Drew Rogers is the Founder and CEO of Relevant Youth, a student-run creative agency at the University of Missouri that empowers college students to start taking ownership of their education. As a creative entrepreneur, his dream is to help mobilize other creative people towards taking ownership of their future. This week, he shares ways to create your own industry relevance within your educational experience—which ultimately, is what will land you that job. Here's Drew—
We all have that one friend who spends every ounce of their precious free time packing their resume and LinkedIn full of random, often meaningless, experience. We all do that to an extent. Almost all college students have the fear of not getting hired or being good enough for their future career, which is why we frantically run around for four years trying to distinguish ourselves from our peers.
The problem is, it’s really hard for students to find relevant experience within the traditional higher education model. No one wants to shamefully head home unemployed and sleep in their parents' basement after spending six figures on college. As a college student myself, I understand the immense pressure to spend your college career beefing up your resume. We treat it as our professional golden ticket into the “real world.” The truth is, it’s not. (Sorry, Charlie.)
Last fall, I started a business called Relevant Youth to help give more students professional experience unlike any classroom ever could. As CEO, I help larger companies form relationships with our pool of student talent for recruiting purposes. I’ve learned first-hand what recruiters and HR teams, especially in the advertising and marketing world, really care about in a potential intern or hire. It’s not your 3.94 GPA, how cute your personal website looks, or how many organizations you were involved in.
What’s going to help YOU stand out is soft skills. Are you a good team player? Do you have proven leadership capability? How do you communicate under stress? Are you a self-starter? How do you deal with failure? Your portfolio and resume can get you in the door, but your experience and soft skills get you the job.
You may be saying, “Well that’s just great, Drew. So what can I do NOW about it?!” First and foremost, if you want to stand out, you have to stop being like everyone else around you. Then, you’re ready to build a more relevant educational experience. Here’s how:
3 Steps Towards Building Relevance:
1) Reverse Engineer Your Dream Job
Find the position or company you want to work for in the future and work backwards. If you want to be a junior graphic designer, make a logo for a local business. If you want to be in marketing, offer to run someone’s social media page. It sounds so simple, but do exactly what you want to do in the future on a smaller scale now.
2) Surround Yourself With Other Creatives
Find or start a creative community. Seek out like-minded individuals that care about their futures. Host events, share your skills, and uplift one another. It will give you the energy to do step #3.
3) Start Something That Matters
Own your craft. Start a blog, video series, or social media community. Create a product and sell it. Form a business with your friends. Lead a Relevant Youth chapter at your school (shameless plug). If you can’t think of anything, find something that frustrates you. Create a solution around that!
You know those kiosks when you walk into the mall with all the perfumes and colognes? That’s what college is like. It’s one big trial period full of choices. You may walk up to a counter and love the packaging or design of a certain cologne bottle, or degree path, but hate the smell when you actually trial spray it. You would never purchase a perfume or cologne without smelling it first. So, why would you spend four years in college merely preparing and studying for your career from the outside looking in?
I have many friends who waited until they graduated to take a true whiff of their career path and ended up hating their choice. The good news is, that doesn’t have to be you! You have the incredible opportunity to get your hands dirty by reverse engineering your future “dream” job, starting something that gives you a true taste (or smell) of that pursuit, and inviting other creative people to join you.
In today’s job marketplace, everyone’s running around with the same diploma and resume. If you want to stand out and get hired, I implore you to create your own relevance.
Connect with Drew via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.