3 ways to brand yourself beyond your college major

By: Trent Hazy - CEO, MindSumo

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently bragged about the increasing rate of graduating seniors visiting the college career center (49.8% in 2014).

You’d guess this would lead to better hiring outcomes for grads. Unfortunately, it didn’t make much of a difference. The article explains:

The offer rate for those who used the career center improved modestly, increasing by 1.3 percent over those who did not use the career center

This tells me that college students really need to take matters into their own hands if they are going to maximize their chances of getting a job by graduation.

One topic career centers, parents, and professors rarely discuss is how to pitch yourself as more than just your major. Chances are, you selected your course of study as a freshman or sophomore, and the last thing you were thinking about was your career.

As a mentor on MindSumo, I’ve mentored dozens of college students. Here are a few tips I give them about how you can portray yourself as knowledgable in fields other than your major:

1. List Relevant Coursework

If you’ve taken classes related to a job you’re applying to, list them on your resume! Even if it’s an introductory class, showing your academic exposure to Accounting, Engineering, Marketing or other job-related skills can really boost your image as a relevant candidate. This section (often called Relevant Coursework) is usually at the top of your resume under the Education section, right under your degree.

This is an easy section to customize for specific jobs, just by adding a class or two that’s extremely relevant. Don’t shy away from one-unit seminars or independent study — highlight any education you have related to the job at hand. And don’t be afraid to add an explanation about what coursework you did in a class. For example, maybe you are applying to a job at a mobile tech company and you took Sociology 101 and wrote about how mobile devices influence online shopping decisions in your major research paper. Mention this! (i.e. “Sociology 101 — focus on mobile technology”)

2. Join and Lead Clubs & Groups

Recruiters love seeing your passions manifested in places beyond the classroom. If you’re a History major interested in graphic design, join a campus organization in that field. If it doesn’t exist, you can put your initiative on display and start the organization yourself! I see most students list groups and clubs on their resume under Activities & Interests (after Education and Experience). If you have had significant leadership positions in relevant clubs and activities, don’t be scared to put this under “Experience” — you want to emphasize your most compelling experience towards the top of your resume.

3. Tackle Independent Projects

Doing projects on your own is the closest you can get to internship experience without an official internship. This could include building a website, selling scarves, designing brochures/posters, running social media for your uncle’s practice, shadowing a family friend, etc. I know how valuable this can be, since MindSumo helps students tackle projects (in addition to our mentor program). Research shows that a project or work sample can help increase recruiters’ ability to predict your work performance by 40%.

At the end of the day, no matter how you brand yourself, remember that your major does not have to be a set of handcuffs forcing you into a specific line of work. Explore as much as possible, and use your experiences to show businesses you can make it in a field you care about.


This article was originally posted on LinkedIn here:: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140818002715-69425134-3-ways-to-brand-yourself-beyond-your-college-major


Choosing Your Major

Guest Blogger: Aileen Gutierrez, Student at Wuhan University

Even if you’re just beginning college, it’s never too early to start thinking about you major. I made this important decision in high school. During freshman year, my parents recommended that I choose either engineering or finance.  Despite my poor math skills, I found science more interesting; I could spend hours wondering why ice floats on water, or pondering how cells divide. I found these questions in nature particularly fascinating, so I picked engineering and began applying to universities.

(Skipping the gruesome details of the college admissions process) Wuhan University accepted me to study environmental engineering. In China, freshmen have one month of military training— I used that month to get to know the city and take some classes, including an environmental engineering course.  I quickly began to doubt my decision; I noticed it took effort (and some reminding) to read up on the latest science news, but I enjoyed reading about economics or business unprompted. I was naturally interested in economics and business and, in the end, I switched my major.

In conclusion, here are some steps to help you choose your major:

1. Be realistic about your skills, and spend more time developing them (this doesn’t mean to give up on your areas of weakness. Instead, nurture what you already have).

2. Appreciate what you’re naturally interested in. You will spend a lot of time learning about your chosen major, so it should be something you want to do, not something that you have to force yourself into. By extension, don’t force yourself into a field you aren’t truly interested in.

3. Be strategic. Make a plan that includes your classes, your specialization within your major, and any skills you’d like to develop for a future career.

Remember— Start thinking about your major early, but don’t be afraid to change your mind.


The Evolution of College Students

Guest Blogger: Monica Gomez

Previous generations may have been able to get away without a college education, but today’s statistics back up the claim that you are likely to earn more with a postsecondary education than with a high school diploma alone.

The following infographic from Carrington.edu shows that Americans value a college education, if the increased numbers of college students over the past few decades is any indication. As the infographic reports, the number of college students in the U.S. is now at record levels. In the 1960s, 1.3 million high school grads enrolled in college; by the 21st century, this number had reached 20.4 million students, reflecting over half of the country’s total high school graduates.

Other trends include the increase in the proportion of women who are attending college, with 45% of female high school graduates attending college in the 1960s, and 55% of them attending college in the 2000s. Interesting, the number of men attending college has fluctuated greatly in the last 50 years, and the percentage of male high school grads attending college is now 45%, compared to 57% in the 1960s.

The technological advances have been stunning. You may not remember the handheld calculator or audiocassettes of the 1960s, but your parents and grandparents were probably impressed by these pieces of technology when they first came about. BASIC computer language was another invention of the time, but college students may have graduated without ever working on a computer.

The introduction of word processing in the 1970s made many college students’ lives infinitely easier, as the ability to delete and edit your work may have saved them hours of frustration, unlike the typewriter. And the Walkman gave us a glimpse at our current on-the-go technology – for the first time; students were able to listen to music as they walked to and from class. The 1980s saw the Apple Macintosh and IBM PC, making the paper-writing process easier once again.

The World Wide Web revolutionized higher education, and since the 1990s and 2000s, college students have been able to attend classes remotely and avoid carrying heavy books. New technology includes smartphones and hybrid cars, but these too may quickly seem mundane. What new technology will be next to impress today’s college students?

Check out the infographic here!


4 Things to Help Freshmen Pick The Right Future

Guest Blogger: Pallavi Kalva - freshman at The Ohio State University studying computer science and engineering

1) High school courses contribute a lot towards your higher education. Start your first year of college with some credit hours in your bag. Whether it’s through earning AP credit or college credit in high school, this will one) save you money and two) give you time to explore majors. Instead of worrying about your general education courses, you can sit through classes to see what you want to pursue in.

2) Math/science or liberal arts? Majority of the major are divided into these two fields. Pick one and move forward with it. It’ll narrow your choices to something like engineering, business, pre-med vs, political science, education, communications. Anything pop out to you? If so, do your research! Not just about what your college offers for that specific major, but the types of internships/jobs you can get, the job demand, salary, locations, companies, etc.

3) Your advisor or counselor. Their job is to make sure you’re truly satisfied in the path you’re taking. If you’re confused, not sure, or worried, take the time to set an appointment with them and talk it out. Don’t feel obligated to solve everything by yourself, advisors will help you plan out exactly you need to do in order for you to succeed.

4) See what you excel in. The four years you’ve spent in high school should give you an idea of what you are good at. Clearly, if you’re good at something, it shows that you have an interest towards it. So whether it be math, science, history, or english, pick something you have a tight grip on and you’re happy studying.


How to Score Your Dream Summer Internship

Written by: Helen Fang (guest student blogger)

It’s February, and if you’re anything like me, it’s been pretty hard to think about summer internships when everything is still buried in a least a foot of snow. Except that so many of my friends already have their summers lined up…

Since this is my third year going through the process, and a lot of my experiences have been ones I’ve created for myself with companies that didn’t even have positions originally / had something different in mind for their intern, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Figure out what you want

I know this is super broad and sometimes the hardest question to answer, but it helps to at least have some idea of what you’re looking for. You don’t have to have a specific internship in mind! Thinking about general areas can help a lot, too. For last summer, I started my search with literally the criteria of “I want to go somewhere far away and do something meaningful that’s EXCITING.”

I have friends who have narrowed it down by area of the world (ex: I’ve always wanted to go to Europe!), and friends who have targeted specific companies they wanted to work for. Anything goes — just try and make some sort of list of what would be important to you.

For example: Do you want to go to a foreign country or stay in the USA? Do you want an internship or a study abroad program? Work for a big company or at a startup? Is there a particular area you’re passionate about (education — technology — environmental)? Is there a specific industry you want to work in (consulting — nonprofit — programming — journalism)? Or even being able to figure out if there’s something you definitely don’t want to do.

And keep in mind - this isn’t a “set” list that you need to stick to - it’ll just give you somewhere to start, which is often the hardest part. It’ll probably change as you start applying places and talking to people, and that’s great. Staying open to a lot of different possibilities is often how you get the coolest and most rewarding experiences.

2. Use your obvious resources…

A great place to start your search is with your University’s career services. Most schools have some sort of database of summer internship opportunities, which can be a great place to start looking. You’ll definitely come upon some that sound exciting that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

You should also schedule an appointment with the career counselors at your undergraduate career services. They can be really helpful in helping you start your search, or even just helping you learn to navigate your school’s career website, and can often point you to things you missed. If you have specific interests, they will also probably be able to suggest people you can talk to or companies you can apply to. It’s literally their job to help you with this - so utilize them!

3. …but don’t feel limited by them

Career services are only a starting point. There are a lot of places you can discover on your own, and oftentimes what you really want for your summer won’t necessarily be something that will be listed on your school’s career website…which brings me to my next point:


The people you know are your best resource. If you don’t take ANYTHING else away from this blog post, please remember this. Think about it. (I’m not talking about knowing the CEO of the company you want to work for). You’re surrounded by upperclassmen / friends / family / professors. Ask around, see what they’ve done with their summers. Chances are, even if they don’t have something that fits your interests, they know someone who’s done something cool with their summer in the area you’re interested in.

Something that really surprised me when I first started looking is that people want to help you. They will go out of their way to help you — it’s exciting that you’re excited for your summer, it’s exciting that you’ve reached out to them, and they want to do everything they can. My school even has a database of alumni who work in different industries that are open to being contacted.

I was talking to someone about the possibility of taking an education internship in Kentucky for the summer, and at the end of our coffee chat it turned to conversation about our interests. I mentioned I loved soccer and he told me about a school in the area which had just started a soccer program and needed an assistant coach (I ended up getting to coach in the fall!!).

 5. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want - they want you as much as you want them!

Last summer, I had committed to 6 weeks in London for study abroad, but found a fantastic nonprofit internship in a fishing village in Alaska after I had already decided on London! The dates were from July-August, but I contacted them and let them know how much I wanted to work there, and they were able to adjust the dates specifically for me - so I was able to spend half my summer (May-June) in Alaska and the other half in London.

I also had the chance last season to coach soccer at a high school, but it would mean having to quit my job at school and commit over 10 hours a week to coaching. I needed the income - so I talked to them about it, and they were able to give me a stipend for the season to partially offset my lost job.

And finally, I had read about a really cool running app (with over 300,000 users!) in PC Magazine, and saw that the owner had stated their greatest challenge was not having enough personnel at the time, I did some research and reached out to him to see if I could help, and ended up being able to blog for them during my summer in London!

6. And remember - the worst they can say is no

There will always be more opportunities and more chances out there, and even the people who say no might surprise you!

I interviewed for a position last summer and didn’t get it, but since it was in the same city in Alaska as I ended up working for, I gave a heads-up to the guy who interviewed me. He ended up meeting me once I got there to see what he could do to make sure I had a great summer outside of my internship. He ended up connecting me to the chance to volunteer at a summer music festival there, where I got free tickets to all the concerts and a private lesson from one of the world-famous cellists who was performing!

I hope these tips are helpful as you try to land YOUR perfect summer internship. 

Good luck!!

Helen Fang is currently a junior at Yale University “studying” Economics. Follow her on Twitter - @fang_helen.


Young and High-Strung

By Guest Blogger: Nick Fequiere

As a teenager or twenty-something year old, it often feels as if we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. We typically have to go to school, work a job or two, and still maintain relationships and household responsibilities. Believe me, I’ve been there. As a matter of fact, I’m still there. However, I never fail to comprehend the big picture. I understand that I’m going to school to do something I love (become a broadcaster and writer for ESPN, for those of you who were curious). I know far too many people who are paying thousands of dollars in tuition, not for their passion, but rather for a field that will offer more money or a course of study that their parents suggested.

What we all have to keep in mind is that no one can live our lives except us. Whether we make the right or wrong choices, we are usually the ones who have to reap the benefits or suffer the consequences. Some of us, me included, are working toward lofty goals in an effort to provide for our families. I don’t want that message to be misconstrued. Even though we are working toward helping and supporting our loved ones, the individual putting in the effort should come first the majority of the time. You have to appreciate yourself and the hard work you put into achieving your goals. You have to remember that you are making present sacrifices for future glory. You must never forget that, as Apollo Creed in Rocky III so aptly stated, “There is no tomorrow!”

Live, work, sweat, cry, and bleed like there is no tomorrow. Be aggressive. Be straightforward. As corny and naïve as it may sound, always aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. Most importantly though, do not stress out. Maybe you missed an assignment or you failed a class, but you can’t change the past. Do not get me wrong; this isn’t to say that you should offer a half-hearted attempt at your education. In fact, my previous assertions state the exact opposite. I only mean that stressing often gets you nowhere; hard work and perseverance will take you farther than any amount of stress ever could.

However, I’d like to digress and return to my original point. Understand that life is far too short to worry so much about such a small portion of it. There are plenty of paths for you to take to achieve your goals, but all roads lead to Rome. Some take the traditional route and attend a four year university, while others enjoy a stint at junior college before transferring out. Others prefer to go to a trade school or a nursing school. While they may not be enrolled at the most prestigious of universities, at least they have structure and they know what they want; as opposed to the Liberal Studies major attending a state university and paying astronomically high prices for a general education.

It’s no wonder that students become so stressed when faced with the realities of failure within today’s educational system. A failing grade undoubtedly means hundreds of additional dollars spent on an already flawed process. Unfortunately, there are only so many options and we have to make the best of what we’ve got. Keep in mind that living in America, we have so many more opportunities than so many others around the world. Take advantage of every occasion, remain collected, and fight for your future like there’s no tomorrow.


The Higher Education Crisis

Guest author: Will Gu - studying Computation and Systems Biology at UCLA

Education is a necessity.  More so than ever, the young adults of this generation are being pressured to work and attain more in their K-12 and college schooling.  With more and more students enrolling in college immediately following high school and increases in 1st time enrollment in graduate school, this generation is headed towards a higher education catastrophe.

The goal is clear in today’s generation; obtain the highest possible degree. While this trend seems harmless on the surface, there are some important implications to this.  While education is fundamental for improving your career options, too much education can be a detriment.  The world is becoming globalized and thus there is a high degree of competition for jobs everywhere.  It is becoming necessary to compete with more than just the people around you for jobs, as international competition becomes more common.  This practical problem for people (lack of security in jobs) spawns a natural solution: become more highly qualified.  A rise in graduate school is going to continue post 2014 with The U.S. Department of Labor forecasting that there will be a 22% rise in jobs needing masters degree and a  20% rise in jobs needing a doctorate degree from 2010-2020.  The question is when the spiral ends.  Globalization certainly will not end, meaning the competition for jobs will only rise.  Soon, graduate school will be considered the norm, rather than the exception.

This can lead to a lot of problems, namely a spiral of never-ending education. With more education, there is also more time for a person to decide their career choice, and yet, with too much time, a person may never have to decide their major.  Take for example that now 25-50% of students are entering college undeclared and 50-70% students change their major at least once.  There is a marked ambivalence with this generation, and with more education and more majors being created, this ambivalence can only get worse.

The future is clearly paved in education, but if that road never ends then it can be concerning.  While education is a staple to a well-rounded person, a lifetime of education is simply delaying the real work of life and getting a job.  By staying indefinitely in the education system we are taught to rely on others to tell us what to learn and how to compete for grades. We are becoming institutionalized and forgetting how to think for ourselves.  Education is essential, but at what point does it hinder our ability to contribute to society as a member of the workforce?


Internships and Why They Matter for You

Guest post by: Ben Fan

As the end of the undergrad experience draws closer and closer for some students, one of many viable options for soon-to-be graduates is to continue their schooling.  The process of applying to grad school is not that far off from applying to undergrad as a high schooler.  It is dependent on how well you’ve done in your years of undergrad as well as scores from tests such as the MCAT, GRE, or LSAT – just to name a few.  However, something that you may want to be different in your grad school application is having an internship listed in your résumé.  

So what exactly is an internship?  Put simply, an internship is like an apprenticeship for a company that you are interested in working for.  The party that you choose to intern for may have you doing menial jobs, but others may have you doing more involved activities.  Some internships are paid while some aren’t; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the unpaid internships are a waste of time.  In fact, the way that you choose internships can strengthen your grad school application by solidifying where your interests are.  The University of Washington’s Career Center has some tips on getting into graduate school, and many of them can be bolstered with an internship under your belt.  For example, some of the tips that are given are: “be clear with your motivations,” “know how you compare as an applicant,” and “’Tell and Show’ – why you’re a good fit!”[1] Out of a list of eight tips, nearly half of them are influenced by having an internship and can give you an extra edge when it comes time for graduate school admissions. 

Why does an internship matter so much to you?  The easy answer is because it matters to grad schools.  It matters because colleges are more interested in the applicants who have found a way to obtain work experience in the “real world.”  It matters because those who have participated in an internship show greater interest to involve themselves in a specific field compared to other students who are applying.  Lastly, having an internship matters because it distinguishes you from the rest by making you of interest to the college due to your individual skills gained from that internship.  Graduate schools are always on the lookout for students that can contribute to furthering the prestige and influence of the school, and having an internship is a surefire way to catch their attention.

Internships aren’t specifically designated for any year in college.  In fact, the earlier you start, the better.  Starting with a smaller, seemingly insignificant internship gives you work experience, which leads to better, more impressive internships later in your undergrad years.  The accumulation of work hours and company-developed skill sets makes you an asset to the grad school that you’re applying to.  Even if you end up not applying to grad school, internships make the journey to starting a career much easier for you as well.  With internships, the path to your best possible career only gets broader and filled with more opportunities – it’s definitely in your best interest to start searching for one as soon as you can so that you can reap the benefits later on.  


4 Reasons to Intern at a Startup

Guest Post by: Lindsey Sampson

Internships provide the opportunity to gain experience in the professional world; you can dip your toes in the employment pool and learn valuable skills to support your career. An internship at a startup, however, is a completely different episode: it’s like learning to swim by diving into the deep end, just hoping you’ll figure it out. Interning at a startup can expose you to some of your most important experiences early in your career.

You will become a Jack or Jill of all trades. At a startup, there are never enough people. The company is almost always understaffed with a million things to do. As a result, you will sometimes be thrust into tasks you know little to nothing about, and you will have to learn on your own. You will find yourself Googling “invoice template” or “help what is a strategic communications plan and how do I make one” because you need to know these things now. You will have become a generalist rather than a specialist, with experience in many different sides of a business. 

You will learn how to speak up. In a startup environment, your voice is important. Because a startup is young, there is little to no red tape and good ideas can be implemented almost immediately. Innovation and creative thinking are valuable skills in the workplace, and those skills can be cultivated most effectively at a startup. By coming up with new ideas and pitching them, you will learn to hone your business senses and trust your instincts. You will learn how to function in a collaborative environment, and you will learn quickly how your personal skills bring value to a team. 

You will learn how to handle responsibility like an adult. Startups don’t have the resources to hire an intern just for the sake of hiring an intern, so you will come into significant responsibility almost immediately. You will be responsible for creating real impact and handling several tasks at once. You will break the habit of offering excuses because real, impactful results are the only significant metric of success at a startup. Keep Tim Gunn’s voice in your head telling you to “make it work” and you will, because you’re awesome. And because it’s your job.

You will grow your network. At a startup, it’s possible to meet everyone in the company, and work closely with many of them. Because of the collaborative environment that exists in the startup world, working on a project directly with the CEO is far from unusual. Also, networking events are a staple of startup culture. Expect to spend evenings eating pizza with potential partners, handing out business cards, and attending industry conferences and events. Learning how to network effectively and engage people is an uncommon (and extremely valuable) trait, especially for a young professional.

Internships are crucial for the young professional in 2014. Spending your time at a startup allows you to discover and develop your individual talents, giving you a unique advantage in the job market.  


Ways to Save Money in College

This guest post was written by Samantha Sajina, one of our student users

Sometimes, college makes you feel like this…

But it doesn’t have to! Here’s a few tips on how to save money while in college.

Buying Textbooks :

Avoid the bookstore, and instead use websites like bigwords.com, which is a textbook aggregator; it looks at the prices of textbooks on various sites and finds you where you can purchase your book for the lowest cost.  Another good option for online textbook purchase is Chegg.

Older editions are often much less expensive, but make sure to ask your professor if an older edition will suffice before you make your purchase. Also, if you have a friend in the class, you can offer to split the cost of the books between yourselves. Some textbooks are also available to rent from the library, but be careful as this isn’t always reliable.

Selling Textbooks :

When selling back books, bigwords.com will look at multiple book buyback sites to find where you can get the most money for your books.

You can also post your unwanted textbooks on your school’s Facebook page, or even contact the professor to see if they can match you up with a student who needs a book in the professor’s next semester class.

(you when you sell your textbooks back)

Apply to be a Community Assistant :

Community assistants (or resident advisors, the position name often varies between colleges) often receive reduced or free room and board in exchange for involvement with the dorm. In addition to that, you’ll engage with other students and potentially be able to plan meetings and events (with free food! More savings!).

Get Involved On Campus :

Libraries often have movies to borrow, and clubs and organizations usually give out free food if you come to their meetings. Check the school’s calendar of events for various activities. Also, it’s unnecessary to pay for a gym membership if your school has a recreation center!

Student Discounts :

Check out if your college offers any discounts. My college is close to NYC and offers discounted bus and train tickets, as well as discounts to shows on Broadway. The Student Government Association at my college also offers free movie tickets, free software, and information on which restaurants around campus offer discounts.

Amazon :

In addition to using Amazon for purchasing books, as a college student you can sign up for Amazon Prime to become eligible for free shipping on all purchases for one year. Use this on textbooks, video games, food, or whatever else you might need.  Who knows, maybe they’ll drop it at your dorm room using a drone!

So there you have it!  Implement some of these tips into your daily college routine, and you’ll see the savings start piling up :).  Just don’t go blow all your newfound money at one time!