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. Every day, 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 for 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 are 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 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 $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 three categories.
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 today’s job hunt. Times have changed and this was proved when so many laid-off baby boomers were not able to land jobs in 2007.
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.
The third category is one I run into very infrequently, but I know it exists. Colleges with solid business programs will have a business club or business association. These clubs offer interview prep sessions and will not be 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 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,
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 who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.