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The Hidden Perks of Student Employment: Part 2

a resume is being handed to another person
Rebecca A. Eckland

No matter if you’re just starting out in the job market or if you’re looking to switch careers, we checked in with local industry experts on how to develop yourself into an ideal job candidate. In the second part of this two-part series, we’ll explore the benefits of working for TMCC (even if you are working remotely) and how a campus job can be the key for developing the skills you will need as you continue your professional journey. 

As you read through these tips, remember that working at TMCC is not only a great way to reduce your commute time, get to know the faculty and professional staff at the college at a job that understands that you are a student first (all great wins), but it’s also a way to learn the skills that will help you to land a career in the community, too. 

In Part 1, we focused on skills that you will need to get a job, which included “doing your homework”, demonstrating your passion, and making a good first impression during your interview. In Part 2, we’re going to look at what are called “soft skills”, a.k.a. personal and interpersonal skills that are required to be successful in any professional work environment. 

What the Numbers Say About Local Career Opportunities

We admit, entry-level wages at TMCC or for employers in the community are not your end goal. However, if you’re new to the workforce, or you’re changing careers, it might not be a bad idea to start working for TMCC before applying for other positions. 

According to the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), starting a new career isn’t as simple as filling out a job application and hoping for the best. In fact, their data support the perks of being a student employee before applying for a position in the community.  

Did you know that the majority of job posts request 1-3 years of experience in a related field? That can be a difficult thing to obtain while you’re working on a degree or certificate. However, by working on campus as a student employee or intern, you could acquire years of experience that will make you a more competitive candidate for the job.

“The reason to engage in an internship or to get a job while you’re in school before you’re looking to take that first step in your career, is to develop that experience,” said EDAWN Director of Workforce Development Amy Fleming. “Most employers who are looking for somebody who’s had some experience in a professional environment.”

Secondly—and perhaps most importantly—working on campus allows you to develop the soft skills that you will need for any professional career moving forward.  If you’re not exactly sure what soft skills are, or which ones you need to develop in order to be successful, read on.

The Hard Truth About Soft Skills

No matter what career you’re in, there are two skill sets you will need to be successful. First, there are the “hard skills,” which refer to the specialized skill sets required by the job. Engineers engineer solutions, plumbers fix broken pipes, and logisticians work out sustainable supply chains. These skills are best understood by the set of verbs that will define whatever it is you do on a day-to-day basis. In all likelihood, these are also the skills you’re learning in the classes you’re taking for your certificate or degree program. 

And, certainly, those skills are important for any career. However, they only paint part of the picture of what could make you an ideal job candidate. According to the latest data on job postings in our community for the past two months, employers are looking for job candidates with communication, customer service, leadership, and problem-solving skills who are also detail-oriented. These aren’t necessarily skills you learn in a college class but are a part of what are called “soft skills”—the skills you need to navigate the professional work environment.

“Employers want someone who is familiar with how to act in a work or office environment, who is accustomed to set hours and, now, how to work remotely,” said Nancy McCormick, EDAWN Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion and Workforce. “Having ‘real-life’ experience gives employers more confidence that a person that is coming into their first job after graduating is going to at least have an idea of how things work in a professional work environment.”

Among employers who posted jobs in our region for the past two months, communication was the most desired soft skill. Both McCormick and Fleming agree: an internship or on-campus job are perfect opportunities to hone your communication skills while you continue to work on your certificate or degree. Communicating with co-workers, supervisors and acting in a customer service role (helping prospective and current students, faculty or staff) will help you to become a more effective and professional communicator.

It will also put the skills you’re learning in your degree program to good, practical use. “The disconnect between recent graduates and employers is that graduates over-inflate the value of their degree versus their experience. So, having that experience really demonstrates that they can apply those skills,” said Fleming. 

Why Soft Skills Matter

If you’ve never worked in an office environment before, starting off as an intern or student employee at TMCC could be the gateway to your longtime success in your professional career. Like any specialized environment, there are expectations, norms, and rules that you’ll be expected to follow from day one. 

“Office professionalism and protocol are very important,” said McCormick. “Working in this environment at TMCC can help a student understand the pace and expectations required in the professional world. Time management, prioritization of tasks, and the ability to manage multiple expectations simultaneously are skills you can develop via an internship.”

There are certain behaviors that might work at home or even in the classroom that definitely won’t fly in the workplace. Texting excessively, using company hours to Facetime with friends and family, or not showing up on time are all faux-pas to be avoided at all costs. Working as an intern or student employee in one of TMCC’s many departments will give you the rundown of these kinds of office culture do’s and don’ts, and give you a leg up on someone who lacks that experience. 

An added benefit for you? In addition to gaining the soft skills employers are looking for in their ideal job candidates, you’ll also learn more about higher education and more specifically, about TMCC.

“[As a student employee], you can get more access to college leadership and the seasoned professionals if you work on campus,” said McCormick. “This will help you to have a broader vision of the college, and help you to make decisions about your own education in addition to what you will do after you graduate.” 

Your Next Steps

If you’re ready to apply for a job—whether it’s on or off-campus—check out these resources for job seekers offered by EDAWN. In addition to updating your resume, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile, because according to both Fleming and McCormick, that is where employers are checking the credentials and skillsets of those who apply to work for their organizations. 
 
If you’re ready to explore opportunities to work at TMCC, be sure to look for information about the Resident Lizard Intern Program that can help you to find “real world” work experiences virtually and on-campus starting Fall 2021.  
 
“This program allows students to grow in their area of study while completing their classes,” said Career Hub Program Coordinator Marcie Iannacchione. “Professional learning objectives and outcomes will be created. Students will gain valuable work experience provided by a TMCC department and make departmental connections and learn to network.” To learn more about this program, contact the Career Hub.

Or, if you are interested in the many student employment opportunities available right now, contact the TMCC Career Hub at 775-829-9080.