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Easy Ways to Increase Professional Skills as a Student

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Making the transition into the workforce as a student can feel daunting, but there are a wealth of resources available to support you in developing new professional capabilities that will help you put your best foot forward when applying for jobs. As a student who has held multiple jobs while enrolled in college, I know firsthand how difficult it can feel to balance academic responsibilities with job searching. Entry-level job requirements often make it hard to stand out to employers, especially in competitive markets. Not to mention that, due to a lack of experience, I often didn't know how to gain the skills I needed to succeed in areas like resume preparation, interviews, or networking. However, after years of being involved in the professional world and going through plenty of learning experiences, I've compiled a list of simple steps you can take to learn new skills that will go a long way in helping you reach your career goals.

1. Take Online Certification Courses

Certifications can be a great addition to any resume, especially if you don't have much experience in the career field you are looking to enter. Google offers free career certificates that can help you gain new skills and stand out to potential employers. Likewise, Coursera has a database of hundreds of free courses that that you can filter by duration, level, and subject. If you're interested in learning more about a particular area of a career field or developing a wide range of skills to strengthen your resume, these certification courses are an accessible and customizable way to increase career readiness.

2. Utilize Online Resources

LinkedIn, Reddit Career Advice, and Indeed are all popular websites used by students to network, job search, or learn new skills for the career world. These resources are excellent starting points for leaning how to craft resumes, reach out to potential mentors, and apply for job positions that interest you. If you are looking for job postings directed specifically at students, Handshake is a free online resource that students across hundreds of universities use to streamline the searching process. Handshake is also an easy way to view and apply to the range of on-campus jobs that are posted by universities on the platform.

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3. Make personal networking connections

At the University of Washington, the UW Career and Internship Center offers plenty of events, skill-building workshops, and job search resources. University-sponsored events that involve alumni are an amazing way to connect to industry professionals who have qualities in common with you. With the topic of your shared university to engage you in conversation, these alumni can be a starting point for making personal connections with professionals and developing networking opportunities.

LinkedIn is another popular resource for networking. Creating a profile and looking at examples of other accounts can be super helpful both for reaching out to network with individuals and companies as well as for increasing the probability of drawing employers to your profile. On LinkedIn, you can search for people to reach out to for job questions or to see examples of how they reached their current career position. By narrowing down your search through selecting specific majors, career paths, professional experiences, or even through looking up what alumni of your university have been able to achieve, you can increase your chances of creating personal connections.

4. Find a Mentor

The University of Washington offers a series of quarter-long 1-credit programs that connect students with industry professionals who lead a series of small-group meetings to increase professional skills in the program's focus area. When I participated in this program last year, I was able to connect with an incredible mentor who coached me and provided me with personalized recommendations that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. I am so grateful for that program and highly encourage those interested to apply to one of the Industry Mentorship Programs through UW's Career and Internship Center. For students at other universities, many colleges offer similar programs that emphasize connecting alumni and collegiate members to gain new knowledge and mentorship opportunities.

No matter what field you are interested in, remember that there are plenty of professionals out there who are willing to help students find success in the career world. While researching job opportunities and paths that interest you, don't forget to take advantage of resources available from your university as well as the many online career development websites. Having confidence in your talent and an interest in learning is the first step in increasing professional skills as a student, so if you're reading this right now, I can guarantee that you're already on the right path!

Sol Knapstad

Washington '23

Sol is a third year student studying Creative Writing and Law, Societies & Justice at the University of Washington. She is a published author of 5 years and loves reading, baking, hiking, and traveling in her free time.
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