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Students searching for jobsI am about to tell you how to increase your odds for getting the job for which your degree qualifies you.

I write this mainly for the seniors and graduates who are looking for a job.

Perhaps you know someone in that situation and will share this advice with them.

Juniors, sophomores and frosh may take even better advantage of this knowledge by using it to make advance preparation.

My advice comes in two parts: (1) do your research; (2) use your education, not just your degree.

I hear many students ask Will this degree get me a job?”

The answer to that question is “No” because your degree is a tool that you must use in combination with other tools to get that job.

“It is not what you can do with your degree, but what you can do with a mind capable of earning that degree.”

Many thousands of others all over the world have degrees just like yours.

That is why you hear human resource departments tell you that your application is one among many.

So the winning move in the employment game is to document your unique abilities that stand out from the many

There are clear ways to accomplish that standout quality and it is a fact that most job applicants do not do so.

The most basic method is to make your resume, cover letter and reference letters match the needs and values of the prospective employer.

How do you know what they need and value? Because you have done your research on that employer.

You should research your job hunt with double the rigor and intensity that you put into any project or paper in school.

Research means learning everything you can about the job, the company and the people who work there, much of which is online.Linkedin network

A critical way to research a job is through the people who work for that company and department.  They all have profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook which will tell you about the work they do, the skills they value and the projects they are working on.

Search for the company in social media to find its employees.

It will take creativity on your part to find the right information and piece it together, but this is not more intellectually challenging than many of the course assignments that you have succeed

You are accomplished at those skills at some level, or else you would not be getting an OSU degree.

In the end it is not what you can do with your degree, but what you can do with a mind capable of earning that degree.

So how do I, Dr. Tech, know all of this? Because I have hired scores of employees and read hundreds of resumes, from high-school volunteers to Vice-Provosts.

Most of the resumes I have seen resemble a grocery list, merely enumerating the jobs worked at.

Such a resume does not include either what you are good at or what the employer is looking for.

Many job seekers bemoan the experience paradox – i.e. you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job.

If you feel trapped in that paradox it is because you have a narrow conception of your own experience.  You have lots of experience; four or five or more years of it at OSU alone.  You just need to recognize the activity of your education as experiential and turn that activity into language that communicates your expertise.

Consider another bit of information gained through research: there are consultants who report every year on industries of all kinds by conducting surveys of companies to find out what skills they are looking for in the people that they hire.

Please read that sentence again. How much would knowing what skills are most valued by the employers that you are applying to be worth? A lot and you can have that information for free just by doing online research.

In this instance I will refer to The Bloomberg Job Skills Report 2016: What Recruiters Want and Forbes’ The Ten Skills Employers Most Want in 20-Something Employees.

For the 2016 report Bloomberg surveyed 1,251 recruiters in 11 industries to find out which skills they rate both highly desired and hard to find.

Forbes based it’s analysis on surveys asking hiring managers what skills they prioritize when recruiting from college graduates.

Here are the skills employers say they seek, in order of importance as rated by employers.

1. Ability to work in a team structure

2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)

3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization

4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work

5. Ability to obtain and process information

6. Ability to analyze quantitative data

7. Technical knowledge related to the job

8. Proficiency with computer software programs

9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports

10. Ability to sell and influence others

The good news is that the learning objectives and requirements for the majority of OSU degrees cover most of the skills on the list, which means that

Bacclaureate Core Writing Skills

OSU Bacc Core Skills

you have practiced them and have the right to claim them on your resume and cover letter.

Those group projects that many students complain about required that you actualize team work, decision processes, planning, communication and influence.

Baccalaureate Core, DPD, WIC and other requirements involve obtaining and processing information in order to write and communicate persuasively.

These are real skills that you have specific and demonstrated evidence of your competence in.

Even better, those skills are explicitly stated in the learning objectives for the courses, so you can refer to objective sources in claiming success with those skills.

If you passed an OSU Bacc Core course, then you succeeded at the skills certified through that course.  Have you mined your course objectives for demonstrated skills?

Draw on that objective evidence and you have unique and demonstrable qualifications to bring your resume and cover letter into the top tier.

That you can communicate, solve problems, find information, and lead a team is exactly the experience that employers say that they want.

They also say that those skills are “hard to find.”

Do not make them hard to find in your resume and cover letter.

As the Forbes article notes; “The survey makes clear that employers want universal skills you can learn across academic disciplines and in any job where you are working with others. The trick is to communicate clearly that you have those skills.”

The trick for you is to take ownership of your acquired skills and take yourself seriously as a fully educated person, not merely an applicant with a degree.

You will accomplish that by researching what your prospective employer values and by researching what skills your OSU education gives you the right to claim as your own.


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Wenger_EvoGrip_S17I hope to persuade you that your summer plans should include a strategy for creating at least one substantive product that demonstrates your skills.

This matters because you will eventually be competing for a job, program or grant and those candidates who have demonstrated relevant skills shall prevail.

It is not hard to demonstrate a skill, but so few people do so that those who grasp its value will gain power.

Here is a formula for demonstrating your skills:

1. Identify a skill to promote

2. Do something that uses that skill

3. Produce a commentary on what you did,

4. Publish your commentary publicly

5. Refer employers and evaluators to your product.

To identify a promotable skill [step 1 of the formula] review the objectives of what you have already accomplished and find out what your potential audience values.

All of the courses and programs that you have completed have performanceimage3 objectives stated in the syllabi or other descriptive documents.

A strong way to prepare an account of your abilities is to review the performance objectives that you have met and write a paragraph expressing the specific knowledge or action that fulfills each objective.

I put each learning objective for the courses that I take (I am pursuing a MA in Psychology) on an index card at the start of the term, then write a statement of specific knowledge that fulfills the objective on each card at the end of the course.

Employers and evaluators tell us what they value and you should pay attention to what they are saying.

Read “The Six Critical Abilities Students Need for Success After College” in Forbes Magazine.

The employable skills listed in that article are; Think analytically, Express ideas effectively through written communication, Exchange ideas effectively through oral communication, Bring innovation to their work, Envisage and work independently on a project, Accept and act on criticism.

Read “IDC study reveals skills today’s students need to succeed in tomorrow’s unimagined world.”

When you look at a job application consider whether any of the parts asked for map to the skills identified by employers in these studies.

Acknowledging what you have accomplished, there is always more that you can do to validate a skill [step 2 of the formula] and the solutions are no further than your mobile phone.

Thousands of online courses, seminars, textbooks, eBooks and audio books are available for free or cheap.

Some of these are validated by universities such as Open Oregon State, MIT OpenCourseware, Stanford Online, and Merlot.

14695-adventures_moduleI recommend that you take a look at “Adventures in Writing” from Stanford Online which is a series of lessons presented in graphic novel style that you can take for free.

I ask you, is “I succeeded in a writing course from Stanford” or “I completed a seminar taught by a Nobel Prize laureate at MIT” worth having in your cover letter?

Even better, all such offerings have performance objectives so that you may map your skills back to what employers are seeking.

Open Culture is a massive repository of free online learning resources.

Even a little bit of computer programming knowledge is valuable in the job market and even the most non-technical of us can gain such knowledge at Khan Academy an Code Academy.

I am not suggesting that you pursue C++ coding, but that a truthful statement such as “mastered the basics of writing macros in Word in this certified tutorial” or “over summer break I learned Javascript which I applied to the website at…”

While you are learning something you may as well turn it into evidence of your competence (step 3 of the formula) by writing a review of the course-book-article-video that you studied and post your review on a blog or a review site such as Goodreads.

With even a small repertoire of such publications (step 4 of the formula) you will have objective evidence of your skills in learning and communication to be references in resumes, cover letters, and applications.

Consider the following statements from two job applications:

“I have excellent communication and collaboration skills.”

“My communication skills are demonstrated by my book reviews at link and my collaboration skills are demonstrated in the report that I produced from a group project at link” [step 5 of the formula].

If you were an employer, which statement would invite you to take another look at the candidate?

If acting on this advice interests you, please send your thoughts and opencultureoutcomes to me at

I wish graduating seniors and all degree recipients luck in entering an amazing career; your path to excellence is just beginning.

Fare ye well and come back to us some times, because once a Beaver always a Beaver.

To you who will return in Fall, have a wonderful summer, plenty of fun, make sure you learn something and make it count for you.


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