March 25, 2019

Translating College Experiences to Employment Qualifications

Translating your college experiences into meaningful qualifications goes beyond thinking about what you’re good at.  It’s an art form that takes a lot of work (and patience)!

I remember getting ready for college graduation with two big questions on my mind:  (1) “Why is AOL dial-up so slow??” and (2) I have a ton of cool college experiences – how do I translate these into skills potential employers really care about??”

Well, I think most college students don’t ask themselves my first question anymore – haha. But I bet there’s still a ton of upcoming graduates still asking themselves that second question everyday – lots of experiences, not sure how to package it for the “real world.”

For the next several weeks, I’m focusing on those getting ready to walk across the stage and graduate from university.  My intent – get you (and probably your parents, too) ready for life outside the classroom.  Topics will range from Networking to Mindset – all incorporating my experiences in the “real world” to guide you.

This week I’m diving-deep on a topic I hear a lot from my college clients – translating university experiences into meaningful employment qualifications.  Most folks start with the job/company and try to fit from that perspective.  Scratch that!  I think professional engagement comes from the opposite approach – start with you first!

Here’s my (secret) recipe for success to translate your college experiences into meaningful job qualifications:

Mind-map your university experiences:  This is where I recommend you start. Take an hour to create a mind-map of all your cool/interesting/meaningful college experiences.  Write down experiences that got you out of bed in the morning. For me, it was stuff like Freshman Orientation Leader, Newspaper Editor, and Fraternity Social Chair.  Does not have to be job/internship related!  Where were you exhibiting skills that you want to find in your first gig – start there!

Know what you value: After you get a sense of all your meaningful college experiences, use the mind-map to dive deeper into the value those things created for you.  What muscles did you flex (and want to flex in the future)? Communication? Dealing with Ambiguity? Influencing Others? Leading a team? Getting a sense of the behaviors you enjoyed during those experiences is a great next step.  Make sure to write down those muscles you want to use in the future.

Know what employer’s value: Now that you know what experiences brought value to you, get a sense of what organizations value.  Where to start?  Check-out Mission Statements, Leadership Principles, Company Values.  Companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon make these values front-and-center – you want to make sure the stuff you’re good at (and interested in) matches what the organization finds valuable as well.  Jot down potential companies that match your experiences/values.

Get a sense of the right language:  I find that clients often don’t know how to “talk-the-corporate-talk.”  I get it.  It’s sometimes (ok, often times) an entirely different language.  “Resource Management,” “Performance Metrics,” “Scale,” and “Managing Up/Across/Down” just to name a few. But on the softer/human side, you can get a sense of how to translate your experiences appropriately for each company. Check-out language in Job Descriptions, see how the organization describes products, and talk to those in your network about how to position your experiences/value.  You’ll quickly find yourself a master of corporate jargon! (bet they didn’t teach that in school!) Connect your experiences/values to the right company language – see how it fits!

Have intent in your approach: Now that you know yourself, your experiences/value and potential organizations a little better, take time and create intent in your search.  I wrote about the Power of Intent last month, and it’s important to practice here as well.  Write down the type of experience(s) you want next.  Meditate on your potential path(s). Smile and try not to be too hard on yourself (easier said than done, I know).  Know that this is a journey and the first path out of college might not be perfect. Give yourself 10 mins a day to focus on your journey!

Learn, Iterate, & Practice: The real test comes when you’re out talking to potential employers. You might find your language needs to change or your “minor” experiences are actually pretty big! That’s awesome to know!  I always tell my clients – flexibility is key and the fun (and awesome job) comes from the journey.  Take notes after each interaction. Constantly ask yourself, “How can I get better?”

Your homework this week: Start!! Let’s take that first step. Spend an hour creating your “Experience Mind-Map.” Get a good sense of what experiences you’ve had on campus and the value it’s created for you. Research companies that might fit YOU instead of the traditional approach of forcing you to fit the company.  Needing some help thinking about it, let me know!

Coming-up next time:  Mental preparedness is key to a successful transition out of the classroom and into the real world. Next time – best practices for staying mentally focused and managing those Gremlins that are going to start popping-up the second you leave that stage!

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

Tom Perry's Signature

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