An endlessly curious creator, guest columnist Megan Poletti Kuhar can usually be found making something, whether it’s her company, heypoletti!, music, or a crochet project. Kuhar is the first Assistant Professor of Music Technology at Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music, where she studied percussion and arts management as an undergraduate. She also holds a master’s degree in music technology and an associate’s in recording arts and technology. She lives in Cleveland Heights with her husband Nick, and their handful of a dog Petunia.
Over the past decade, I’ve noticed dramatic changes in what’s expected of a college graduate, especially when it comes time to applying for jobs. Gone are the days of the “one-trick pony.” I tend to see more “Jacks of all trades” instead. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
No matter what your field, there are things you can do in college that will help you stand out as an attractive candidate when you graduate. The best part is, you can get started on them now, whether you’re an incoming freshman or entering your senior year.
1. Embrace “DIY technology”
No millennial should be tech-illiterate. If you are intimidated by technology that is part of your ideal job, take a class that will help, or–if convenience is a factor–check out educational YouTube videos. What’s key is an ability to be self-reliant and proactive. That spirit will give you confidence to manage almost any tech-related request–even if it means Googling the solution.
Creating PDFs, attaching hyperlinks, building basic websites and social media profiles, designing simple graphics (think adding text to a photo or designing a poster), and using cloud storage are skills that are indispensable to almost every job.
2. Always distinguish between formal and informal communication
I’m sure this comes as no surprise: an email should not resemble a tweet. Be sure to use complete sentences, avoid abbreviations (totes obvs), and begin with a greeting that conveys respect. When in doubt, communicate formally and address your professors, mentors, bosses and others with their titles, unless they invite you to do otherwise.
3. Identify secondary skillsets that benefit your primary skillset
When I was applying for my first job, I endured multiple rejections because I didn’t have training in graphic design, and I’m a musician and audio engineer. Being proactive in learning additional, relevant skills not embedded in your curriculum will put you ahead of others in your field, especially if you aim to work for a smaller organization or startup–they are always looking for multi-talented people.
4. Cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t always mean owning a business; it can simply mean being a self-starter. Pick a field you are deeply interested in and the hustle will feel more like a consistent challenge rather than a constant grind. Above all, it’s critical that you maintain a curiosity for learning new things. You are your own motivator. Work like a boss.
5. Be prepared to be surprised
There are going to be times that you’ll be thrown a curve ball, and you have to be ready to catch it. I would never have predicted I’d end up a technology professor and an entrepreneur, especially since I started as a music therapy major. But life happened; I chose different paths that led me in a direction I couldn’t have anticipated. It turns out, I love where I am now! You can’t predict the future. The best you can do is be open-minded to what comes your way.
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