The days when having a degree alone would guarantee you a job are over. However, I’m sure you are all aware of this fact, considering we seem to be bombarded with messages such as this on a daily basis. For that reason, the focus of this blog will not be to discourage you or warn of the increased competition out there, but rather to inform you of what you can do while you are in school to help you land the job you want after graduation.
1. Get work experience – part-time employment, seasonal employment, service-learning, volunteer, practicum/internship
When considering candidates, employers are primarily looking for relevant work experience and transferable skills. When trying out a possible career field through an internship, part-time experience, volunteer opportunity, etc., it’s okay if you learn that the work is not something you enjoy or are interested in. It is certainly better to find this information out before graduation. Get as much work experience as possible in college (while also maintaining a solid GPA) in order to improve your skill set to market to employers. Generally, the skills obtained carry more weight to employers than the position’s title
2. Engage in student activities
Take advantage of the numerous opportunities available on campus. While being involved in student activities will not solely determine whether or not an employer chooses to hire you, it does help set you apart. Engaging in student activities demonstrates that you have communication skills, interpersonal skills, time-management skills (due to juggling multiple duties, i.e., school, extracurriculars, etc.), teamwork skills, motivation, and leadership skills (if you choose to assume a leadership position within an organization); all of which are important skills employers are looking for in applicants.
3. Stay focused on your goals
Have fun and enjoy your time in college, but remember to focus considerable energy toward career goals. Do not lose sight of why you are in college. This is a time to develop and realize one’s potential. Remember to always put your best foot forward.
4. Prepare a professional cover letter and résumé
Gaining relevant work experience can only get you so far; it is important to also market yourself well to employers. When writing a cover letter and résumé, be confident. E.g., in a cover letter, do not include statements such as, “I think I am the best candidate for the position.” Instead say, “I am the best candidate for the position,” and then explain why. Your cover letter and résumé will be the first impression an employer has of you. Make sure it sells your skills effectively.
(Visit the Career Center for more information on preparing a professional cover letter and résumé.)
5. Practice your interview skills
While there is no way to predict the exact questions that an employer will ask, it is helpful to prepare answers to general interview questions. You may want to refer to this list of common interview questions and tips on how to answer them: http://www.usatoday.com/careers/resources/interviewcommon.htm
Know your résumé and be prepared to give examples explaining your statements. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions at the end, make sure you do! Show your interest in the company and position.
Additionally, dress appropriately and professionally. If in doubt, always overdress. Arrive 10 minutes early. When meeting the interviewer, give a firm handshake and smile.
(The Career Center can help you practice these interview skills and give recommendations to help you market yourself most effectively.)
6. Use the powers of networking
While in college, gather a network of professionals (professors, supervisors, peers, etc.) to which you can call upon as a reference and/or to inform you of possible job openings. Join professional organizations related to your career interests and utilize this resource to meet others in your field. These connections can provide valuable advice and information that will help you locate positions and companies you would enjoy. References are crucially important for applicants, and in some cases, you may land a position via networking before it is even open to the public.
7. Why you?
Think of ways to demonstrate how you stand out from the rest of the candidates. Let them know why they should hire you. Spend substantial time soul searching and trying to delve into this question; it could seal the deal on landing the job you want.
8. Do not give up
Lastly, and most importantly, never give up. Keep sight of your dreams and find a way to make them reality. It will probably be a long, tedious journey, but once you reach your goal, it will all be worth it.
John C. Maxwell, author of Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, says, “Success is not a destination. It is the journey you take.” The decisions you make in your day-to-day life are what make you successful. If you are working through these steps listed above and exerting your best effort, you are already on the pathway to success. Stay determined and you will land the job you want that will set you on your career path.
Emily Clark, Practicum Student – M.S. in Student Affairs in Higher Education