students with grades below certain levels. More often than not, though, employers use grades as a smaller factor in the hiring process. A high grade point average tells an employer that a student has intelligence and can focus on the task at hand, but it is far from the most important part of a resume. Many employers put more worth in other characteristics of their candidates, such as extracurricular involvement, technical skills, and personability. Still, outstanding grades can serve to stimulate employer interest and, when combined with excellence in other areas, enhance the attractiveness of candidates significantly.

Become Involved--And Don't Be Afraid to Lead

Beyond high grades, employers often look to extracurricular activities to decide between candidates. Becoming involved on campus can help students show employers their multi-faceted skill sets and time management skills. Campus organizations can vary greatly in nature, from professional organizations with esteemed guest speakers to honor societies and service groups. Whatever kind of group one joins, it's important for them to use their time wisely and take advantage of all opportunities offered.

Unfortunately, many students fall into the trap of complacency when it comes to campus involvement. It's quite easy to join an organization, put it on a resume, and never attend a meeting or event for it. Employers are not fooled by the listing of numerous on-campus organizations on resumes; they want to see exactly what was done for each organization. Students should pursue leadership positions and participate in events for on-campus organizations whenever possible. In doing so, they allow themselves to stand out among their peers, many of whom shrink away from time commitments outside of the classroom. Taking on leadership roles shows selflessness, dedication, time management skills, and ambition to employers, who are always searching for the most productive, team-oriented employees available.

Create and Present an Organized Resume

When interacting with professionals, a properly-organized resume is an absolute must for students. Resumes should list all skills, certifications, achievements, and experience most relevant to a potential position. It may prove a worthy pursuit to leave off past jobs unrelated to a position to make room for recent certifications or leadership positions. Students must focus the attention of those reading their resumes on the best parts of their pasts, and they must convey the most impressive parts of their resumes when asked by employers. A lot of great things can be accomplished throughout a collegiate career, but if employers have no way of knowing about them, they will all become meaningless.

Connect With Professionals

Marketability can be increased greatly by interacting with those in the professional world. Many college students don't realize just how many professionals are connected with one another. By attending local, statewide, regional, or national professional meetings, students can get a glimpse into the true nature of their future careers. More importantly, though, they can meet with those who control hiring decisions, and they can build a network that can last a lifetime. Companies do communicate with one another, so students should always approach employers with respect, showing their best side at all times. Students should also be mindful of the professionals, active or former, who make up their college's faculty. Instructors often have deep-rooted professional connections, with many still practicing themselves, and getting to know faculty members can quickly expand a student's network.

Interview in Style

You can never have too many ties
You can never have too many ties
Small touches, such as tie bars and pins, can help turn heads.
Small touches, such as tie bars and pins, can help turn heads.

Be Open-Minded and Professional

Many times, employers separate similarly-qualified candidates by examining their intangibles. When words on a paper simply won't get the job done, it's important for job-searching collegians to make their best personal qualities stand out. Many employers weigh personality traits just as heavily as technical skill, so it is key for candidates to show that they can mesh with their prospective co-workers.

It is very important to be flexible during a job search. Remaining open to internships or jobs which may have less than desirable hours, wages, or locations (and expressing this openness to employers) prevents professional doors from being closed. Candidates should also be open to taking on jobs outside of their preferred area of specialization early in their career. For example, a civil engineering graduate focused in structural engineering may not be particularly interested in traffic engineering. Still, they must realize that by simply getting their foot in the door, they can gain experience in one subset of their profession, allowing them to become more attractive to the employers whom they ultimately wish to work for. Aside from experience, such a career move displays great initiative and the ability to work outside of comfort zones to accomplish goals. These are always attractive qualities to display to potential employers.

First impressions are very important, and candidates should dress and present themselves in a professional manner when approaching employers. Personality is important, but it cannot shine through if an employer feels jilted by a lack of professionalism. Even if an interview doesn't go as planned or a position falls to another candidate, taking the time to thank an employer for their consideration can go a long way in keeping future opportunities open.

Which is Most Important to Employers?

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Conclusion

The question of professional marketability has never been a simply one to answer. There will always be a number of factors that make or break a candidate's job prospects. It is foolish to focus upon just one part of the collegiate experience, as employers will never do the same. The topics covered in this article are all central to the pursuit of long-term employment; students must never shy away from trying new things in order to capture the attention of employers. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but by showing a vast array of diverse abilities and positive traits, students can give themselves the best chances of gaining employment.

Collegiate Major Employment Rates

Highest Unemployment Rates
Lowest Unemployment Rates
Political Science (11.1%)
Chemistry (5.8%)
Film, Video, and Photography Arts (11.4%)
Physical Fitness (5.2%)
Anthropology (12.6%)
Parks & Recreation (5.2%)
Architecture (12.8%)
Elementary Education (5%)
Information Systems (14.7%)
Nursing (4.8%)
The Most- and Least-Employed Majors; Source: www.takepart.com

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