While a college degree is important, a small slip of paper won’t completely prepare you for a career in business. In addition to taking key courses and degree programs, it’s critical that you prepare for life after school by taking advantage of the opportunities around you.
Life Outside the Classroom
While nobody should discount the value of a good education, the truth is that you’ll probably learn more outside of the classroom than anything. That’s not a knock on any institution of higher learning; they would likely reaffirm this idea. If anybody understands the importance of a well-rounded education, supplemented with hands-on opportunities, it’s the schools that offer these opportunities for learning. As a college student pursuing a business degree in 2015 and beyond, it’s critical that you take advantage of available resources. Failing to do so will limit your career opportunities and potentially stunt your professional growth in the early years.
Survey Says Most Students are Underprepared
According to a 2014 study commissioned by Bentley University, 58 percent of business decision makers, students, and job recruiters gave recent college graduates an overall grade of “C” or worse on their level of preparedness for their first full-time jobs. A hefty 64 percent of corporate survey respondents claimed that the lack of preparation actually harms the day-to-day business operations of businesses. Seventy-four percent say the lack of preparation has an impact on the overall economic challenges of the greater U.S. economy.
These serious proclamations point to much bigger issues. It’s not that college institutions aren’t preparing their graduates with the appropriate curriculums and courses. In most cases, the responsibility is falling on the shoulders of the students themselves. They either aren’t pursuing learning opportunities outside the classroom or are sliding through the cracks by doing the bare minimum to graduate.
6 Ways to Enhance Your Level of Preparedness
As a current or prospective college student, are you doing everything you can to maximize learning opportunities and prepare for a brighter future? The Bentley University study reports that 60 percent of recent college graduates blame themselves – as opposed to their colleges or professors – for not being prepared. If you want to make yourself more job-ready after graduation, there are a number of things you should be doing outside of the classroom. Here are a few ways you can get started:
- Career planning from the outset. Early exposure to career planning is important. As soon as you step on campus, you should make a point to locate the career services office and drop in. Making yourself known by the people who work here can be helpful in the years to come. Not only can they help you find opportunities, but they’ll also be able to expose you to different career options you might have never considered otherwise. These career planning services are valuable and you should use them while you can. After you graduate, similar services come at an expensive price tag.
- Gaining work experience. While your college summers may seem like a time for rest and relaxation, they’re actually ideal for taking on an internship or job related to your career interests. When looking to hire recent graduates, relevant job experience is actually one of the top things a manager looks for. The benefits and advantages of internships are numerous, including gaining practical experience, possibly earning course credits, and adding new skills.
- Using online tools and resources. Depending on what area of business you’re studying, you may be able to utilize some online tools and resources to familiarize yourself with industry terminology, programs, and more. For example, finance majors may find Boiler Room Trader, a stock trading simulation game, useful for improving financial literacy and getting a better grasp on how the market moves. Marketing majors may want to spend time studying various lead generation and marketing automation tools. Any type of tool or software you can get your hands on will help you add to your existing skillset and become better prepared.
- Networking with peers and faculty. It would benefit you to study up on your professors and learn about their backgrounds. In most cases, your business professors have years of on-the-job experience and can provide additional insights outside the classroom. Make a habit of networking with professors and other members of the faculty. The connections you make here can lead to possible career opportunities after graduation.
- Taking skills assessment tests. The problem for many graduates is they don’t know what they’re good at. Most people have a pretty decent idea of their weaknesses, but honing in on strengths can be more challenging. A skills assessment test can be a fantastic way to uncover hidden opportunities and direct you towards a particular career path. There are hundreds of these tests on the internet and your school may have a suggestion for the best ones to take.
- Using school-business partnerships. Most moderate to large business schools do a good job of facilitating partnerships and relationships with local businesses. These often result in job opportunities, chances to job shadow, or any number of other benefits. Ask your career services office about potential partnerships the school has and whether there is any way you can get plugged in.
Your Future Starts Today
Only you can prepare yourself for a successful career. While a college education is certainly a step in the right direction that slip of paper with a fancy crest and signature isn’t the end-all-be-all. In addition to pursuing your degree, you should use your formative college years to grow outside the classroom. From early career planning to helpful internships, your focus should be on becoming a well-rounded college graduate with an eye on the future.