As the end of senior year quickly approaches, many college students often find themselves questioning the likelihood of being able to secure a full-time job post-graduation. I graduated last month with a bachelor’s degree in Operations & Management Information Systems at Santa Clara University, and I was fortunate to receive three competitive job offers after making a few significant alterations to both my attitude and job application habits. I offer these five tips to my fellow seniors who are scrambling to find their first job:
1. Set Goals for Yourself. Where will you be in five years, and how will you get there? This is a question that most interviewers ask their candidates, but it’s actually a preliminary step towards successful career planning. Once you have a vision, map out the ideal position, titles, and industries in which you would like to work to help you achieve your goal. Create multiple plans in case one doesn’t work out. Also, make a timeline. For example, “I will have submitted all my job applications for analyst roles by Friday, April 22 and plan to follow up with HR shortly after.” This will help you stay organized and will serve as a guideline throughout your application process.
2. Sculpt Your Resume. A resume is like a personal ad. You’re selling yourself with words on a piece of paper. Capture the attention of an employer with a unique, well-formatted resume, and don’t use templates. While an organized resume will help you get noticed, the content is what really counts. Explain the outcome of your work by using statements like, “I targeted my pitch towards group XYZ which led to an overall increase of 14% in sales.” Don’t exaggerate or lie about the roles you held in your previous jobs, and remember to mention your qualifications. Just because you’re a music major doesn’t mean that you can only look for music jobs. If you led group projects, organized meetings, and analyzed data, those are skills you should include in your resume for jobs in almost any industry.
3. Be Proactive. University Resources Are the Key to Success! Your school may have websites where you can apply for jobs online and easily submit resumes. I’ve found that your chance of being considered is significantly higher if you use your school’s resources. Also, building your network is important. Your professors and alumni are excellent resources, because they will be able to direct you to a point of contact who may be able to get you an interview.
4. Polish Your Interview Skills. Be a People Person. Practice interviewing with a friend or going to your school’s career center to do mock interviews. First round of interviews are usually about yourself and your resume. Work on being able to explain your previous positions in detail and have answers ready for behavioral questions such as: “Tell me about a time when you worked with someone difficult; what did you do? Let’s say you’re assigned to a project that you know nothing about; what would you do?” Make sure to smile, be polite, have confidence, pay attention, and ask good questions. Remember, being smart isn’t enough-your hiring manager wants to see how well you work in a collaborative environment.
5. Practice Saying Thank You. Make your thank you letters personal by writing about specific topics that were brought up during the interview. This shows you were paying attention, valued the information being discussed, and are genuinely interested in the job. Always emphasize how appreciative you are for having the opportunity to meet with them and learn about their company. This will make you stand out in the end.
These five suggestions in particular have led me towards a promising career path. Good luck class of 2011!
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