The job market is full of college-educated Americans. With so many people boasting bachelor degrees, associate degrees, and even master’s degrees, it’s no longer safe to assume that a college degree is the magic ticket that will kick-start a career.
According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 90 percent of businesses value skills far more than they do any particular degree. That means that individuals, regardless of the level of education they are pursuing, should carefully choose classes that will not only help their degree, but also their future employability. (See also 7 Skills Today’s Employers Value Most)
Here are a few great skills-boosting electives to consider.
1. Business writing
Not all business writing classes include the same curriculum, but this type of course typically teaches students how to write memos, professional emails, reports, grant applications, presentations, cover letters, and resumes. These classes occasionally also focus on utilizing word processing software, creating technical graphics, and developing a professional online portfolio.
This elective should leave you with a large collection of sample writing for your online portfolio, a few more writing skills to add to your resume, and an enhanced ability to communicate non-verbally.
2. Communication and public speaking
Communication skills can help you speak with confidence, interact effectively in groups, and deliver speeches and presentations. The ability to communicate effectively can be vital to landing jobs, building professional relationships, and kick-starting a career.
These classes give formal training in group communication, creating and delivering presentations and speeches, and delivering an effective interview. Individuals learn soft skills like how to interact with an audience, how to dress professionally, and how to read body language, too.
Classes that focus on business communication might also focus on communicating effectively over a variety technological platforms, including social media sites, phones, presentation programs, and visual communication programs. (See also: How to Make Public Speaking Less Terrifying)
3. Digital communication and electronic marketing
As of 2017, well over two billion people use social media. Due to that staggeringly high number, the importance of social media communication has grown significantly over the last decade. New jobs, like social media managers, have been created. Even if individuals don’t pursue a social media job, expertise in digital communication and electronic marketing is a valuable skill.
Nonprofessional social media experts can still use social media to locate jobs, engage in social networking, and promote their own work online.
Classes typically start by examining the basic principles and concepts behind the use of digital information and communication technology. Once a baseline is laid, students often learn about the marketing and communication use of various digital tools (from email, to text, to social media). By the end of the class, students will know the best marketing and communication strategies using these various digital tools. (See also: 9 High-Paying Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago)
4. Computer software skills
Computer software skills can be imperative to career success in many traditional office jobs. People (even those who don’t have a college degree) can increase their employability if they have advanced software skills. Community colleges, in particular, tend to have a few courses that focus primarily on walking students through the ins and outs of various software programs.
These courses tend to focus on presentation, spreadsheet, and document processing software. The curriculum also tends to focus on current business standards for document creation and formatting.
5. Web development and programming
While not all office jobs require programming skills, basic knowledge of web development can be a useful career enhancer. Editors, web managers, writers, and various other positions prefer to hire candidates that already know the ins and outs of creating or at least maintaining a website.
Budding entrepreneurs or self-employed professionals could benefit from a course that focuses on the practical aspects of startups. Before diving headfirst into their world-changing business idea, hopeful entrepreneurs can arm themselves with knowledge that can help them succeed.
This class typically teaches students about the challenges of opening, running, financing, and marketing a successful startup or small businesses. The class also delves into the typical behaviors and beliefs of successful business owners, and leaves students with the knowledge they need to succeed on their own. (See also: The Top 7 Blogs for Entrepreneurs)
7. All-encompassing professional skills classes
Not all, but some colleges have begun to create classes that focus entirely on helping students build the necessary skills to thrive in a professional work environment. If you can’t work a few skill-oriented classes into your schedule, you might want to see if you can find a class that just focuses on general skill development.
Boise State University, for example, offers a series of courses on professional development. Some of the skills these courses focus on include self-awareness, teamwork, leadership, networking, and interviewing. Students tackle individual and team-based activities. Many of the activities are designed to mimic typical workplace scenarios, so that students can develop skills and experiences that are relevant to a professional workplace.
Individuals, no matter their current educational status, may benefit from attending college classes that teach useful career skills. If a college class isn’t possible for you at this point, you can search for the multitude of free or cheap books, websites, or video resources out there to help build your skills.