college class schedule

The college class needed too land a job won’t be in the curriculum

The most important topic in your college class schedule

What is the most important skill to focus on with your college class schedule? Per the promise I made in the last post, this week I reveal what I believe to THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL NEEDED TO LAND A JOB.  Everyday, I meet with graduates who are applying for entry-level positions with their newly minted diplomas.  Unfortunately, 99% of them are missing the most important piece needed to solving the job offer puzzle.

The last two posts were centered on the skills and topics which should be included in the college class schedule during a 4-year education.  Two weeks ago, the topic was public speaking and why I think this is so important to landing a job and a successful career. Last week’s post pointed out why, English, Accounting and advanced skills in Microsoft Excel will help you stand out in the interview process and then after you are hired. I am not saying to go earn a degree in English.  I am saying that advanced skills in these areas are rare.  They are needed in every aspect of the job and will absolutely make a candidate stand out in today’s economy. 

If you are an effective public speaker, strong writer, and have a better than average understanding of Accounting and Excel; I am confident these skills will put you in the “must call” pile of resumes. Remember, if you are an electrical engineering major, everyone applying for the entry-level engineer position will have an EE degree.  If you have a general business degree, everyone applying for entry-level positions will have a Bachelors or an MBA. What will separate you from the rest of the pack are strengths with the above 4 tools. They separate you because so few candidates are familiar with them and they can be leveraged in any position.  

Effective public speaking and writing is needed to help you land a job and then communicate your ideas once hired.  With Excel, even if you don’t understand the business, you can be put to work on a task that can make a difference in the first week at a new job, and you don’t need to fully understand the business.  When it comes to Excel, it is very easy to prove advanced proficiency during the interview. I would be proactive in making the skill known. I list accounting because every company is working towards a bottom line and most employees don’t understand what that bottom line is.  Most managers assume their employees do not understand financials at even a basic level. Consequently, employees who understand financials are looked at as much more mature than their peers.      

These 4 skills are areas you can improve through your college career.  By the time you graduate, you can make an immediate and significant impact during the job interview and immediately after you are hired. These skills will help you stand out so that when it comes time for your 90-day review, you can not only check the appropriate boxes, but will have had a shot at adding value to projects your peers wouldn’t even be qualified for. 

As promised, this week I reveal THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL FOR LANDING A JOB.  

What skill do I see most candidates missing?  What do most college class schedules lack during the a $40 – $100K, 4-year education?  Most college graduates have the credentials and degrees needed to land a job.  What most college graduates are missing the specific skills needed to interview their way to a job offer. 

This is a generalization, but I firmly believe that a lot more candidates would be receiving job offers if they knew how to go about the networking, resume, interviewing, and the salary negotiation process.  I don’t believe that this is a skill that graduates are including in their college class schedules. Because of this, my next business will be HRNasty’s job interview boot camp complete with CD’s and interactive videos.  But wait, if you act in the next 10 minutes I will throw in the top interview questions and answers!

Interviewing skills are not just needed so we can land a position, but so we can walk away with a stronger offer.  Knowing how to interview will also make us better interviewers.  Being a more accomplished interviewer will help you build a stronger team. 

Most of the recent graduates I meet fall into two categories. 

Category 1:

Received no exposure to any instruction or mentorship when it comes to finding a job.  Parents and college career counselors may have offered some advice, but the guidance is usually outdated.  I say this because of the old school questions and tactics I see candidates using in todays job hunt. Times have changed and this was proved when so many laid off baby boomers were not able to land jobs in 2007.  

Category 2:

This group is only one step ahead of group 1, but essentially in the same sinking boat.  This group of recent graduates has been through a single, one or 2-hour interview training session, conducted in a large group setting. One or 2 hours isn’t enough time to learn this dynamic skill. We spend 15 to 20 hours a week studying topics in our field of study for 2 years. We spend $50K to $100K or more over 4 years to qualify for a position. Why do candidates spend only 1 or 2 hours learning how to land the job we worked so hard to qualify for? It is tough to learn any skill in an hour, let alone THE single skill that will make the 4-year college investment pay off. Job landing skills are taken for granted at the university level. 

Category 3:

The third category is one I run into very infrequently, but I know it exits. Colleges with solid business programs will have a business club or business association. These clubs offer interview prep sessions and will not listed in the class directory. These informal groups will have an organized program, which will help students with their resumes and interview skills. The sessions are not just 1-2 hours, but are in the 20 – 30 hour range with multiple mock interviews. These candidates usually perform very well during an interview.  If landing a job was the goal of going to school then these candidates received what they needed out of their college experience. These sessions weren’t required to graduate mind you, these sessions were extra-curricular and outside the college class schedule. 

Remember, it isn’t the person most qualified for the job that receives the offer, but the person that is the most prepared for the interview.  

I remember hearing the story of fighter pilot training and I think the analogy is the relatable.  During the World War, it was recognized that if a fighter pilot made it through 7 dogfights, their chance of surviving the subsequent dogfights increased exponentially.  This number seemed to be the magic number where pilots learned enough to be successful and return home. Many pilots failed on their first mission and didn’t return. As pilots approached their 7th dogfight, they gained enough experience to be successful. With this in mind, the Air Force put together a training program that would provide the pilots with the proficiency level of a pilot that had 7 dogfights before sending them off to combat.

I try to use the same theory when I work with recent graduates by getting them to a level of comfort where they can be successful. A single mock interview won’t do it.  This is why I don’t care for the 2-hour seminar that covers networking, resume writing, interviewing and salary negotiation. Getting a candidate comfortable with the equivalent of 7 mock interviews does a lot. With 7 real life interviews, you get the experience, but you do NOT get any feedback on your performance. With multiple mock interviews, you get the most important piece of the puzzle, feedback on your answers and your body language.  We crash and burn in the mock interview, not in the actual dogfight.

If you are in school, my recommendation is to skip the 2-hour interview prep show.  My advice is to beg, borrow or steal your way to the interview prep series of classes put on by the School of Business or MBA program.  If you have already graduated, read and take notes on blogs like this one and Google “top 40 interview questions for “your position here”.  A degree isn’t enough anymore so don’t take the suggested college class schedule for granted.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”.

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college experience

You have a degree, but do you have the skills to land a job?

Required topics for the college experience  

Last week, we posted on the topic of how gaining specific skills during the college experience can impact a corporate career. There are a lot of pros and cons to the college experience.  The cost of an education these days is astronomical and I often wonder how parents and young people manage.  In my position, I see a lot of young people struggle to land a job after college that will leverage their hard earned and expensive degree.

Last weeks post provided business reasons why I believe that effective public speaking is so important to the corporate career. Not only does the ability to speak in front of others help you with your job interview (think panel interviews and stressful presentations) but it will also put your career on a completely different trajectory. Effective public speaking will separate you from the group that doesn’t like to speak publicly OR doesn’t want to speak publicly. If you have a reputation as being an effective public speaker, opportunity will come. 

This week, I am going to write about 4 more topics that I think are critical to a career in the new economy. 

English

A few years ago, I posted a blog for candidates who are veterans to help these candidates over come military stereotypes while trying to enter the job market.  My father-in-law was a Colonel in the US Army so I asked him to proof read the post before I shared it publicly. My intent was to receive counsel on the content. My goal was to make sure that I wasn’t offending anyone in the military or misrepresenting this demographic.  Well, I hit the content, but the redlined document I received back reminded me of my grade school days. Corrections in red marker were everywhere. It didn’t help that I had forgotten that my father in law taught English at WestPoint and served with General Colin Powell. I realized then and there where the terms “mark up” and “redline” in Microsoft Word originated. I am sure that he was wondering who was the illiterate monkey his daughter married as he was grading the paper. I remember saying out loud and in disbelief:

“WTF is a Dangling Participle!” 

There is a reason that English is more important than ever and it isn’t to learn about the dangling participle.  20 years ago, we didn’t have email, text, voice to text or the various forms of instant messenger / chat. I would estimate that 80% of my communication is via email and most of my “thought leadership” is provided in some form via written communication. Many of us “chat” with co- workers that sit right next to us.    

Make no mistake, I am not recommending an English major if you want a job in corporate America.  30 years ago, an English major could land just about any entry-level job.  In the year 2014, colleges should ask students to sign an English Major Waiver. This document would acknowledge the fact that the student understands the repercussions of approaching corporate America with an English major in hand. This is similar to the way I look for our employees to sign a waiver acknowledging that we serve alcohol in the workplace . Both waivers have their place and their reasoning, but it is probably going to get ugly and you are probably “going to see some shit go down”, so proceed at your own risk and think about your tolerance for the consequences.

With so much communication done over email, it isn’t just updates and general correspondence anymore.  Ideas are only as good as the message delivered. You can have a great idea, but if you aren’t able to articulate yourself, you might as well be mute. Effective writers can type their message once and be done with it. Others need multiple drafts and yet others, should have their fingers removed.  Polished writing has it place in corporate America and poor grammar will give you unwanted visibility. 

Accounting

Both for-profit and non-profit companies need to hit a bottom line and answer to a Board of Directors.  If we don’t know where we are financially, what’s the point of the business.  After the crash of 1999 and 2008 we should ALL know how to read a financial statement.  We should all have some sense of which direction the companies that write our paychecks are going.  This is a stretch, but if we understood basic accounting principles we might not have so much credit card debt and mortgages we couldn’t afford. 

There is nothing more impressive than an employee that is deep in their discipline AND understands the business. Individual contributors understand their discipline. Sr. managers and execs have mastered their discipline and understand the business. They are able to see the big picture and will only be given a budget if they know how to manage one.

Microsoft Excel  

All candidates understand Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, and Word.  When I ask about Excel, the usual response is “Yes, I know Excel”.  When I follow up with “What can you do in Excel?” the usual response is “Lists, sorting and basic functions, yes I know Excel”.  

If I could go back in time and buy a bunch of Google stock I would.  Since I can’t, I will think about the next best thing. If I could go back to school and do it all over, I would focus on Excel or some database skill-set.  The cost of electronic storage has changed the game around how much we care about data.  Recent innovations in the field of Big Data have raised the bar on how companies and managers view analytics. I don’t expect a recent graduate to understand Tableau or MySQL, but pivot tables, joins, sorts and advanced equations will put a recent graduate on the map.

This is my Achilles heel and I continue to take classes to improve this skill set. Had I paid more attention in class, I might have saved myself a lot of heartache.  

Next week, I reveal what I believe to be the MOST important class to take in college to land a job. 

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

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