Standing Out from the Crowd

As an IST student, 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? What can you do beyond carrying a strong GPA?

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

Companies want to see strong GPAs, but being an engaged student can set you apart from your peers. It demonstrates organization, attention to detail, and time management skills. Below are a variety of suggestions to get you started.

  • Participate in hackathons. HackPSU is Penn State's largest student-run hackathon. These  events are normally require limited time commitment but can sometimes result in very high-level recognition from the sponsoring companies.
  • Seek out experiential programs that let you visit corporate offices, conferences, and corporate activities off campus. Be sure to show up for any opportunities you register for.
  • Join a student organization, which can provide networking opportunities, enhance your leadership skills, and build lifelong networks and friendships.
  • Apply for "gig" or contract work experiences. These micro-internships will provide you with the opportunity to try out your skills and knowledge and are often paid opportunities. Visit the Parker Dewey website to explore some of these opportunities.
  •  Explore projects provided by PSU alumni. Visit LionLink at the beginning of each semester and apply to complete a project for a PSU Alum. Alumni post a variety of projects on LionLink for students to gain skills that can be demonstrated on their resumes. These skills-based engagements can also help you to build a network within the Alumni community and lead to potential for future career opportunities. Using the navigation bar hover over “Career” and select “Projects".

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. LinkedIn Learning has an extensive library of courses and training to help you build your skills. Badges and skills completed here can be shared on your LinkedIn profile.

You may also 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. Review the IT Certification Roadmap for a great place to start.

Finally, you can explore potential career paths and increase your learning by creating a profile on The Forage.  This free site provides you with the opportunity to build skills through five to six hour projects.  You will be able to experience and solve real world problems and gain insight and connection with top level companies.   Explore consulting, software development and engineering, and data analytics.  Engage with companies seeking to hire talented and motivated individuals as you demonstrate your desire to stand out from the crowd.

By joining a professional organization, you can build your network and get exposure to industry best practices. Check out the organizations below, which have been beneficial for IST students looking to get the most out of their careers.


Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement

E103 Westgate Building
University Park, PA 16802

(814) 865-4509