By: Trish Freshwater on June 28th, 2012

Whether you’re working towards a bachelor’s degree in business, food management, fine arts, or anything in between, you likely have some elective credits to fill each semester. While you might think that this is a great place to drop in that easy class to lighten your load, you also may want to consider a more strategic approach to your electives.
As I mentioned in my last post about transitional skills, there are a number of competencies that will set you apart from other job candidates which will help you succeed in numerous different jobs and that will enhance your technical skill set. From this perspective, consider choosing an elective that will help round out your experience, knowledge and skill set.

Writing Classes
Good writing skills are, perhaps, the most important skill set you will need for any career. From the seemingly simple task of writing an e-mail to the more thoughtful writing of letters, proposals and presentations, writing is at the core of everything you will do in your future career. You need to be able to express yourself well in writing, using good sentence structure, organized thoughts and persuasive writing. And, the only way to improve your writing is to practice writing. A lot. So, look for classes in business writing, business communication, technical writing and fiction/nonfiction writing. It doesn’t really matter what type of writing you’re doing, as long as you’re writing.

Public Speaking
Most college students dread giving a speech. This fear usually comes from a lack of experience. But, these skills will be essential in your professional career as you speak one-on-one with others in your company or if you ever need to present an idea, formal presentation or other material to a group. This is perhaps the second most important elective you can take, after a writing class. Look for classes in public speaking, oral interpretation, interpersonal communication and business communication.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Knowing how to research, understand and solve problems will be common tasks in your professional life. Being good at this requires a strong understanding of ethical behavior, critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities. Look for classes in ethics, logic, philosophy, critical thinking and project management, or a class in research methods if it applies to your major.

World Views
Today’s world is shrinking fast, thanks to social media and other online tools. While you might look for a job at, say, a hospital in your local community, your understanding of the world around you and the diversity of the people in your community will be critical for your ability to interact with varied patients, customers and colleagues. Look for classes in history, political science, government, geography, world religions, cultural anthropology, women’s studies and ethnic studies.

Business Skills
Even if your future career will be in classroom teaching elementary school children, you will need a good
bit of business acumen to understand the greater organization for which you work. All entry-level candidates for nearly any job should have solid computer skills. Additionally, it would be helpful to understand some basic business concepts. Look for classes that teach Microsoft Office programs and if it makes sense for your career look into graphic design, photo and video editing classes. For business acumen, consider classes in accounting, business communication, business law, human resources management and economics.

Choosing the right elective classes should be a fun part of arranging your schedule each semester. But, if you put a little thought behind your choices, you could easily set yourself up to be a stronger job candidate after graduation. Who knows, if you select just the right classes, you could even earn yourself a minor in business or communication – just one more credential to set you apart from other new grads in your career field. Good luck and happy scheduling!

Trish is a senior communications manager for Sodexo, a world leader in quality of daily life solutions that contribute to the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations. As a member of the marketing and communications team for Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition department since 2010, Trish is an employment expert who aims to educate job candidates about the hiring process, networking opportunities and the culture of Sodexo. A graduate of Marist College (BA – Psychology) and the University of Southern Mississippi (MS – Public Relations), Trish has never been far from the classroom. As a former adjunct professor for the College of Charleston and professional advisor for the college’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, she enjoys helping students reach for their potential and guide them through the process of preparing for their future careers. A lover of technology and gadgets, cookies, chocolate and baking, Trish spends most of her free time raising two small children and competing with husband to obtain the most stamps in her National Parks Passport book. Feel free to connect with Trish or learn more about careers at Sodexo.

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