The Hunger Games and Your Career

8 May

College can be compared to the training period before The Hunger Games, as referenced in the novel. The contestants were well aware of what they were facing. They were given a brief, specific amount of time to select their strategy and to be intentional about gaining as many relevant skills as possible. At the end of the day, no single strategy could guarantee victory. They could only be diligent in seeking out as many skills and experiences as possible, to best position themselves for victory. Sounds a lot like life, right?

If life is like The Hunger Games, then college is the training ground where the choices you make, or don’t make, weigh heavily on your performance on the field. It is important to note that you have entered into a very open-ended training field, where you can find out what you need to learn, and then train to develop the necessary skills to increase the likelihood of your future success. Or, you can choose to view college as an extended vacation and a postponement of responsibility, only to experience a rude awakening upon graduation.

Working in a University setting, I’ve noticed that a staggering amount of students are expecting a collegiate diploma to be a cheat sheet to life. The reality of the situation is that 2.5 million people will graduate with Bachelors’ Degrees this year alone. Anyone living in our current economy would probably, and accurately assume that there will not be 2.5 million entry-level jobs opening alongside this year’s graduates.

Additionally, study after study lends evidence to the idea that, in the long run, a college degree typically ends up being worth the financial sacrifice incurred. Not to mention that the majority of jobs and careers that pay decently, provide a moderate level of security and satisfaction, and allow for responsibility and growth require at least an Associate’s degree. So, if degrees are beneficial, why are so many employers echoing the complaint of having job openings but being unable to fill them in the midst of a struggling economy? They are citing a lack of skilled applicants. In other words, employers do not have the time, resources, or personnel to train completely new, unskilled applicants. Hence, they are looking for individuals with the academic training and the practical experience to back it up.

Here are 6 things that you can do throughout your time in college to ensure that you are taking advantage of your education:

1. Visit the Career Center. In the Career Center, you’ll find free Career Counseling, resume and cover letter assistance, and mock interviewing, in addition to other career related resources and events. Come early, and come often.

2. Volunteer. Not many employers, agencies, and organizations are going to turn down free labor. Volunteering connects you to professionals in your field, gives you practical experience that you can include in your resume, and allows you to develop the skills that employers are looking for.

3. Intern. Internships give you practical experience in your field, allow you to learn and develop new skills, build your resume, and expand your connections. It doesn’t hurt that nearly 40% of employers hire directly from their internship programs.

4. Start stuff. Are you surprised or frustrated to see that there’s no student club for (insert your interests here)? Who’s stopping you from starting one? You’ll gain skills in leadership, organization, teamwork, branding, promotions and more.

5. Lead. If you’re involved in a club or organization, step it up and become a leader. In addition to leadership skills, you’ll gain additional skills as they pertain to your position.

6. Social media and blogging. Are you familiar with the term “SEO?” Have you ever developed a systematic social media strategy? What do you use to schedule tweets and track analytics for hits on your organization’s Facebook page? If any of that sounded like another language to you, it would be to your benefit to gain some skills in this area if you’re interested in working with Social Media or in a Communications related field. Additionally, blogging hones your writing skills and establishes you as a voice in your field.

Consider this your heads up. Imagine if the participants in the Hunger Games squandered their time of training, only to find themselves unprepared for the harsh realities which they would eventually face. College is not a vacation from responsibility. How you spend your time here will greatly influence what your life looks like when you enter “the real world.” The world is open ended. It becomes a lot less intimidating when you equip yourself with the necessary tools. We in the Career Center would love to help you along your journey.

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