New Expectations of College Students (And The Secret to Meeting Them)

Scott Wofford

Expectations of college students have increased dramatically in the past few years.  With rising tuition costs and an extremely competitive job market, students are expected to do more with less.  From the perspective of a recent college graduate, here are some thoughts about what it takes to be a competitive candidate for entry-level positions in today’s economy:

In addition to stellar grades, active campus involvement, and tenacious networking, college students need the following things to be competitive candidates for entry-level positions:

  1. Career goals.  Students must start their careers at the beginning of college, not the end.  A specific, but flexible plan allows students to fit the elements (below) necessary to become a qualified graduate.  This includes tenacious devotion to networking with professionals in your chosen sector/city and early internships.
  2. Four or more internships.  Perhaps in a better economy two or three internships would suffice.  However given the competitive job market, four or more internships set you apart from the competition.  Job experience is the single-most important factor in hiring and internships are the best way to gain career experience in college. 
  3. One semester of international experience.  Globalization is the business trend of the 21st century, and a semester abroad during college is the key to getting in on the action.  Not only does a semester abroad show adaptability to an unfamiliar environment, but also it shows you can provide value to a company by understanding global trends. 
  4. Fluency in a second language.  Although many job descriptions do not explicitly require a second language, fluency impresses employers and positions you as a professional equipped for  future assignments. It demonstrates discipline and illustrates the ability to learn new skills. 

Unreasonable expectations?  Not if you know the secret to success: Blend not Balance (adapted from Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Who’s Got Your Back).  Instead of trying to fit everything into a time slot, it’s essential to creatively blend these expectations.

Here are a few creative ways to blend:

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