Starting Your Future Off On the Right Foot
Heading into the final year of your college career can be both exciting and frightening at the same time. On one hand, receiving your diploma means no more classes, research papers or exams; which is truly a welcome sight. However the trade off of leaving academia is entering the real world.
Although leaving campus life for the corporate world may be something that can seem stressful after graduation, a lot of the groundwork for landing that first ‘real’ job can be done while enjoying the benefits of your last year of school .
The following 10 tips will help prepare you for landing a perfect job and beginning the next exciting chapter of your life.
1.) Plan ahead – Looking for your first job after school is very similar to the college search process. Before the recruiting season starts in the fall make a list of the criteria that are important to you. Your list should include things like: positions that interest you, where you want to live after school, company size, company culture and work environment. By identifying these factors early on in the process you will be able to do better research and find that perfect fit.
2.) Draw from past experiences - Through experiences in the classroom and internships you’ve had an opportunity to test your skill set. When deciding the types of positions you are interested in think back to what excited you about a project you worked on and how you can transition that experience to your first job. Remember that internships and class projects give you exposure to things you may not have thought of as a career option. Be open to taking on new challenges and responsibilities. Most importantly, be honest with yourself when identifying what you enjoyed doing and what you didn’t find to be exciting. This will keep you focused on searching for the career that is right for you.
3.) Career Services is your advocate – utilize their resources. Career Services counselors serve as liaisons between you and potential employers. They are knowledgeable about the companies recruiting on campus and provide valuable resources to help you throughout the process (i.e. resume writing workshops, mock interview sessions and researching tips). Visit your Career Services on-line career sites to learn about job opportunities, key dates for career fairs, when companies are hosting presentations and resume deadlines. Employers utilize career services’ career sites to post their positions; making it easy for candidates to check out opportunities and submit their resume for recruiters to see. Take advantage of these resources early in the recruiting process to ensure that there will be more time to explore all of your options without feeling rushed.
4.) Keep your resume current – Your resume is often the first thing about you an employer sees. Make sure it reflects who you are, what you’ve accomplished and what you have to offer. This is your opportunity to let an employer know what makes you special. List all honors and awards you’ve received. Detail leadership roles you’ve held both in and out of school and the skills you’ve developed through these roles. Concisely state all work and project experience that demonstrates what you can offer an employer. A resume should be easy to read and professional in content. Don’t use cutesy sounding e-mail addresses on your resume. E-mail addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org are fine for family and friends but may be a turn off to an employer. Make sure that you are diligently proofreading your resume - you want to put your best foot forward with an employer and typos reflect poorly upon you. Finally, ask for feedback and input from your career services counselor, friends and family before handing out or posting or sending out your resume.
5.) Network, Network, Network – Though the old adage goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” In actuality it’s “who knows what you know and can contribute” that will help you down the line. Utilize your school’s alumni office. Setup informational interviews to learn more about companies and make connections with alumni . If you have secured an interview with a company, contact any alumni from your school who are working there to learn more about their experience. Alumni love helping out students from their schools and talking about what they do. Even if the connection doesn’t result in an immediate job offer alumni may be able to refer you to other people who are hiring and will think of you when future opportunities come up. When looking for a job, you never know who can help in the future, so being professional and making a good impression during all meetings with alumni and other contacts is key. Many schools and universities are now sponsoring networking and career nights. Attend these events and talk to as many people as possible. Make sure to pass out your resume and/or personal business cards. Also ask for business cards from the people who you speak with and make sure to send them a follow up e-mail thanking them for their time.
6.) Attend Career Fairs – Career fairs are a great opportunity to meet multiple employers in one setting. Most colleges and universities host career fairs in the fall and spring to help students learn about job opportunities. Research the companies that are planning to attend the career fair ahead of time and be prepared to talk about your skills and experiences. Also, ask questions. Remember that list you prepared in the summer? Career fairs ensure a captive audience and is your opportunity to learn first hand about a company and make that first great impression.
7.) Do your research – Search the internet for any press on companies you would be interested in working for. Read the articles written about them to learn the new things happening. If you are hoping to work in a particular city research “the best places to work lists” for that area. Also, take a look at the company’s website. Websites provide a wealth of insight to a company’s culture and vision. Research job listings to get a sense of career opportunities and contact recruiters directly to express your interest. Doing this research will not only help you decide if you want to work for a particular company but will also help you prepare for future interviews.
8.) Dress for success – When heading out on an interview, make sure that you dress appropriately. In your conversations with a recruiter or interviewer, ask what the appropriate dress code is. In today’s business world, companies’ opinions of proper workplace attire vary. If you are unsure of what to wear after speaking with a person from the company, err to conservative dress. That being said, a suit is always a safe bet. You would rather be over dressed than underdressed.
9.) Working inside the process - Work closely with company recruiters. Recruiters are rooting for candidates to succeed. Partner with them to get an understanding of their recruiting process. Knowing key information like recruiting timelines and the type of interviews conducted will help you prepare better and set yourself up for success. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. If you make it to the final round interviews ask what you can do to position yourself to get an offer. If you don’t get that coveted position, ask what you could have done differently so you can prepare for future interviews with other companies.
10.) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – The process of looking for a job isn’t easy so it is OK to ask for help and/or advice. Talk to your parents, brothers, sisters, relatives or friends who are in the corporate world. They have all been through the process and they know what worked for them. They can also tell you some of their missteps so that you can avoid taking the same route. They are also a good sounding board for any ideas on career planning that you may have.
The process of looking for your first job should be fun. It is a lot of work and can be stressful at times, but it is the first step in becoming your own person. If at times it seems like landing that job is taking a long time, don’t panic. Have confidence you will land a great job--just be patient and keep your cool.
Susan DiTullio is the Manager of College Recruiting at Vistaprint, an online supplier of graphic design and printed products to small businesses and consumers.