Three Ways to Help Your College Student Build Marketable Skills

Marketing Skills

Written by Christina Cadang

In my career advising work, it’s not uncommon to encounter students who grossly underestimate their qualifications for even the most entry-level of jobs and internships, and in doing so, take themselves out of the running before even entering the race. Oftentimes, this tendency is fueled by the misconception that hard skills and directly-related experience are the only things that appeal to employers. While we know this is not the case, for many who take this career myth as truth, it can prove stifling to their pursuit of jobs, internships, and related skill-building opportunities that could set them up for success.

As parents, we can play an important role in helping our student uncover and further develop marketable skills to allow for a more successful transition from college to career. Below are ways you can inspire your college student to start reflecting and take action towards building skills employers seek.

Broaden limiting definitions of marketable skills and experience

Per the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2020 survey, problem-solving skills, ability to work with a team, leadership, and communication skills are among the top ten attributes employers seek on college graduates’ resumes. Two out of the ten include hard skills, namely, analytical/quantitative skills and technical skills. However, these rank as number four and ten, respectively, debunking myths that overemphasize the importance of hard skills over soft skills in the world of work. By expanding students’ definition of marketable skills to include transferable ones, students may begin to see value in the breadth of skills they already possess. Similarly, it can help them see value in experiences beyond directly-related jobs and internships when considering all of the experiences in which they have likely developed transferable skills—e.g., on-campus jobs, course projects, extracurricular activities and more.

Encourage your student to perform a skills inventory and gap analysis

With this more comprehensive picture of what’s marketable, your student can take a thorough inventory of their own individual skills. Tools such as skills inventories can provide a comprehensive way to explore skills. At the same time, these tools can provide your student a level of self-awareness that inspires further growth when a potential skills gap is revealed. Should there be a discrepancy between the skills required for a job and the skills your student actually possesses, remind your student that bridging this gap is a possibility—especially if there is sincere interest. UC Davis and the Internship and Career Center (ICC) have resources to help.

Refer them to skill-building resources

Bridging a skills gap may entail pursuing experiential education opportunities and additional courses or training. Luckily, UC Davis offers a number of resources to help students strengthen their existing skill sets, as well as develop new competencies. Among them is the online learning platform Coursera, which Aggies can access for free through June 2021. The ICC offers a breadth of resources and services to support students and recent graduates in seeking and securing experiential education opportunities, such as jobs and internships. With resources like these, bridging any gaps and building marketable skills to become a standout applicant is not only a possibility for your student, but a possibility well within reach.