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General Education Courses: What's in it for me?

Students doing homeworkWhen you begin looking at job postings, you may notice that employers from diverse organizations use the same language to describe the qualities they hope to attract from prospective employees, such as: critical thinking, communication, problem solving, collaboration, teamwork, and analytical skills. So are these just buzzwords that everyone repeats or are they critical workforce skills that are needed in almost every industry?

As you read through the postings, your first thought may be that these qualities sound nice in theory, but how does one obtain and prove they have these intangible sounding qualities? Are they just words to populate your resume?

The fact is, these skills are real, are indeed needed in every industry, and you can not only prove you have them, you can gain and build your level of skill while in school.

Building your Skills while in College

Many students find themselves reluctant to take general education courses as they fail to see the applicability or practicality of these “general” courses to their major area of study or future career. However, your general education courses are a great place to start building your competencies in these broad skill areas.

General education courses are designed to help you gain and improve these critical workforce skills through very specific learning outcomes, assignments and projects. In fact, your college has spent a lot of time planning and ensuring that your general education courses will help you improve these skills as you progress through your degree program.

Relating Assignments to Your Career

An excellent way to hone your skills for your future career is to take advantage of opportunities to relate general education projects and writing assignments to your future or current career industry. Doing so will help you build these critical skills in relation to the actual tasks and experiences you’ll need for your career.

An example of a general education course assignment that everyone dreads is the generic “research paper.” Here at Granite State, our faculty are subject matter experts working in their respective fields. They encourage students to focus on their real world experience during course assignments and apply theory to real world scenarios and problems.

One example assignment asks students to imagine they’re a consultant who has been asked to help a company solve a problem. Through evaluation, research, and analysis using reliable sources, students write their findings and recommendations.

Knowing how to tackle a real world problem through research and preparing a proposal is important in many sectors of the business world, so having this kind of experience can boost your employability and give you a great case study to discuss during an interview.

Explaining Skills On your Resume and During an Interview

When writing your resume you’ll want to try to avoid using vague buzzword statements. Instead, create descriptive resume bullet points and job stories that actually describe how you have these critical skills. Your bullet points and job stories can refer to past work experience, volunteer positions, coursework, or other experiences.

Secondly, you’ll want to relate your bullet points to the skills and experience they’re looking for in the job posting. Doing so isn’t always easy, as employers don’t always spell out exactly how you’ll use critical thinking or problem solving in the position. However, almost all positions require some level of skill in these areas, so taking time to read between the lines in the job description and understand how the position might solve problems or use critical thinking to synthesize information will help you look like a great candidate.

Use the following examples to get you thinking about how you’ve used each of these skills in your coursework or other past experiences:

Critical Thinking | Evaluating Information and Ideas | Research
  • Develop a budget using information from various sources
  • Plan a strategy to tackle a complex problem
  • Coordinate various information to create a specific outcome
  • Review data, ideas, or information and determine their validity or usefulness
  • Find errors or inconsistencies in information, data or plans
  • Compile and analyze information from various sources
Problem Solving | Analytical Thinking
  • Troubleshoot a technical issue
  • Handle a difficult situation or customer
  • Create a new process or procedure for efficiency
  • Investigate a problem and determine a solution
  • Detect patterns in data or information and draw conclusions
Written, Oral and Visual Communication
  • Write a proposal
  • Present information to a group using visuals such as images or graphs
  • Speak to a group or individual to make a case for something
  • Persuade your superiors of the benefits of a certain solution or action
Teamwork | Collaboration
  • Communicate/Report findings or other information to members of a team
  • Participate in group brainstorming sessions to solve problems
  • Maintain regular communication with team members on the status of a project
  • Mediate or negotiate with team members to settle a dispute

College provides a great opportunity to become a better critical thinker, problem solver, communicator, and team player. Honing these necessary career skills during your general education courses can help you do better academically and provide valuable skills for your resume. Taking your education to the next level by strategical using coursework to seek out and solve real world problems can boost your chances of landing a job in your field.

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