Useful Courses 101

Posted by Liz Seasholtz on June 19, 2011
Useful Courses 101

As fall semester begins, students are adding and dropping classes at a pace quick enough to make your computer freeze.  

The realization you're one class short of being a full-time student has just set in, and adding another class from your prescribed course track isn't an option (Five accounting classes in one semester is just cruel.). Your parents not-so-delicately point out you need full-time status to receive healthcare coverage, and just as important, you need it to secure discounted season football tickets.

As the final deadline for add/drop looms, you might want to consider some courses that might not fulfill requirements, but can prove valuable  once you land that first - or fifth - job.  

Here are seven courses that will help your future career and diversify your looming course load:

1. Business/Communications Writing. 
One of the best skills job candidates can have is an aptitude for writing - a talent that is surprisingly hard to come by.  Taking a course with a writing focus, specifically with a business angle, can teach you not only proper grammar, but correct format and etiquette for memos, resumes, and general business letters.  Look for these classes in your university's English or communications departments.

2. Interpersonal communication.
Of course you know you're great at getting along with everyone, but understanding others' behaviors, especially in the workplace, can only help.  Professors of interpersonal communication courses teach students how to read the speech, nonverbal, and unconscious communication of others and correctly react to it-inside and outside the workplace. "Interpersonal communication is at the core of everything we do as social beings, including developing intimacy, teaching, leading, creating families, and managing organizations, dealing with conflict, and persuading others," says Professor Scott Caplan, who teaches Interpersonal Communication at the University of Delaware. "Learning about interpersonal communication gives you tools for living."

3. Golf. 
We've all envied them from afar: the corporate head-hauncho and millionaire client, wearing seersucker pants and Lacoste polos, sealing deals on a leisurely Tuesday afternoon at the golf course. The first step to achieving this dream? Learning to play golf. Golf classes, usually found in health and exercise science colleges, teach students to have an understanding of and a proficiency in golf skills, rules, and protocol, often with hands-on practice on golf courses. Fore!

4. Wine Appreciation.  What better way to impress potential clients than by analyzing the buttery flavors of your Sauvignon Blanc?  Look for classes titled "wine appreciation" or "beverage management" in the hospitality or hotel, restaurant, and institutional management colleges. You'll have to wait until the latter half of your college career to take this course (when you're 21 years old) but it can be well worth the wait.  You'll be tossing around words like tannic and oaky as you toast to success.

5. Introduction to Computers and Information Systems.  As the world grows alarmingly dependent on computers, courses that teach you how to use them are useful for obvious reasons.  By taking an introductory, 100-level class in your computer science department, you'll learn general concepts of computer organization, terminology, and the impact of computers on society. Beginner courses typically provide an introduction to word processing, spreadsheets, databases, electronic mail, bulletin boards, windowing systems, networks and the internet, and very simple programming.  So when you are asked on a job interview if you really understand Excel, you can confidently answer, "Yes."

6. Public Speaking. 
You know that like, person, who has, like, annoying ticks, when they, like, speak to a large audience? Habits like hair-twirling, making minimal eye contact, or crowding sentences with "likes" or "umms" prevent you from delivering the best presentation possible.  Professor Peter Pober, who teaches Special Occasions Speaking at George Mason University, says good public speaking skills reduce unnecessary time needed to fix communication breakdowns, enabling co-workers to communicate effectively. "The skills learned [in a public speaking class] will differentiate students from their peers and give them a significant advantage in the work world." Even if you plan to work at a small company after you graduate, your colleagues will appreciate not having a like, valley girl attend their weekly meetings.

7. Cross-Cultural Etiquette. In the Middle East, the uber-positive American thumbs-up sign translates to the foulest of gesticular insults. Surprised? Take a class in cross-cultural etiquette and you'll learn this and other bits of information needed to avoid embarassing moments with colleagues and clients.  Classes typically teach students a range of mores and decorum required to effectively work with people from a variety of backgrounds.  Classes in cross-cultural etiquette are often available in the hotel, restaurant, and institutional management college, while classes on global business and international relations are often offered in business schools.

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