Building Competence and Confidence
You have an interview: you’re smart, able, and your liberal arts degree tells potential employers that you have the most valuable competencies in today’s marketplace: the ability to think critically across disciplines, work well with others to get things done, you’ve had broad exposure to information and ideas, and you know how to communicate well.
If you’ve done an internship, that shows something about work experience and commitment, especially if you were able to land an internship in your area of interest.
What else are employers looking for in entry-level applications that they aren’t seeing? How about the kinds of skills that could mean the difference between hours of company training and being able to hit the ground running? Like, knowing how to use spreadsheet programs, manage and budget projects, review financial statements, or understand information systems?
These are skills that don’t generally fall inside classroom syllabi, but they can be crucial in the business and professional world, and they can make a real difference in a pool of good candidates.
With a generous gift from Emmy '63 and Bob King, Denison’s Knowlton Center for Career Exploration worked with Collegis Education to create an online skill-building platform called OnBoard. The program offers more than 50 units from which to choose (see previous link), based on extensive surveys of national employers, professors, alumni, and current students. The units build skills in areas like technology, writing, public speaking, and industry-specific software.
“OnBoard helped me feel like I was working toward something solid.”
Lars Soderberg ’16, an analyst with UBS Financial Services in New York since autumn of 2016, found that OnBoard was a perfect fit for him the summer after graduation. “I spent the summer living and working on Nantucket and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything, but OnBoard helped me feel like I was also working toward something solid.”
“I’m goal-oriented, and I aimed to spend 45 minutes each day to work through a section — that was the right approach for me, “ said Soderberg, “and it took about a month and a half to complete the units I chose.”
OnBoard made a difference in his job search. “It came up in interviews, and employers were interested that I made the extra effort to develop useful skills.” Soderberg also appreciated the experience of learning because it was what he wanted to do. “I could spend time absorbing the material, and it was good to really be learning and not just doing it to get through it.”
Ben Tracht '17 used OnBoard to prepare for internship interviews and found it delivered what it promised: “It tremendously expanded my finance understanding, and helped me feel more comfortable navigating a vastly complex career path.”
Isabel Randolph ’16 participated in the pilot program for OnBoard the summer before her senior year, choosing to focus on professional communication. “I’m naturally an introverted person, so I felt like I needed the extra experience in public speaking.” In interviews, Randolph was able to reference OnBoard as a response to that familiar and precarious question, “What do you see as your weaknesses?” She acknowledged a having a natural discomfort with public speaking, but then could describe how the OnBoard program helped her with strategies to give her more confidence.
“It's definitely something that adds credibility, particularly for liberal arts students….”
Now at Deloitte Consulting, Randolph, who majored in creative writing and French, thinks OnBoard is “definitely something that adds credibility, particularly for liberal arts students who want to show their interest and what they’ve done to get some experience in business and professional industries.” Randolph also found the program helped “both in deciding what to look for during the job search and also what to expect once a job has been secured …. OnBoard is a great way to feel more confident and become better prepared for life after Denison.”