By Brad Minton
For a long time, the school of thought was that achieving a 4-year degree would be a promise of success and that just graduating would be enough. While it’s true that having a Bachelor’s degree certainly provides graduates an advantage in terms of access to opportunity and income potential as it always has, the value is no longer just an unconscious assumption. The value is not in the paper.
The real return on investment of a Bachelor’s degree is not the degree itself, but what happens from orientation to graduation. To get the best return on investment (ROI), college students need to build the transferable skills that employers want as outlined by NACE’s Career Competencies. This not only adds employability value, but creates more onramps to stay versatile and/or change course if needed. Here are three ways to get the best ROI on your college degree.
Joining A Club/Group
When considering the transferable skills that employers want, connecting to a career or major focused club or organization builds so many important skills. It helps to cultivate interpersonal communication and teamwork. Often, these organizations involve organizing and planning meetings, events, and learning opportunities with diverse individuals and stakeholders. Students can develop capacity to collaborate on projects, lead teams, all while showing prospective employers your desire to grow and develop within a respective field.
TASK: Students should seek out campus’ student activities office or attend the campus organization’s fairs to identify which groups exist and which can help elevate their professional standing and build transferable skills.
Engage in Research
There are so many opportunities for students to volunteer with their faculty on various research projects. Engaging in faculty-led research enables students to cultivate essential transferable skills highly valued by employers such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical abilities, crucial for informed decision-making they would encounter in the workplace. Moreover, research involvement fosters effective communication, adaptability, and teamwork, as students navigate challenges, present findings, and collaborate with different levels of stakeholders. This experience equips students with a well-rounded skill set, enhancing their appeal to potential employers.
TASK: Students can research faculty in their respective majors and explore the research interests of each. Students can attend department meetings and seminars to stay current on projects in progress and upcoming. Finally, students can find on-campus positions through online college job postings as research assistants which are paid positions.
Seek Out An Internship
While some programs don’t explicitly require an internship it’s vital that students gain relevant work experience prior to graduation as many employers expect a level of experience beyond the classroom. College internships not only can be used for course credit but they greatly help address the gap between theory and application that so many graduate feel when they don’t get these experiences. From the skills standpoint, internships help students translate their knowledge to the workplace in the areas of technology acquisition, critical thinking, while helping to build professionalism.
TASK: Students can reach out to their Career Services Offices, Academic Advisors, and explore student job boards to identify internship opportunities aligned to their career goals.