Often we learn about ourselves and careers through experiences we don’t necessarily plan to have, but you can also gather information and pick up transferable skills (skills you can use in a variety of occupations) by cultivating experience. Some of the opportunities available to students in college are study abroad, clubs/organizations, athletics, internships, community service, and part-time jobs. Not only are these experiences fertile ground for learning, they can also yield great resume entries and interesting anecdotes to share in job interviews.
Transferable skills that you can pick up through these activities include teamwork, goal-setting, decision-making, leadership, appreciation for other cultures, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving skills. All of these are very valuable to employers, but especially any skills involving working together with others to achieve a goal. This is because most jobs in the U.S. are part of the service economy; that is, those workers provide services to other people and organizations. However, even jobs in manufacturing require people to work well as part of a team as different work groups make unique contributions to a project.
Studying abroad in a foreign country allows you to immerse yourself in another culture and possibly become proficient in a another language. Student clubs/organizations set goals to improve lives or increase awareness of particular issues. They use decision-making skills to carefully choose their projects. Through athletics, students can learn leadership as well as interdependence with others as they strive to meet a goal. Internships and part-time jobs provide work experience in a particular field, as well as exposure to the culture of an organization or whole industry. Community service helps one develop citizenship and altruism.
Participation in any of these activities is especially helpful to young adults when the resume is bound to be a bit thin. Naturally, you only want to include on a resume, experience that is relevant to the job for which you apply. Yet a skills-based resume lets you showcase transferable skills relevant to the job. You’ll also have more experiences to draw upon for examples when answering questions in an interview. That can make you a more attractive candidate simply because you engaged in learning experiences outside of the classroom.
One more benefit to your career that you gain by engaging in these activities is that you meet people. The larger your circle of friends and acquaintances, the larger your network will be when you start looking for jobs after college. Students who are involved in these activities are also more likely to graduate because they feel connected to their school. So go to class and do well, but don’t forget to look for opportunities to succeed outside of the classroom.