Build Employable Skills

The Invisible Curriculum: Developing Employment Skills

Employers hire individuals, not majors. Your college degree, major, and grade point average represent your potential to perform a variety of tasks - this is your visible curriculum. The skills you develop through actions outside of your visible curriculum can demonstrate to employers your competencies and qualifications for a wide variety of jobs. These skills can easily be developed both within and outside of your classroom experience. Consider the following:

  • Teaching, training, instruction
  • Public speaking; presentation skills
  • Technical and/or creative writing, editing
  • Using computers (word-processing, programming, publishing)
  • Designing (posters, newsletters, layout, brochures)
  • Marketing/Sales
  • Planning events (fund-raising, coordinating, organizing)
  • Managing a budget
  • Working with people (leading, directing, managing)
  • Researching and solving problems
  • Interviewing, counseling
  • Knowledge and use of other languages

Continue reading to discover ways of gaining these skills.

Get Involved in Your Education

  • Get to know faculty. Discuss with them your goals and interests as well as their academic discipline. Faculty may also assist you with career decisions and the job search process, and they are an excellent resource for references.
  • Actively participate in class--ask questions, make thoughtful comments, sit in the front row, volunteer for special projects.
  • Get involved in departmental functions sponsored by faculty or clubs. Look for opportunities to help faculty with their research or to be a faculty assistant.
  • Take independent study courses; this is a good way to get to know faculty and to explore special areas of interest.

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Develop Skills to Complement Your Major

  • Many skills are transferable to a wide range of careers. For example, oral and written communication skills are essential to most professions. Take English and Communication courses as well as other classes that encourage you to refine your writing and presentation skills.
  • Research skills are also useful. Take advantage of opportunities to get involved in research projects. Enroll in classes that emphasize research.
  • Competency in a foreign language and knowledge of other cultures may help you achieve your future goals.
  • Become computer literate. Western's Student Technology Center offers both credit and non-credit courses where you can learn about computers and a variety of software programs.

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Gain Experience

Once you make decisions about the direction you would like to take with your major and/or career path, you can begin to gain knowledge and experience. These experiences can develop leadership, problem-solving, decision-making, and social skills--all highly valued by employers. Experience is also a great way to begin networking and possibly open doors to career opportunities after graduation.

  • Gain professional experience through employment, co-ops, internships and leadership opportunities. Meet with your career advisor and/or faculty in your major(s) for insight into internship opportunities.
  • Look for additional opportunities to volunteer, study abroad, assist with research, and get involved with community service activities.
  • Participate in sports, student government, and clubs.
  • Attend relevant Career Services Center workshops such as:
    • Developing an Internship
    • Introduction to Resumes and Cover Letters
    • Interviewing Skills
    • Job Search Skills
    • How to Prepare for Graduate School
    • How to Build a Portfolio
  • Join student and/or professional organizations.
  • Create and continue to update a portfolio of your work and accomplishments.

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Develop Job Search Skills

Successful job search skills will be critical to your finding employment after graduation! These skills include learning how to locate job opportunities and how to apply for jobs, writing effective cover letters and resumes, and developing effective interview techniques. Begin developing job search skills no later than the beginning of your senior year. The Career Services Center, in Old Main 280, can help.

REMEMBER... It is the INDIVIDUAL who is employed, not the major. Choosing a major does not necessarily equal choosing a career.

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What Employers Look For...From Employers Themselves!

  • Completion of a college degree
  • Work experience, a good work ethic
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Motivation/initiative
  • Analytical skills/research
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Organizational skills
  • Professionalism

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Compiled by the Academic Advising Center and Career Services Center at Western Washington University, with information from Ehrlich, M., (1992). Academic advisement and the career connection. The Journal of the National Academic Advising Association, 14(4), 1-5.

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Page Updated 11.13.2017