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Stand Out From The Crowd

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As a student in Penn State’s College of IST, you will share many classroom projects and experiences with your peers.  But in the highly competitive recruiting process, how will you differentiate yourself from your classmates?  How will you stand out from the crowd?  It is important to maintain a strong cumulative GPA, but what can you do beyond that?

Here are some ideas of activities and learning that you can accomplish while you are a student, or on summer break, to develop your marketable skills beyond the classroom and stand out from the crowd.

Companies do want to see strong cumulative GPAs, but if there are two students with the exact same grade point average, what will they look at next to determine who gets the invitation for an interview?  Students who have strong GPAs and who are involved in campus activities are heavily recruited.  Being engaged while doing well academically demonstrates, in a very tangible way, organization, attention to detail, and time management skills.  There are a variety of suggestions below on how you can get engaged.

  • Participate in hack-a-thons on and off campus.  These engagements are normally for a very limited time period and can sometimes result in very high level recognition from the sponsoring companies.
  • Seek out opportunities to attend office visits, conferences, and corporate activities off campus (generally through an application process).  Again, the commitment of time can be very limited, but it can get you closely connected with a specific organization.  Caution: if you sign-up for these events SHOW UP.  Employers will also remember those who do not follow through on commitments.
  • Become a student member in an on-campus organization.  This can be an engagement that pays off in many ways, providing opportunities for leadership as well as life-long networks and friendships.

Your undergraduate degree is a major step toward a lifetime of professional learning. Throughout your career, you will need to continue to learn new things and develop your skills. Some of this development may happen informally through conference attendance, mentorship, and reading.

You may participate in programs that offer recognition of your learning and accomplishments through certificates, digital badges, and other credentials. These certifications offer validation from the issuer and tell others that you have met the criteria for this distinction. In the case of digital badges, even more information can be electronically stored about your experiences.

LinkedIn Learning – a large repository of technology tutorials (formerly


You may also benefit from exploring career skills and opportunities through micro-internships. Parker Dewey defines micro-internships as "short-term, paid, professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns."

Resources for finding micro-internships:
Parker Dewey
Indeed Micro-Internships

Your credentials provide recognition of effort and can differentiate you at a current job or as a potential candidate by demonstrating competency beyond an individual claim. While many factors go into selecting a job candidate, these additional certifications and accomplishments may help to give you an extra edge. A few tips for using these credentials to highlight your work include:

Displaying Your Credentials

Talking About Your Credentials

  • Similar to a portfolio of work, accumulated credentials and certifications should give you an opportunity to talk with a potential employer.
  • Take advantage of the information provided as part of the certification. This information can help you to articulate what you have done and to explain it to someone that is not familiar with the credential to understand why it is valuable.
  • LinkedIn may act as a repository of many credentials and certifications that you accumulate but do not overwhelm a potential employer. Select a few that are most relevant to the job and be sure to highlight those in your resume and interview.


Many of these credentials are periodically updated (particularly when related to technology) and can vary in scope. However, we recommend a few sites to start your lifelong learning journey:



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