career choice, college, college major, college planning, education, employment

Retiring University Department Chair Says Employers Are Looking for 3 Things from College Grads.

On a recent college tour, we found ourselves in the wrong department with the wrong professor. We asked to meet with someone from the global studies department, but after meeting us and finding out what my son is interested in, she quickly informed us that we were probably better off meeting with the business or political science people. But as serendipity would have it, she still gave us an hour of her time and more valuable, practical advice than we have encountered to date. Here is a nugget of what she had to offer. For reference, she is from Switzerland, is an American citizen, and has worked in global studies for 35 years.

  • Languages to study
    • DO study these languages
      • Chinese…but only if you really want to learn it, because it is difficult
      • Russian
      • Spanish…if you are staying in the US or are studying/ interacting with Latin America
    • These are not as relevant
      • French… not needed unless you are going to have work in Africa
      • German… “the Germans will talk circles around you in English.”
  • Countries to know about
    • The world is changing. Learn a lot about China and Russia. That being said, there are very few upper level classes in these topics right now because we took our eyes off of them for a while.
  • Student Debt
    • Don’t go into debt!! (We hear this often actually.) (Side note, she works at a state school.)
    • Live simply. She reminded us that college students don’t need Starbucks every day and to live in fancy apartments. Remember “poor college student?”
  • Career Fairs
    • Go to career fairs on campus!! (Twice now,at two different universities we have heard college staff say few students utilize the career fairs on campus.)
    • Find out what employers are looking for.
    • Employers are more likely to hire someone they met at a career fair.
    • Learn how to make yourself marketable. The reps there will tell you.
    • Make professional connections
  • 3 Things Employers Look For
    • Can you work in a team, especially a diverse team?
      • Prove it
      • Have experience on your resume’
    • Do you have leadership skills?
      • This can also be behind the scenes
      • Not everyone has to be the top leader
      • Show ways you helped the good of the group
      • An example is, as the treasurer how did you save the group money by cutting expenses?
    • Can you communicate?
      • Verbally
      • Written
  • Focus more on your passion than your major
    • If you are invested in what you are doing, the jobs will come.
    • Believe in what you are learning.
    • Show enthusiasm and passion.


We left her office which was half packed in boxes, wishing she wasn’t about to retire so he could take some of her classes. She really epitomized the passion and enthusiasm she recommended, and we came away with a whole different sense of how to navigate this journey.


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