There is a lot of conversations online about the purpose and/or need for a college degree. The Colégas Group is squarely on the side of supporting a college education for everyone. That said, there is some push-back as to why we need college in the first place. As some of the rhetoric goes, there are plenty of vocational jobs that one can get without the need for a college degree. True, but consider that given the prevalence of hybrid and all-electric vehicles, even being a mechanic will require some knowledge of computers and related technology. This makes an associate’s degree a pretty reasonable expectation in today’s market and into the future.
So then, what sort of work can you get with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate? The short answer is, it depends. I know…not helpful. But, it really does depend. It depends on you to make sense of your education…not your academic advisor, not your thesis advisor, not your dissertation chair…you. Your education provides you with many options, and the outcomes depend on you. Most degrees provide you with a foundation of transferrable skills. It is up to you to identify those skills, and then couple them with the important in-class and out-of-class lessons you gained from your college education. This is the stuff that you will end up outlining on a resume and cover letter.
I know what your next question will be…how do I do that? In my previous blog addressing Imposter Syndrome, I gave you a Knowledge Inventory Guide to outline your skills and abilities across a few “capital” categories: intellectual, social, creative, cultural and spiritual. Hopefully you’ve done that already. If you haven’t, I suggest you do so before you go any further.
Now that you’ve got your Knowledge Inventory outlined, let’s see if we can now map these into more skills-based categories. Some of these skills will sound very familiar as they have been your go-to skills to get through your academic program. Here are some ways to categorize your skills:
- Project management
- Time management
- Organizing events
- Managing a budget (personal or for a grant)
- Overseeing undergrad or graduate research assistants
- Mentoring and coaching peers
- Interpersonal skills
- Skilled in working with diverse groups
- Leading small or large groups
- Creating or doing something new
- Earning money
- Being resilient
- Winning awards and grants
- International travel and experience
- Public speaking
- Multi-lingual abilities
- Teaching a course
- Keeping the important people informed about your progress
- Web, email, content creation and social media
Knowledge & Information Skills
- Critical thinking
- Research & analysis
- Managing data & information
- IT applications & programming languages
- Subject matter expertise
(Transferrable Skills categories inspired by Chris Humphrey’s blog, jobsontoast.com.)
Now stand back and look at how your Knowledge Inventory maps on to the Skills categories. Now use the Skills categories to rate your proficiency from 1-5 (the familiar Likert Scale), with “1” being “No Knowledge/Experience” and “5” being “Expert”. Be honest with yourself because it will be you sitting in that interview chair accounting for what you said on your resume and cover letter. After you’ve done this, sit back and think about what you’ve determined to be your “5s”. Group those together. You’ve just identified your Transferrable Skills.
Transferrable skills are those abilities that transgress tasks. They may or may not reflect the core aspects of your college major. Your major was a starting point from which to begin your intellectual journal of self-discovery. Transferrable skills are abilities you can rely on to help you get a task done well. Whether that be coordinating a training session or planning the next company picnic; pitching a proposal to a client or taking the lead on a reorg in your unit. No matter what task you are asked to do, or you initiate, your transferrable skills give you the confidence to say, “I can do that!” Transferrable skills are the outcome of your intellectual self-discovery and form the foundation of your professional identity.
Now that you have your Knowledge Inventory and your “5s” Transferrable Skills in front of you, you have a road map with which to determine the types of jobs you can apply to. For example, maybe your skills are heavily weighted in Knowledge and Information Skills. Then look for an analyst position. If you are stronger in Communication Skills, look for work in training or public relations.
As I mentioned before, there is often no direct connection between your college education and the type of work you will end up doing as a career. Do the work now to assess your skills and abilities that can transfer into employment opportunities. Reflect on both the in-class and out-of-class lessons you learned in college. There were challenges and successes that you experienced during this time. Remember the investment you made in yourself to earn that degree. This is the essence of being a Collegiate Gigster, and you have a lot to offer any employer.
This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.