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5 Ways to Make Your College Degree Matter in the Real World

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Advice to Help You Add Value to Your Degree

I’m a 22-year-old recent college graduate and just took a job as a professor. Like my peers, I have a lot of friends who graduated from college in the last few years who have a decent degree and a dead-end job. (I know a lot of philosophy majors working at Starbucks). It’s a fear a lot of us have in college, post-college, and for more and more young people, a reason not to even bother with higher-education. As a teacher, I have a lot of reasons you should pursue education, but that’s another article entirely. Here are 5 ways you can make your college degree matter:

1.   Value your education. The reason behind this is simple, why would an employer value an education that you have come to find worthless? Both during school and on the job search, remind yourself that your education has value. Just having a degree shouldn’t get you the job, you still have a lot to learn, but learning to value your education can help you become a lover of learning,

2.   Frame what you know. Having a degree is great, but there are increasingly more 20-somethings out there with a degree. Apart from valuing what you learned, make sure to frame what you studied in a way that it matters to the job you want. You can do this by thinking about classes you took and how what you learned in the courses may give you a story to tell during an interview, rewriting your resume to use keywords, or if you’re still in college, taking electives that are more relevant than underwater-basket weaving.

3. Don’t fret if you took underwater-basket weaving! School is hard and sometimes its nice to take an elective just for fun (I took cardio hip-hop my junior year). Consider if there is a reason you took that class aside from the fact that it wasn’t at 8am. What did you learn in that class that someone else didn’t learn? Make use of your new skill and capitalize on it. I was able to teach beginning hip-hop at a dance studio since I had taken my 1 credit hour of cardio hip-hop. While I do have lots of other dance and teaching experience, I now can add hip-hop to my repertoire of things I can teach. You might not make money but you can still benefit from a course. Hopefully you still gained a skill that you can teach, volunteer, or network with!

4. Do HARD things. I am convinced that if you live like every other college student, when you graduate you will look no different than any other college graduate. So ditch the crap-credit you’re about to take and do something difficult. Apply for top scholarships, take on undergraduate research, get a job while you’re still taking classes, study abroad and make it count, start your own business. Whatever it is, do something that no one else you know is doing. I guarantee you will make more connections and eventually benefit more from taking the opportunity to do something difficult and you will profit way more than your peers. For more reading on this check out "Do Hard Things" by Alex and Brett Harris on Amazon.

5.      Find the themes and discover your niche. Take a look at your past jobs, classes, major, hobbies, etc. and find some common themes. Somewhere in that mess of life there are themes of things you are passionate about, you are good at, and that only you can do! I started putting together my teaching skills in communication, with my Appalachian heritage, and the opportunities I had to learn Chinese and got $1,000s in scholarships, job offers, speaking engagements, and was able to base a new program off my experience and conduct research on the topic… which has led to more job offers, research opportunities, a larger network, and a world of new ideas. You don’t have to speak Chinese, be from Appalachia, and teach communication to find a niche—just find the themes!

"Do Hard Things"

Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
Amazon Price: $17.99 $5.13 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 10, 2015)
An inspiring book about becoming the awesome young person that you are!


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