As graduation draws near, you may find your focus starting to shift to what’s coming next in your life. Graduating from college is a commendable accomplishment in its own right, but our hard work over the past several years has an important end goal — employment! Finding a job can take up to six months for new graduates, according to Elaine Varelas of the career guidance service Keystone Partners. So starting your job search by winter should put you in the perfect position to secure gainful employment by the time you graduate in May, or soon after you accept that diploma.
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If you’re concerned about finding a job or worried that you may be behind, I have felt the same way. I’m a humanities major who started interviewing for jobs this fall, and at first, I was worried I was already behind. Some of my friends who are interested in the fields of consulting and investment banking had begun interviewing in August, and they had job offers in hand before winter break! Over the past few months of meeting with recruiters and researching for this article, I’ve discovered some tools and tips that can help give you the confidence you need to take spring-term recruiting by storm.
Lesson 1: Resume writing
Don’t just list dates and achievements.
Do focus on your impact on others.
When I was first told to “center achievement” on my resume, I chose to list accomplishments without describing how I attained them. This meant I was leaving out crucial parts of the story of who I am as a complete candidate. I have found two tips for taking your resume to the next level.
Go into greater detail. Use the formula from Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google, as a framework for writing your resume. Present your accomplishments as:
“Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z].”
This helps you center not only what you achieved but how you achieved it and what effect it had on others.
For example, a line of my resume about my club leadership originally read:
- Doubled student membership from 50 in spring to 100 in fall
Using Bock’s formula, I transformed the line to say:
- Increased student membership and involvement by 100% by implementing a three-part marketing approach involving website, social media, and on-campus promotion with promotional materials.
Get an outside opinion. I benefited from having a discussion with a professional outside of my family. I sat down with them, face to face, and described each position on my resume in my own words. This person challenged me to update my resume so that my bullet points best reflected how I had described each position verbally. Allow new people to review your resume, and be open to their feedback. You may be surprised by how helpful people outside of your family can be.
Lesson 2: Interviewing
Don’t apologize for who you are.
Do know what you want — and show what you can do.
One of my final-round interviews consisted of several candidates in one room with executives. We each had a chance to give an elevator pitch, and we were given only a small amount of time to sell ourselves. My pitch consisted of retelling what everyone could read on my resume. Another candidate spent their time talking about a formative experience that wasn’t reflected on their resume, and they made a memorable first impression. They also took several opportunities to confidently talk about their achievements throughout the group discussion. After not getting an offer from that company, I began to rethink how I discussed my accomplishments and experience in interviews.
Be confident in who you are and what you’ve done. Don’t be humble or apologetic about your experience, urges executive coach Kristi Hedges, in “How New College Grads Can Land a Shockingly Good Job.” If you do not have substantial internship experience, highlight your academic achievements, club leadership, and community service. If you are exploring a new field, highlight the skills that you’ve gained from your major, Hedges adds.
Raghav Haran, founder of Business Insider–recognized blog LandAnyJobYouWant.com, takes that advice from Hedges further and insists that job requirements are negotiable. Haran writes about how he applied for jobs that he didn’t meet all of the requirements for in “Career Advice No One Tells You.” From Hedges and Haran, we learn to never limit interests because of what we’ve studied.
Envision what you want in a workplace. This can be a “for now” vision, says Hedges, so don’t overthink it. As you spend more time in the workplace, you’ll figure out what makes a company a good (or bad) fit for you. For now, what you want to consider is what kind of company culture best suits you. We all have experience with choosing colleges, and choosing a workplace won’t be much different. If you get an on-site interview, pay attention to how people interact with each other at the company. More important than what employers say about company culture, what do they show you? Can you envision yourself working here?
Come with a portfolio. Companies will expect you to be an expert not only on yourself and their company but also on their competitors. Bring a portfolio with any relevant work that you’ve done — work can include digital/visual projects or writing samples. Also include your resume, cover letter, references, notes from research you’ve done on the company and their competitors, questions for your interviewers, and paper for taking notes. Lia Liaros, founder of Everyday Interview Tips, has suggestions on her website about creating a college graduate portfolio.
Lesson 3: Networking
Don’t fear reaching out.
Do take every chance you can to expand your network.
UC Berkeley’s career center says that 50% of jobs are filled through networking. We all know that networking is critical when looking for a job, but figuring out where to start and how to portray confidence can present a challenge.
Start with low-key networking. If you are an introverted person, the idea of networking can seem frightening. In “Networking for Introverts: How to Connect with Confidence,” Lisa Hunter, a marketing consultant with years of experience working in human resources, writes this: “Talking with family, friends, significant others, colleagues, neighbors, and people at the gym or your favorite Starbucks can all have networking value.” Practice talking to people in low-stakes situations, such as when you order a coffee.
Prepare in advance. For more confidence while networking, both online and in person, doing your research on a person or company, being confident in your own strengths, and preparing questions in advance may make the experience more bearable. When you do online research on a company or individual, you will likely come up with productive questions for them. (Read our blog “How to Stop Hating Networking Events” for more tips on this topic.)
Use LinkedIn. Make sure that the information on your resume and on LinkedIn are consistent. Devote time that you would typically spend on Snapchat to LinkedIn instead, and expand your network as much as possible. Begin by adding your parents and classmates, and send personalized messages to secondary contacts. Also join interest groups on LinkedIn, reach out to anyone who views your profile, and search for and connect with alumni from your school. LinkedIn is more than just a way to connect with other career-minded people, as many recruiters actively seek candidates through the platform.
Lesson 4: Persevering
Don’t fear “failure.”
Do move forward with bravery.
“If you’re brave enough often enough, you’re going to fall.”
— Brené Brown, bestselling author and founder of Brave Leaders Inc.
Applying for jobs requires a new mixture of bravery, vulnerability, and confidence. With some experts suggesting that students apply to as many as 40 jobs at a time, failure is inevitable. Fortunately, many employers will give feedback about how to improve your next presentation. If you don’t receive an offer, especially after several interviews, use personal insight and feedback to determine how to move forward in finding the best fit for your first position. Following the advice in this article helped me get a promising job offer before the end of fall semester.