Note: This piece originally appeared as a free article in the early January 2016 edition of The Measurement Advisor newsletter.

If you’re in the Class of 2016, then you are probably finalizing your last semester’s classes as I write this. Many of you will opt for easy-to-pass courses just to get the credits you need to graduate. But if you’re reading this, then you’re probably one of the smart ones, and you’ll be vying for the best job offers in the coming months. You will want to follow this advice concerning your course selections:

1. Bag the easy stuff and study Google Analytics.

Even if you’ve already filled up your schedule, at least audit a course in the IT studies department on Google Analytics. If you graduate with an ability to navigate this essential tool for web traffic analysis, then you’ll have a sure ticket to the top of the food chain of recent graduates. These days it’s impossible to make good decisions regarding content marketing without data, so if you can help an organization make those decisions, you’ll be their first choice to hire.

2. If you haven’t already mastered Excel, then take a refresher course.

I don’t care if you have to go to summer school: learn to do pivot tables and correlations in Excel and you’ll be at the top of the charts, job-wise. It’s not enough to know how to write these days, in order to market your content you need to know what works and what doesn’t. And that requires math. And the easiest way to do math through Excel.

3. If you’re math-inclined, get into a data analytics course.

Data geeks these days are getting job offers right out of college with salaries three times that of the average English or journalism major. So if you can market yourself as a data journalist or someone who understands how to mine data, then you’ll have a golden ticket to the top jobs. Beware that this path requires some serious math chops; typical prerequisites for data analytics courses include statistical methods, regression, and probability.

4. If you can’t do any of the above, get an internship at a research firm.

Most of you almost-graduates probably have some PR research under your belts, but it’s a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between the ideals you study in school and the messy world that is actual market research. So go get your hands dirty and your feet wet in a real-life market research company. I promise that whatever jobs you are interested in will seem easy by comparison.

5. And if you’re keen to dive right into the deep end, then volunteer to clean up someone’s data.

Are you one of those go-getters who just can’t wait to dive into some real analytics? Then head out and find a local nonprofit that’s sitting on some social media data and offer to help them make sense of it. Maybe it’s Google Analytics, or maybe even a robust set of donor data. You’ll probably have to do some cleaning and analysis to figure out what’s real and what’s worthless. Once again, if you can get into data and get familiar with its mine fields as well as its marvels, then you’ll be worth your weight in gold when you graduate. ∞

Thanks to EducaciOnline for the image.

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