Students gain marketable skillsets from activities both obvious, unexpected

Hanna Kahl

All that time spent on Facebook isn’t actually a waste. According to Susan Buchanan, director of the Student Engagement Center, many companies are looking for students who have proficient knowledge of how to use online social networks.

“For-profit and non-profit employers all around the country are looking for people who are competent users of Facebook, Twitter and all of the different social networking sites,” Buchanan said.

This doesn’t mean that excessive time on Facebook will lead to success, but it does mean that learning to use Facebook proficiently could increase job opportunities after graduation.

Photo Credit: Brandon Fennell

“I think college students can gain marketable skills just in what they do personally all the time — instead of putting pictures on your own page, it would be for a company, and using their Facebook or other social network to reach out to other people,” Buchanan explained.

However, this type of job offer may be time-limited.

“This is a narrow opportunity that won’t last very long so it suits the class of 2011 really well,” Buchanan said.

Proficiency in online social networks is the most noticeable and pertinent skill available, but experience in marketing or coordinating activities or events can also bring one’s qualifications to an employer’s attention.

“Event-planning is another skill that is right at the top of what employers want in a student to hire. This could be in WEB, ISFC (International Student and Friends Club), sorority or fraternity, RAs, SAs or interest houses. Most of us, at one time or another, have to plan an event. From event-planning you get teamwork skills. You have to understand timing. You have to anticipate space requirements and sometimes food. This takes so many multitasking skills and detail orientation,” Buchanan said.

Also, general computer skills increase employability.

“Any kinds of computer skills are essential. The more you have the better; such as being both Mac and PC literate, I see a lot of both profit and non-profit companies wanting employees with Excel,” Buchanan said.

The most important thing to learn is how to positively convey what you already do to a potential employer.

Photo Credit: Brandon Fennell

“Whitman students who are highly engaged with activities outside of class learn a lot and practice a lot, but don’t really think of how to market those skills to an employer, but the skills are perfect for the job. They are absolutely perfect, so students just need to come up with a language to talk about what they did in relation to what that employer’s needs are,” Buchanan said.