If I Knew Then What I Know Now: 4 Things I Would Have Done Differently During My College Years

by Sam Aboudara

Someone recently advised me that when you’re two years out of college and working, your résumé should no longer begin with your “education” section.

After hearing this, it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps all of those years of studying, exams and assignments are now somewhat irrelevant to my future career prospects. Could this be true?

I went online and found this advice to reflect a well-regarded résumé-writing rule. But, how can it be that for a 40-year career, it only takes two years for our hard-earned — and very expensive — educations to lose credibility in the job market? Well, unfortunately, it’s true.

While the grades we achieve, the schools we attend and our majors of study all play an influential role in getting an initial foot through the door at our first job opportunities, these things by no means open that door completely.

Any Millennial who has graduated in recent years knows how difficult getting a job can be, and sadly, our impressive transcripts are not what typically give us an edge on the competition. Trends show that we believe enrolling in more years of formal education is the answer to this conundrum. Unfortunately, though, master’s degrees, Ph.D’s and other postgraduate qualifications aren't always the answer.

This is not to say that postgraduate education is a waste — it’s not. For certain fields of work, an additional degree may be the only way to compete for a certain line of work. A postgraduate education can also offer benefits in many other fields of work, but don’t assume that it will unilaterally improve your employability factor.

Knowing what I know now, I wish I had spent more time in college making use of the career-enhancing opportunities that were at my fingertips. Here are the four things at which I would urge 18-year-old me to do a better job:

1. Part-Time And Seasonal Jobs.

There is no better way to acquire real job skills than to hold down a job and learn about its demands firsthand. Employers know this, which is why previous work experience is the most popular measure to assess job candidates.

2. Voluntary Commitments.

Being involved in student committees or boards is a superb way to learn about responsibility that may be way beyond one's experience level. This can include managing budgets, developing partnerships, supervising other volunteers and fundraising.

3. Networking Opportunities.

The fact is, everyone networks (maybe without referring to it as “networking”) and uses the relationships to build connections and further careers. Had I known this universality when I was a student, I probably would have gotten involved in more student activities to help expand my social circles and to expose me to new people.

4. Job Skills Training.

Many of the skills that jobs require are not included in our undergraduate curriculums. But, there many ways to acquire the skills elsewhere on campus. Skills like time management, interviewing, presenting, budgeting and computer programming are common extracurricular courses that will serve well in a huge range of potential careers.

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