It has been six months since I left the University of Pittsburgh undergraduate business program.
A month later in February I was hired as a web developer at a start-up company in the Washington D.C. area. It took me 30 days to find a job as a college drop out. Here are five things I learned along my job search.
1. Learn and practice actionable skills.
Communicating, thinking, organizing, problem solving, and time management are all examples of actionable skills you should be learning and practicing.
College provides other benefits beyond the scope of academic learning. The university setting helps students learn the basics of communication, problem solving, organization, and time management among others. As a college drop out you now take on that responsibility without the structure of college there to guide you.
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Businesses want employees who get things done well. If you can master the skills that your peers are still learning in university you will appear more mature and prepared for full-time employment.
The men and women who you are competing against are most likely college graduates, they have these skills. As a drop out you have to consciously work on mastering your actionable skills.
2. Practice and focus on a personal project.
After leaving school you will find yourself with a lot of free time. Your peers will be busy with academic work, while you end up involved in personal projects.
As a fledgling web developer I took to working on many different websites. Creating silly websites such as DrakeMoods.com helped me practice my skill-set. I researched and read how to create different features and learned how to implement them through all my side projects.
No matter how ludicrous the idea is, developing your skills through personal projects gives you more material to touch on during the interview process.
3. Network with peers and community members.
As a college dropout you are in a unique position. Peers, mentors, and community members are generally upset to hear of your resignation from school and will be willing to help facilitate finding a job.
Reach out to your personal network on LinkedIn. Locate people who will take an interest in hearing about your change in academic standing and reach out to them. Friends who own businesses, or hold sway in the community should be top priority.
Actively get involved with your community. Volunteer, attend religious services, do anything to get out and meet adults in your area. Be outgoing, talk to people, and grow your network. It is surprising how much people are willing to help when you make a good impression.
4. Pursue certifications and other alternative education platforms.
Online education is an excellent way to stay sharp while not enrolled in a university.
Coursera, Udacity, and a myriad of other online services offer free courses from prestigious universities. Take advantage of these and other options online.
Enrolling in an online course will serve as a great talking point in an interview. Employers want to hire people who are outgoing and engaged in learning. Completing a series of courses in your field on Coursera will make you a stronger candidate and give you the confidence you need to interview well.
5. Do not sell your self short, stay confident and humble throughout the interview process.
Dropping out of college is not the end all be all. Now more than ever employers are less enthralled with degrees and grade point averages. Businesses want to hire women and men who are good at what they do, can communicate well, and want to learn.
When interviewing for a position stay confident – “no degree” does not equate to “no job”.
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