In Ian’s blog post on the value of college degrees, he explains how the internet has democratized the education experience and that employers value skills, rather than credentials, in the modern world. This dynamic creates a double-edged sword. On the one hand, degrees hold less value, so proving that you are worthy of a job offer presents a formidable challenge. However, every opportunity masquerades as a challenge, and the necessity of proving yourself can drive you to channel your creativity into acquiring skills and demonstrating your potential in novel ways.
In order to prove yourself as a qualified candidate, you may need to stretch your comfort zone, acquire new skills, and engineer your own education experience. Here are five ways to take the plunge:
Lead an Initiative
Are you a member of any student organizations at your school? If you are a member of anything from student governments to social clubs, you can step up to lead an initiative, often without being appointed to a specific position. Leading an initiative can be an excellent way to build management, planning, and execution skills, while differentiating yourself as a self-starter.
How do you do this? First, identify a problem or unmet need that your organization can affect. Next, ideate potential solutions, and formulate a plan. Once you have a solid plan, ask for help and form a team. Finally, delegate tasks to your team members, and put your plan into action. When you are finished, take some time to reflect on your successes and failures, then apply your lessons to your next initiative.
Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go according to plan or if you struggle to form a team and execute. No matter what happens, the experience will provide valuable lessons that you can apply to your future work and initiatives.
Start a Student Organization
Do you see an unmet need that doesn’t fall under the umbrellas of existing organizations? Maybe it’s time to start your own student organization. By applying similar principles to the ones for leading initiatives, you can start a new student organization.
Although the scale and level of difficulty are slightly higher, new organizations are basically the same as new initiatives and serve as a great education experience enmass. Finding early members can be tough, so don’t be afraid to start small. One of the benefits to starting small is that the group will be more tight-knit and the founding members will form closer bonds.
When starting a new organization, be careful not to overlap with existing organizations. College campuses can be large places, so make sure to do your market research, and make sure that the need you see is actually unmet. If you find that an organization is already tackling the issue you had in mind, it may be better to join or partner with them to improve their offerings.
Write a Blog (Not About Yourself)
Are you fascinated by a specific sector or niche? If you find yourself spending all of your free time learning about a specific topic, then blogging may be an excellent way to share your knowledge and establish your expertise.
When you start your blog, it is quite alright if you aren’t an authority in your area of interest. Just view your blog as an invitation to the world to join you on your learning journey. As you research and read about your interests, you will naturally find material and insights to share.
A wise man once told me that having a blog is like caring for a Chia Pet. You have to feed it consistently.
Build a Website
Would you like to learn how to code? While free educational resources, such as Codecademy, can be useful, you quickly forget everything you learn, unless you apply your knowledge. Building and maintaining a website provides a wonderful way to ingrain coding skills into your memory, while simultaneously creating a showpiece for your newfound abilities.
Some people may recommend you create a personal website or interactive resume to help with your job search, but I encourage you to create something of greater value. You could build a website to spotlight local businesses or student organizations. What if you aggregated resources to create a list of campus offerings? Honestly, the options are endless. Just pick something cool, and give it a go.
Launch a Venture
What if you could combine options 1-4 into one gigantic learning experience? Launching a venture involves leading initiatives within an organization that you start. Whether you decide to go non-profit or for-profit, you will need to establish credibility, so building a website and digital marketing (blogging/social media) are essential.
Similar to starting an organization, you should start small with your venture, taking things one step at a time. Although it may seem like a massive undertaking, your venture does not need to be an overnight success. Since most new ventures fail to survive, it’s best to consider your first entrepreneurial rodeo as a learning experience and not sink too much money into it.
If you are looking for resources to get started, the Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneurship.org is a perfect place to begin.
Stop Dreaming and Do.
Now that you have some ideas, go out and create your own project. By embarking on an initiative, you will further your own education experience and present yourself as a more qualified job candidate. These shouldn’t just be seen as resume boosters, but experiences that can lead you towards a career path that you will actually enjoy! Plus, there’s always the chance that one of your projects takes off, and you find yourself using Scouted to hire candidates.