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Colleges Turn On the Charm to Help Students Get Ahead



By Chris Hassan
Posted January 11, 2013 12:00 PM

College students head to charm school.
College students head to charm school.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in December, the national unemployment rate was at 7.8% - a significant improvement over December 2011's 8.5%. However, this figure is still high when compared to the 5.0% unemployment rate the country had in December 2007. With so many people still out of work, many college students may have concerns over their chances of finding a job after earning a bachelor's degree. If this is the case, they could always consider attending charm school, which is what some soon-to-be graduates are doing.

Many Graduates Lack Social Skills

Students may leave college with great memories, useful knowledge and - most importantly - a degree in the subject of their choosing. However, if they do not possess the appropriate social skills, they are unlikely to leave a good impression during in-person job interviews.

Part of the problem with many of today's college students is their overuse of technology, such as social media and smartphones. Previous generations had more opportunities to hone their interpersonal skills, as they could not shoot their friends text messages or agree with their peers with a simple Facebook "like."

"This is a generation with an average of 241 social media 'friends,' but they have trouble communicating in person," Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, told The Hechinger Report.

Students Attend Charm School While at College

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is among the schools that provide students with an opportunity to improve their social skills. On February 1, MIT will host its 20th Annual Charm School, according to the institute's website. From 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., those in attendance can participate in mini-classes on everything from using a cellphone in an elevator to asking about salary during a job interview.

"Everybody here is smart," Alana Hamlett, co-director of the MIT Charm School, told The Hechinger Report. "This is one additional tool that will give you an edge. The key to being a step ahead is having those interpersonal skills and being able to work a room."

In addition to MIT, Pennsylvania's York College is also interested in producing more charming graduates. Through its "Mastering the Art of Small Talk" workshop and seminar in taking criticism, York is doing what it can to prepare degree seekers for the challenges that will await them in the competitive job market.

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