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Beyond GPA: Making and Marketing Your College Achievements
You go to college for four or five years graduating with a high GPA and honors and now you're ready to take on the world. Yes, good grades, a high GPA, and an overall quality education are important; however, being Valedictorian will not guarantee you the perfect job.
Ask most employers these days and they are looking for a diverse group of employees who fit well with their company culture and bring personal qualities that will enhance their current labor force. That means while you're bragging about your Ivy League education and honor roll status, you need to be considering what you bring to an employer that will really make them sit up and take notice.
Grades and Testing
Are you good at learning?
You took and passed difficult or advanced college courses. Your SAT, ACT or other standardized test scores were through the roof. Great – you can study and learn what's in a book. But how quickly do you learn on the job? Can you transfer you book knowledge to action?
What employers will be looking for is whether or not your ability to learn what you read and study translates into adapting and growing on the job. It is your ability to communicate how your time in college has prepared you to work that is most important. And that means more than just saying you are a fast learner. You need to be able to provide specific examples.
Recommendations and References
Who do you know?
Part of what employers will want to know is what others think of you and your abilities. They'll want to understand how you got along with classmates and your participation level in group projects as well as whether you turned in class work on time and whether you attended class regularly. Employers are looking for your skills in working on a team, building relationships, meeting deadlines and whether you're likely to have attendance issues.
People who can speak to your ability to take on new challenge as well as your performance while in college might include instructors, counselors, advisors, and coaches.
Personal Accomplishments and Leadership Skills
What makes you stand out?
Part of your purpose for going to college and getting an education is to develop knowledge and abilities that enable you to pursue a career that you are passionate about. But if everyone has the same goal, what makes you different?
Employers are interested in what you have accomplished in college. Yes, this includes your high GPA and stellar SAT scores; however, it also includes taking a full-load of courses while working part-time and being a peer advisor or participating in an exchange student program, traveling abroad during your summer vacation or signing on for a voluntourism program (see our companion article Voluntourism: Make Your Next Vacation a Working One).
Considering what you have done during your time at college besides just taking classes is important to employers because it communicates your motivation, independence and leadership skills.
Extra-Curricular Activities and Special Abilities
What did you do in your spare time?
If your only claim to fame is being able to crush beer cans on your forehead because you spent all your weekends partying, you've missed out on a great opportunity. Participating in sports or clubs during your time on campus can provide you with a boatload of experiences and skills.
These types of experiences teach you teamwork, patience, and organization among other traits. Working on the school paper – even if you're not planning a career in journalism – helps improve your written communication skills or gives you the right kind of experience to edit the company newsletter.
It's all a matter of taking on new challenges and opening yourself up to new experiences. And once you've enjoyed your college experience then it's all about marketing yourself and your achievements.
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