College Alone Won't Get You a Job—Here's What Else You Have To Do

It’s the stuff you do outside the classroom that will get you an offer.

by Andrew RanzingerLast updated: 07/20/2020

There are a lot of things hiring managers care about when deciding whether to hire you—your resume, your experience, your educational background, and their impressions of you based on your interview, to name a few. 

Here’s one thing that’s at the bottom of their list: the fact that you have a degree.

Often, a college degree is just a prerequisite that prevents your resume from being thrown out immediately. It won’t help you get the job—everyone else who’s applying for the job has one too.

A degree is just the beginning. Here are five other things you need to do to get a job.

1. Get experience

Employers love to see experience. As you get further into your career, that experience will be based on previous positions you’ve held—but that doesn’t mean you get a pass starting out. 

There are all kinds of ways that you can get real-life experience even while you are in school. Here are a few:

  • Working part-time
  • Volunteering
  • Completing an internship or apprenticeship

These experiences won’t just teach you important skills you’ll carry into your career. From an employer’s perspective, they are a better indication of things like work ethic, responsibility, and creativity than your GPA ever could be. Plus, they give you great stuff to talk about during job interviews. 

One final word: relevant experience is always better, but any experience is better than no experience. Especially with your first job out of college, employers realize you haven’t had the opportunity to get much relevant experience. 

2. Build a portfolio

A portfolio is an organized collection of previous work you’ve done. 

If you’re a web designer, it could be a collection of websites you’ve designed, along with some background information on the project and request from the client.  

If you’re a programmer, it could just be all the projects you’ve contributed to on GitHub. 

If you’re a digital marketer, it could be a collection of the most successful campaigns you’ve run, complete with metrics.

What your portfolio looks like will depend on your work, but the concept is the same. It allows you to show employers and clients instead of just tell.

Portfolios are more prevalent in creative professions than, say, finance. But you can still get creative. For example, maybe you did a financial analysis of several businesses during an internship—you could absolutely include that in a finance portfolio.

Not all employers or jobs require one, but having it will give you a decided advantage over other candidates.

3. Hone your interview skills

If your resume looks good enough to make it past the first round of screenings, your potential employer will schedule a phone interview.

If they still like you after the phone interview, they will schedule an in-person interview. 

Interviews are your opportunity to showcase your soft skills and personality. It’s also the employer’s chance to answer the question “Would I like to work with this person?”

A great interview is often the difference between getting the job and getting a polite rejection letter.

It’s a nerve-wracking experience to sit in front of strangers while they ask you questions about your past experience, your personality, or how you would handle hypothetical situations. 

But it’s an important skill that you can get good at with practice.

Google “most common interview questions” and practice those. Watch YouTube videos about it.

Go to the career center at your school and practice with the advisors there. Role play with friends and family.

Practice, practice, practice. 

The more you do it, the more the anxiety will subside, the more good answers you’ll have ready to go, and the better the impression you’ll make when the time comes. 

4. Earn some certifications

Certifications lend credibility to the skills you list on your resume.

They usually take between a day and several weeks to complete (large ones can take several months). Cost can vary, but many certifications are free or relatively cheap.

Whatever area you are interested in, see if there are some certifications you can get. You’ll learn more, and you’ll have something official to put on your resume. It’s a win-win.

Here are some examples of general certifications worth looking into. There may be others for your specific profession you should consider: 

Microsoft Office certifications

These are certifications in Word and Excel offered by Microsoft. They cost $100 per exam. 

If you are going to be doing anything related to business or in an office environment, this can be a great certification to have, especially starting out. 

Google certifications

Google has an entire suite of official certifications on their various platforms—Google Ads, Google Analytics, YouTube, Android, and others. You can learn how to use all these programs from your laptop, and best of all, it’s free.


These are more focused on sales and marketing, but Hubspot has a whole selection of free, high-quality certifications on the different types of marketing—inbound marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing, to name a few. 

5. Learn to make connections with people

Some people call this “networking.” You can do it in person—at events, career fairs, or even while you’re going about your daily life. You can do it over social media, through tweets and DMs. You can do it via email. 

The principle is always the same—you’re trying to connect with someone. You’re reaching into their bubble to make them aware of who you are and what you are doing.

It can be as simple as, “Hi, my name is Andrew. What do you do?”

Many times, it won’t lead to anything beyond a pleasant conversation. But sometimes, it will lead to ideas, introductions, and even a job offer. 

Think about it—if someone likes you, and their company is hiring, they will likely refer you. And resumes that come with a referral from an existing employee are guaranteed to be looked at.

A degree isn’t enough

A college degree will help you get your foot in the door, but when it comes to standing out and getting job offers, it’s not enough. 

Don’t waste your college experience only focusing on grades. Make sure you spend time investing in each of these areas, even if it means your grades suffer a little. 

Ultimately, things like experience, a portfolio, and improving your interview skills will get you a lot more job offers than your GPA.