There’s a lot of confusion among recent college grads about how to acquire the skills employers deem necessary when the only way to get those skills is on the job. Going to college no longer guarantees you a well-paying job, and yet the ROI for a college degree is huge.
“Since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired,” Tom Friedman contends.
All the confusion seems to boil down to two big questions: 1. How do you develop the skills employers need, and 2. How do you market yourself to get the right job.
How to Develop the Skills Employers Need
It has never been more important to develop marketable skills. The good news is that it has also never been easier to do so. Virtually everything that interests you can be put together in the form of an internship, volunteer experience or work for hire. The things that interest you today are probably going to interest you tomorrow, and if not, something else will come along in a related area.
As early as possible, begin focusing on what you like to do and design skills around that interest area. If you like to write, create a blog. If you like to make things, create a shop on Etsy. If you are interested in the stock market, invest on a small scale. This way, you’re creating your own experience that will be marketable once you’re ready to find a job in the real world.
How to Market Yourself for the Right Job
First, know your product—you—inside and out, and what you have to offer. Clearly articulate your value through all of your consistently-produced marketing materials: resume, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, cover letters. Be sure to include special interests or hobbies that might catch a recruiter’s attention.
Second, know your market. Ask yourself the right questions to identify the sector, the role and the organization. Tailor each letter and resume to meet the needs of that particular position, communicating why you are an exact fit.
Third, research the organization and its competitors and collaborators, and see if you can link your inquiry to a particular issue or problem that you believe you can help solve. Do you have a special skill or experience that would make you a great candidate? Have you followed the organization closely enough that you feel confident that you’re a great fit?
Use the cookie-cutter approach to job search and you will only be frustrated. The more energy and focus you put into your search, the more productive it will be.