How Your College Experiences Play A Part In Getting You Hired

by Val Matta

As a student, you heard countless college tips to help you succeed. From classes to extracurricular activities, college is a time for gaining and learning from new experiences.

Now, as a professional, you need to highlight these experiences to get hired. But how?

A 2015 Gallup study found 25 percent of college graduates had zero “key college experiences," that is, having a professor who made learning exciting, a professor who cared about them, a mentor who encouraged them, worked on a semester-long (or longer) project, held a job or internship or had high involvement in extracurricular activities.

The study found 65 percent of graduates with these experiences were engaged in their work compared to 25 percent without. But here's the kicker: Only 3 percent of college graduates have all six of these experiences.

So how can you translate the experiences you have from college to the working world?

Here are some ways to prove you'll be a stellar employee with the college experiences you do have:

Having a professor who made learning exciting.

After a few years at any university, you learn about the professors — their teaching styles, personalities and other classroom quirks.

Some are more likable than others, but what if you never had that one professor who makes you eager to attend every class?

It's all about turning the negatives to positives. Despite not having that one professor who motivated you to be present, you were still dedicated to your education and relied on your personal dedication to learning and getting your work done.

Show how that translates to your commitment to your career, as well.

Having a professor who cared about you.

This experience is very much correlated to the first one. Without that one professor in your corner to guide you through college and into the working world, you have to learn how to do it yourself.

One key skill you gain from not having a highly involved professor is being your own motivator while laying your own path.

You figured out what you needed to do, and you were driven enough to do it yourself. These are skills that will help you get in the door of the right employer.

Having a mentor encourage you.

There's no debate about the benefits of having a mentor. But not having one in college isn't detrimental to your future career.

Use the time to develop yourself and maybe be a mentor to others.

The lack of a devoted mentor means you have to create your own opportunities through networking and research.

With these skills, you'll stand out to the right employer and take pride in knowing you did it all yourself.

The lack of a devoted mentor means you have to create your own opportunities.

Working on a semester-long (or longer) project.

A lot of college involves homework, tests and projects. According to the Gallup study, only 32 percent of college graduates have worked on a long-term project. So you're not alone if you don't have a long, meaningful project to show for your time in college.

Instead, focus on all of the smaller projects you've been part of, especially those you worked on with a group of people.

What about entrepreneurship experience? Did you start your own small business? Have a unique way to fund your way through college?

Even if your endeavors failed in the long run, you can talk about what you did and what you learned from the experience.

Having a job or internship.

You know you should get experience in your field before graduation, but sometimes your education-to-career path changes, or the opportunities are just not available.

Use experience from your other involvements -- student groups, volunteer or professional organizations -- to enhance your credibility as a standout employee.

Be sure you're able to explain your role in the group or your impact in the volunteer work and what you learned from the experience.

Then, show how you'd translate that to making an even greater impact in the organization.

Being highly involved in extracurricular activities.

It's one thing to just be involved, it's a completely different thing to dedicate significant amounts of time to an organization.

In fact, only 20 percent of college graduates report being extremely involved in an extracurricular activity.

To combat your mediocre participation, talk about your passions and what motivates you in a team environment. You want to show your employer your professional skills, but you also want to be personable.

Even if you didn't have a high level of participation while focusing on your education, that doesn't mean you won't fit into a highly collaborative work environment.

Show how you're a team player, and your value to the organization will shine through.

What are some other ways college graduates can use their experiences to get hired?