I’ve written about these topics before, but two recent client comments told me that it might be time to look at them again. One client who has been working in fields that are below his skill level told me that his humanities degree was “worthless.” I reminded him that most Americans (fewer than 35%) have college degrees. Employers look at college degrees as a marker of knowledge and discipline. Many value applicants with humanities degrees because they tend to be better thinkers and often have better communication skills. Rather than look at his degree as “worthless,” I persuaded my client that it will help him find a job.
Today a client who just graduated from a science program told me that she had no experience. Almost every new graduate feels the same way. What they forget is the value of knowledge. School teaches us concepts that we will use on the job. Most programs also offer some kind of hands-on experience in the classroom, labs, or internships. The client who claimed to have no experience actually worked in labs for four years while pursuing her degree. She used equipment and performed tests that were listed on every job post she brought as examples of jobs she wished to pursue. Experience does not only come on the job. It can come in a classroom, lab, or field exercise. If you’re a new graduate, start by looking at what the employer needs and how your education has given you knowledge and skill needed to be a strong candidate.
If you’re a new graduate, don’t despair about a weak degree or lack of experience. Be practical and find a way to market what you learned in college. It has value.
I frequently work with clients who have just completed an undergraduate or graduate degree. They usually list only the degree. Some will note organizations they belonged to or scholarships that helped them pay for schools. There is a problem with this information: Employers do not care about it.
I work with new graduates to identify areas of knowledge and skill that they will take from school to the workplace. Rather than list classes, which only tell the employer that you are a student, review 5-10 job posts for positions that interest you. Note job requirements and skills that you can take from your time in school and include these elements in your resume.
For example I’m currently working with a client who received an MBA with a concentration in Human Resources. After reviewing job posts, we identified the following items for his resume: HR & Labor Law, Compensation, and Strategic Planning. Be sure that you only list areas of skill and knowledge that you could use on the job. Do not list any item that you could not discuss well in an interview or any skill you could not perform on the job.
If you are a new graduate, take full advantage of the knowledge and skill you offer an employer because of your education. Demonstrate the value of your degree in a way that will be relevant to the employer’s needs. Most importantly, don’t present yourself as a student. Play up what you learned in school that a potential employer will care about. That’s the way to get a job even if you lack professional experience.