What can you actually DO?

When you graduate from college, most employers will care more about your answer to one question than just about any other, including:

  • Where did you go to college?
  • Was it a prestigious school?
  • What was your major?

The question:  What can you actually do?

I’ve met business majors from prestigious colleges who couldn’t interpret a profit and loss statement, deliver a sales presentation, or write a compelling proposal.  I’m not indicting prestigious colleges or business majors.  But whether you study accounting or philosophy, if you want to get a job after graduation in this economy, you’ll need to demonstrate what you can actually do.

A finance major who spent two summers in college interning at an accounting firm, who learned how to write a budget, how to minimize operating costs, and how to negotiate a contract–she’s got valuable skills employers can use today

A literature major who worked for three years in her college’s department of public affairs, who rewrote all the copy for the department’s website, contributed 40 articles to the school’s blog, and co-created a marketing plan that helped increase student attendance at football games by 20%–he can do a lot more than quote Shakespeare.  He can improve and even help grow an organization. 

A music major from a division III school that had no marching band, who organized her own group of jazz musicians to play at the basketball team’s halftime shows, who arranged the music and directed the band herself–she hasn’t just earned a degree—she’s got skills that would benefit any school or community that wants to incorporate music.  And she’ll leave a legacy behind when she leaves college.

To be successful today, you need more than just a college degree in the right major.  You need to know how to actually do something with those credentials.  Plenty of colleges—not just the prestigious ones—will give you opportunities not just to learn whatever interests you, but also to manage, lead, write, number-crunch, counsel, or do just about anything else you enjoy and could use to start a successful career. 

There will likely never be a time in your life after college when you're presented with so many opportunities to choose.  It’s just going to be up to you to make the most of them wherever you go.