smart spending

7 skills to learn in college for big bucks

4. How to get along with people

"Good interpersonal skills are critical," says Coplin.

That's one of the reasons presidents of fraternities and sororities "get snapped up right away" in the job market, he says. Their peers liked them, and that job carries a lot of responsibility, he says.

Employers need workers who "build and maintain good relationships with people," Coplin says. "If you have these relationships, you have no problem being on a team and will make a good manager."

5. First-rate communication skills

Want to stand out and snag the high-dollar jobs? Polish those written and spoken communication skills.

"Your ability to communicate one-on-one is probably a key variable," Coplin says.

For employers, it's really "all about efficiency," he says. Bosses need to be able to explain something once and know that you get it. That means you have to be able to listen effectively, ask succinct questions, present solutions and demonstrate that you understand.

Writing skills are just as important. Being able to write, edit and proofread can push you up the career ladder.

Coplin recalls one freshman who beat out Ivy League juniors and seniors for an internship on a congressional campaign because she had experience in editing and proofreading. Later, the campaign needed a press release and she volunteered to write it. Because she did a great job, the internship turned into a paying position.

6. Compile a professional track record

Bosses "are not impressed by GPAs," Coplin says. Employers want to hire someone who already has work experience. When they see a degree from a high-prestige school, they "are worried about a sense of entitlement."

The best way to allay such fears, says Coplin, is to show you have "a track record of jobs and internships where you got a lot of experience."

Ideally you want jobs that display increasing levels of skill and responsibility.

Showing that another company's "personnel department selected you -- it's a confirmation that you're going to be good," he says.

7. Understand the software

It's one thing to take a software seminar or list a program on your resume. It's another to be able to explain a "pivot table," Coplin says.

"I've had kids beat out M.B.A.s for jobs because they know Excel," he says.

So identify the various programs used in your chosen field. "And don't just learn a program, use it," he says.

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