When I was in college, we had a running joke: every entry-level job description said the position required “3 to 5 years’ experience.” How, we wondered, were we to gain those coveted three to five years of experience if we were automatically disqualified from entry-level jobs? (I never said it was a funny joke.)
If you’re wondering the same thing, join the club. But don’t fret. This article will walk you through one option that is:
Have you considered online learning to supplement your college education? It’s not a shortcut – it’s a solution. And with the variety of courses and platforms available, you’re sure to find what you need, when you need it.
Here’s how online learning can help you land that entry-level job prepared to succeed
First, assess your skills, not just your experience
The first thing to do is to hop on a job board and find a job description for a job you’d want to apply for, if you were currently looking. Or one you WILL apply for, if you’re currently looking. Once you’ve found one, print it out. Make sure you pick a job description that represents the types of jobs you’ll apply for.
Next, grab a highlighter and highlight all the skill-based words in the description – words ranging from “communication” to “XML” in terms of technical competence.
Then, list your skillset. (You have a resume prepared, right? If not, now’s the time to create one. Make a list of all of your work experience, including things like babysitting and the lifeguard job you held in high school.) For each position you’ve held, make a few bullet points about what you did-note that these should start with verbs. Did you: organize, lead, or supervise? Highlight the skills listed under each position on your resume. And remember, softs skills like teamwork and problem solving count!
Next, measure the gap
This step is simple. Compare the skills listed in the job description you’re applying for (hypothetically or actually), to your skills. Ask yourself: what’s missing from my skillset? Make a list of the skills you need to develop to be considered for the position.
Keep in mind what you’re looking for here. Look for skills that are:
- in the job description but entirely absent from your list of skills
- in the job description and in your resume, but where you could stand to level-up
Simple, right? But this is where it can get tricky. This is where the not-so-funny, actually-kinda-tragic, what-do-I-do-now entry-level joke from the introduction comes in. You’re probably thinking, “How am I supposed to fill the gap here, while I’m still in school?”
Don’t panic! Really. There’s a solution you may have overlooked, but that’s what this article is here to point out. Take a deep breath. And congratulate yourself on the skills you’ve developed so far. Then, read on for the solution you need to fill the gap between where you are and where you want to be professionally.
Find the opportunity.
I know what you’re thinking: what opportunity?
I’m talking about online courses that will teach you the hard and/or soft skills you need. Research online courses and you’ll be amazed at how many are out there. You can find courses that will teach you everything from Blockchain technology and Intro. to Bitcoin to Leadership Career Development.
How do you choose a course provider? Look for one that tailors their content to students. You’re more likely to find what you’re looking for if they specialize in your needs as a college student.
And of course, they have to have the courses you’re looking for. Keep in mind that you might need to shop around and take different courses from different vendors. On the other hand, some course platforms will offer the exact combination of skills-based courses you’re looking for, including hard and soft skills.
When you find the course(s) you need to qualify for entry-level jobs, sign up, take the course and level-up.
Then, qualify yourself for that entry-level job. Here’s how:
- List your completed (or in-progress) courses and certifications on your resume.
- When you land the interview, talk about your soft and hard skills.
By the end of this process, your resume should more closely match the job description you’re considering. Keep in mind that it’s okay for some of your skills to be “in process” at this point. Trust me – your prospective employers will be impressed by your initiative.
By now you know that online courses are not a shortcut to meet the requirements of an entry-level job. They’re a way to directly impact your skill level and optimize your skillset for the job.
So, don’t fret if the skillset you present on your resume falls short of the skills required for an entry-level job. Instead, suck it up, look it up and level up. You can do this. There are resources to help if you know where to look and now, you do.
About the author:
Amy Hartsough - Freelance Education Writer
Amy Hartsough is a freelance writer specializing in eLearning, EdTech, and higher education. She can be found at AmyHartsough.com.
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