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The job market for college students is more competitive than it has ever been in the past. Why? Because companies continue to leverage technology to do more with less people. So what separates the college students that have multiple job offers prior to graduation from the college grads that struggle to find their first career?

As an investment advisor, most of our clients are business owners or executives. They are the folks that hold the keys to the positions that are available at their respective companies. Throughout our daily interaction with these clients we receive continuous feedback about:

  • Their young rockstar employee that is rising quickly through the ranks
  • The troubles that they are having finding the right people
  • The skills and personality traits that they are looking for in their next round of hires

If your child is either in college or about to enter college, what advice can you give them to put them at the top of the most wanted list of these high growth companies?

Intern, Intern, Intern

The college degree gets you the interview. Your work experience is what lands you the job. If it comes down to two candidates for a position, both interview well, both have the right personality for the job, good GPA’s, etc, if one candidate has completed an internship and other has not, the candidate with the work experience is going to be highly favored. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, the goal of the company is to get you up and running as soon as possible. If you have real life work experience, the employer will most likely assume that you will be up and running more quickly than a new employee that has no work experience. You probably already know the lingo of the industry, you may be familiar with the software that the company uses, you know who the competitors are in the industry, etc.

Second, there is more to talk about in the interview. While it’s pleasant to talk about your personal interests, the research that you have completed on the company, general knowledge of the industry, and your college experience. Instead, if you are able to talk about a project that you worked on during a college internship that is relevant to the positon that you are applying for, the conversation and the lasting impression that you will have during your interview will be elevated to a level that is head and shoulders above most of the other job candidates that will follow the typically question and answer session.

College students should get involved with as many internships and work studies as they can while they are attending college. Also, don’t’ wait until your senior year in college to obtain an internship. Internships serve another purpose besides giving you the advantage in a job interview. They can also tell you what you don’t want to do. You put yourself in a tough spot if you spend four years in college to obtain an accounting degree, only to find out after obtaining your first job that you don’t like being an accountant. It happens more often than you would think.  We all have to do all we can in order to reach our career goal. It’s better to find that out in your freshman or sophomore year of college so you have the opportunity to change majors if needed.

Internships also help to narrow down your options. You may be interested in obtaining a degree in business but business is a very broad industry with a lot of different paths. Are you interested in marketing, finance, sales, accounting, management, operations, data analytics, manufacturing, or investment banking? Even if you are not 100% certain which path is the right one for you, make a choice. It will either reinforce your decision or it will allow you to scratch it off the list. Both are equally important.

Read These Books

There is common trait among business owners and executives. They typically have a thirst for knowledge which usually means that they are avid readers. One of the greatest challenges that young employees have is being able to relate to how the owner of the business thinks, what motivates them, and how they view the world. In general, business owners tend to admire or at least acknowledge the risk taking behaviors and achievements of some of the standout CEO’s of their time. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and the list goes on.

It’s not uncommon for a business owner to borrow personality traits or business strategies from some of these highly regarded CEO’s and incorporated them into their own business. If during an interview you happen to bring up that you admire how Elon Musk has the ability to identify solutions to problems in industries where it was previously deemed impossible like PayPal and SpaceX. There is a good chance that the business owner or executive that is interviewing you has either read Elon’s book or is aware of his achievements and it brings that conversation to next level.

In addition, the person interviewing you will most likely assume that if you are interested in reading those types of books than you probably have that entrepreneur mindset which is rare and valuable. It’s very difficult to teach someone how to think like an entrepreneur. Showing that you possess that trait can easily excite a potential employer.

Here are the top three books that I would recommend reading:

  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos)
  • Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance (CEO of Tesla)
  • The Virgin Way by Richard Branson (CEO of Virgin Group)

Each of these CEO’s have different leadership styles, come from different industries, have different backgrounds, and provide different takeaways for the reader. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge to be gain from reading these books and all of these books are written in a way that makes it difficult to put them down once you have started reading them.


Michael Ruger

About Michael………

Hi, I’m Michael Ruger. I’m the managing partner of Greenbush Financial Group and the creator of the nationally recognized Money Smart Board blog . I created the blog because there are a lot of events in life that require important financial decisions. The goal is to help our readers avoid big financial missteps, discover financial solutions that they were not aware of, and to optimize their financial future.

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Investment advisory services offered through Greenbush Financial Group, LLC. Greenbush Financial Group, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through American Portfolio Financial Services, Inc (APFS). Member FINRA/SIPC. Greenbush Financial Group, LLC is not affiliated with APFS. APFS is not affiliated with any other named business entity. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not ensure against market risk. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.