Education to Employment – 5 Transferable Skills from any Undergraduate Major

Majors, minors and even certificate programs  from colleges and universities offer a vast array of knowledge, skills and hands-on learning experiences. Although the aim of most college students are to create a “brand” or “trade” for themselves in their chosen fields, there are some skills that all forms of employment will require regardless of what your degree is in. Here’s a brief  rundown of those five.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is  one of the most requested skills any employer wants. Verbal communication through annunciation, articulation–both said with utmost confidence. Written communication through reports, memos and emails–all spelled grammatically correct. Tactfulness (knowing when and when not to say something) and cross-cultural communication (cultural competency) are two other types of communication skills you should have.

Project Development Skills

All those semesters of extended research and putting together projects (essays, slideshows, etc.) will not go to waste.  Many employers will request for different projects depending on the type of work. It is even more crucial if said employers lack skills in that project area and are relying on you to provide an effective project or report. Innovation is more and more becoming an unsaid standard, so the more creative the better.

Time Management Skills

Yeah, let’s revisit these familiar two words. In a typical work day there could be many assignments or tasks that need to be completed.  The most effective way to categorize your assignments in a work environment is by deadline and complexity. Have due dates on hand while simultaneously working on your more difficult assignments first. Also, ask yourself if you can break the most rigorous work up in sections to make it easier.  Completing work early if you have any free time could also prove beneficial.

Conflict Resolution Skills

No matter where you work, conflicts with co-workers, difficulties with work assignments and emergencies are all possible options where having conflict resolution skills are a must. Talk with your co-worker (before going to your supervisor, depending on the conflict) using “I” language (“I feel…”) instead of “You” language. If technology, lacking a needed skill or piece of material, etc, is holding you back from your work, communicate this with a supervisor, or ensure you can resolve it on your own if you chose to do so. Emergencies are special (or not-so-special) cases when it pays to know procedures and escape routes depending on the emergency.  You can practice these as an undergraduate via group projects and assignments.

Etiquette & Civility Skills

I cannot stress enough how building a good reputation can advance you in the workforce. “I’ve heard great things about you” and “you’ve always done good work” are just a few examples of how much weight etiquette and civility skills can carry. If you know you’re lacking in these skills get a book on building them or talk with a person you trust to help you assess what could be worked on. It is no secret that “people talk”, so make sure to the best of your abilities that it is good things those people are talking about in regards to you. This skill is a must, and even an individual having the four previous skills and only lacking this one would have difficulties advancing.

zerolocked1Mario Adkins is a graduate student in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership masters program. When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus collecting, assessing and process data as Research  Analyst in Teacher Education for GVSU’s College of Education. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked


Résumé Relay

Most students attend college to land employment in their selected field, yet employers want experience from their candidates beforehand. If you’re similar to many students and have little to no work experience for a resume (or want to disregard that irrelevant restaurant job) keep reading! Listed below are five FAST ways to turn a blank word-processing document into an excellent college resume.


Volunteering is a great way to help build a resume. This not only adds specific organizations to your resume that can align with your major, but expresses values such as service learning, community building and time management. Also, most volunteering opportunities are without pay, showing a clear value of work and commitment even when money is not involved. Employers look for this type of commitment in their candidates.

Student Organizations

If your college has student-run organizations, check them out and get involved! Student organizations are normally easy to get into with a nice payout of experience. Because of the many demands and roles required by student orgs, leadership, secretarial and budgeting experiences are just a few skills you can acquire and add to a resume. Involvement in student orgs also shows experience working in groups, another key skill employers look for.


Awards and achievements can make you stand out from the competition. These range from academic awards such as Dean’s List certificates to service awards in sports and leadership. The type of award or achievement can easily place you as a top candidate if it’s relevant to your perspective employment. Also, make sure to keep up on your studies, because some employers request college transcripts during the interviewing process!

Major-Specific Event/Program

Instead of waiting to securing work, how about making it yourself? Within the many majors available to college students are opportunities to create your own program or event that can be added to a resume. This not only illustrates initiative toward your major, but innovation depending on what you choose to create. This gives you the option to select, hone and master any skills you want. Want to add supervisory skills to your resume? Assemble and manage volunteers for your event. How about time management? Design a detailed schedule or itinerary. What about public speaking? Practice and perfect yourself as the keynote speaker. The possibilities and combinations are endless.


Internships differ from volunteering because of the specialized training involved. An internship allows students to work with or without pay for a set amount of time in an area related to their major. (Yes, that was a mouthful, but a necessary definition!) This is the perfect way build the skillset your major demands. Networking and being engaged in your community is essential for landing an internship, and could even lead to permanent job placement depending on the quality of your work.

*Other Options

Having previous employment is always good for a resume if it supports your major. List them from the most recent in short, detailed sentences. The five options listed above are also great portfolio builders, allowing you to show and tell your work experiences. An updated portfolio is also great to have on hand because employers often request samples of work for specialized careers. Lastly, make sure to have good social network maintenance if you own one; in can often be a resume in itself. The information, photos and videos on these legal-by-employers-to-view sites could be the final deciding factor between two equally-qualified candidates.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.