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Unformatted text preview: Preparing for SUCCESS Preparing to STUDY Preparing for LIFE In this chapter you
will explore Confessions of a COLLEGE STUDENT . . . ‘‘
BENNETT ROSSELL, 24
University of California, Riverside come to college for many reasons, but for the
majority of them a central purpose of college is gaining the knowledge and
skills they will need for future employment. Your success in your work life will
often depend on whether the profession or career you think you want to pursue is really right for you. But success in the workplace also depends on your
ability to do simple things well, such as being on time, being honest, and doing your best. Let’s look at the work experiences of two college students, Sara
Sara entered college with thoughts of majoring in the sciences because she
enjoyed working in the laboratory at her hometown hospital. Her concern for
helping others led her to choose nursing as a major; it was a good career path
that combined her two primary interests. Sara sailed through the first two years,
excelling in her science classes. During her junior year she began her nursing
courses and spent more time observing the practice of nursing in her university’s
teaching hospital. After a summer working in various departments of her hometown hospital, Sara made an appointment with a career counselor. She confessed
that she did not like being around sick people every day and wanted to change
her major but had no idea what she wanted to do. Sara was wise to change her
major before she began what would have been a frustrating career as a nurse.
John explored several majors during his first two years in college by choosing his elective courses with careers in mind and talking to his friends. He settled on business as a major, focusing on finance. John had high aspirations
of working for a Fortune 500 company and earning a six-figure salary within
five years of graduation. He performed above average in his academic work, although he was occasionally slack with assignments and frequently missed class.
He interned with two prominent companies and eventually accepted a position
with a Fortune 500 company. To his surprise, he was fired nine months later
because he was frequently late for work and missed important deadlines on
two occasions. Although John had high aspirations while he was in college, he
somehow never learned, or took seriously, the basic habits of career success.
Like Sara and John, students who are planning for careers frequently
encounter bumps along the way. Choosing a career is a process of discovery,
involving a willingness to remain open to new ideas and experiences. Why
begin thinking about your career now? Because many of the decisions you
make during your first year in college will have an impact on where you end
up after you graduate. In your lifetime, companies have restructured to remain competitive. As a
result, major changes have taken place in how we work, where we work, and
the ways in which we prepare for work while in college. In many ways, the
following characteristics define today’s economy:
Global. Increasingly, industries have become multinational, not only moving
into overseas markets but also seeking cheaper labor, capital, and resources
abroad. Factories around the world built to similar standards can turn out
essentially the same products. Your career is bound to be affected by the
global economy, even if you never leave the United States.
For example, when you call an 800 number for customer
service, the person who talks to you might be answering
your call in Iowa, Ireland, or India. In his best-selling book
The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman reminds his readers
that talent has become more important than geography in
determining a person’s opportunity in life. College graduates in the United States are now competing for jobs with
others around the world who are often willing to work longer hours for less money than American workers. And this
is true not only in manufacturing jobs, which are routinely
being outsourced to other countries, but also in professional
occupations such as medicine and accounting.
Unstable. In 2008 and 2009 the world economy suffered
a series of events that led to downturns in stock markets,
bankruptcies, foreclosures, failing businesses, and lost
jobs. Scandals within the highest ranks of major companies and constant mergers and acquisitions of companies have destabilized the workforce. Depending on how
long it takes to stabilize the economy in the United States
and the rest of the world, your career goals might have
to be refocused. Because the global economic situation is changing continuously, it’s important to keep up to date on the economic
situation as it relates to your prospective major and career.
Innovative. The economy depends on creativity in new products and services to generate consumer interest around the world. Especially in times
of economic instability, the flexibility and responsiveness of companies to
the changing economic climate will affect their ability to survive.
Boundaryless. Teams of workers within an organization need to understand the missions of other teams because they most likely will have to
work together. You might be an accountant and find yourself working
with the public relations division of your company, or you might be a
human resources manager who does training for a number of different
divisions and in several different countries. You might even find yourself
moved laterally to a unit that has a different function rather than being
promoted to a higher position in your organization.
Customized. More and more, consumers are demanding products and services tailored to their specific needs. You have probably noticed the seemingly endless varieties of a single brand of shampoo or cereal crowding store
shelves. Such market segmentation requires constant adaptation of ideas to
identify new products and services as new customer demands emerge.
Fast. When computers became popular, people rejoiced because they believed the computer would reduce their workloads. Actually, the reverse
happened. Whereas secretaries and other support workers once performed
many tasks for executives, now executives design their own PowerPoint
presentations and format their own documents. For better or worse, “We
want it now” is the cry in the workplace, with product and service delivery time cut to a minimum (the “just-in-time” policy). Being fast requires
constant thinking outside the lines to identify new approaches to designing and delivering products.
According to Fast Company magazine, the new economy has changed many
of the rules about work. Leaders are now expected to teach and encourage others
as well as to head up their divisions. Careers frequently zigzag into other areas.
People who can anticipate the needs of the marketplace are in demand. Change
has become the norm. Workers are being urged to continue their learning, and
companies are volunteering to play a critical role in the welfare of all people
through sponsorship of worthy causes. As the lines between work and the rest of
life continue to blur, workers need to find healthy balance in their lives. Bringing
work home might be inevitable at times, but it shouldn’t be the rule.
As you work at your job, you’ll be continually enhancing and expanding
your skills and competencies. You can accomplish this on your own by taking
evening courses or by attending conferences and workshops your employer
sends you to. As you prepare for, continue, or change your career, remember
You are, more or less, solely responsible for your career. At one time,
organizations often provided structured ladders that employees could
climb in their moves to higher professional levels. In most cases such ladders have disappeared. Companies might assist you with assessments and
information on available positions in the industry, but the ultimate task
of creating a career path is yours. To advance your career, you must accept the risks that accompany employment and plan for the future. As organizations continue to restructure, merge, and either grow or downsize in response to economic conditions, you must do your best to prepare for the unexpected. Because you
can quickly find yourself unemployed, it will be wise to keep all possible
options in mind.
A college degree does not guarantee employment. Of course, with a degree, you’ll be able to hunt for more opportunities that are rewarding,
financially and otherwise, than if you did not have a degree. But just
because you want to work for a certain organization or in a certain field
doesn’t mean that there will always be a job for you there.
A commitment to lifelong learning will help keep you employable. In college you have been learning a vital skill: how to learn. Gradus, the Latin
root of “graduation,” comes from the phrase Gradus ad Parnassum, or
“steps to Parnassus,” the home of the Muses. To move toward Parnassus
means moving to a higher level of knowledge. Your learning has just begun when you receive your diploma.
Now the good news: Hundreds of thousands of graduates find jobs every
year, even in recessionary times. Some of them might have to work longer to
get where they want to be, but persistence pays off. If you start now, you’ll
have time to build a portfolio of academic and co-curricular experiences that
will begin to add substance to your career profile. Chapter 1 in this book suggested that you think very seriously about your
purpose for being in college. Here are some additional questions to ask
yourself as you continue thinking about why you’re at this particular college
or university: Am I here to find out who I am and to study a subject that I am truly passionate about, regardless of whether it leads to a career?
Am I here to engage in an academic program that provides an array of
possibilities when I graduate?
Am I here to prepare myself for a graduate program or immediate
Am I here to obtain specific training in a field that I am committed to?
Am I here to gain specific skills for a job I already have?
Remember these six simple, one-word questions. They can help you to
prepare for a career and obtain that important first job:
Why? Why do you want to be a
? Knowing your goals and values
will help you pursue your career with passion and an understanding of what motivates you. When you speak with an interviewer,
avoid clichés such as “I’m a people person” or “I like to work with
people.” Sooner or later, most people have to work with people.
And your interviewer has heard this much too often. Instead, be
sure that you have crystallized your actual reasons for following
your chosen career path. An interviewer will want to know why you
are interested in the job, why it feels right for you at this time in
your life, and whether you are committed to this career for the
Who? Who at your college or university or in your community can help
you make career decisions? Network with people who can help you
find out what work you want to do. Right now, those people might
be instructors in your major, an academic advisor, and perhaps someone at your campus career center. Later, network with others who
can help you attain your goal. Someone will almost always know
someone else for you to talk to.
How? How will you develop the technical and communications skills
required for working effectively? Don’t be a technophobe. Learn how
to do PowerPoint presentations, build web pages, and create Excel
spreadsheets. Take a speech course. Work on improving your writing.
Even if you think your future job doesn’t require these skills, you’ll be
more marketable with them.
What? What opportunities are available in your preferred career fields?
Be aware of the range of job options an employer presents, as
well as such threats as a company’s decision to outsource certain
jobs—that is, contracting with an external organization to perform
particular functions at a lower cost. Clearly understand the employment requirements for the career field you have chosen. Know
what training you will need to remain and move up in your chosen
Where? Where will your preferred career path take you? Will you be required to travel or live in a certain part of the country or the world?
Or will job success require that you stay in one location? Although
job requirements may change over the course of your lifetime, try to achieve a balance between your personal values and preferences and
the predictable requirements of the career you are pursuing.
When? When will you need to start looking for your first job? Certain
professions, such as teaching, tend to hire new employees at certain
times of the year, generally spring or summer. Determine whether
seasonal hiring is common for your preferred career. Some students are sure about their major when they enter college, but many
others are at a loss. Either way, it’s okay. At some point, you might ask yourself: Why am I in college? Although it sounds like an easy question to answer,
it’s not. Many students would immediately respond, “So I can get a good job
or education for a specific career.” Yet most majors do not lead to a specific
career path or job. You actually can enter most career paths from any number
of academic majors. Marketing, a common undergraduate business major, is
a field that recruits from a wide variety of majors, including advertising, communications, and psychology. Sociology majors find jobs in law enforcement,
teaching, and public service.
Today, English majors are designing web pages, philosophy majors are
developing logic codes for operating systems, and history majors are sales
representatives and business managers. You do not have to major in science
to gain admittance to medical school. Of course, you do have to take the
required science and math courses, but medical schools seek applicants with
diverse backgrounds. Only a few technical or professional fields, such as accounting, nursing, and engineering, are tied to specific majors.
Exploring your interests is the best way to choose an academic major. If
you’re still not sure, take the advice of Patrick Combs, author of Major in
Success, who recommends that you major in a subject about which you are
really passionate. Most advisors would agree. Some students will find they’re not ready to select an academic major in
the first year. You can use your first year and even your second year to explore your interests and find out how they might connect to various academic
programs. Over time, you might make different choices than you would have
during your first year.
You can major in almost anything. As this chapter emphasizes, it is how
you integrate your classes with your extracurricular activities and work experience that prepares you for a successful transition to your career. Try a major you think you’ll like, and see what develops. But keep an open mind, and
don’t pin all your hopes on finding a career in that major alone. Your major and your career ultimately have to fit your overall life goals,
purposes, values, and beliefs. John Holland, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, developed a number of tools and concepts that can help you organize the various dimensions
of yourself so that you can identify potential career choices (see Table 12.1).
Holland separates people into six general categories based on differences
in their interests, skills, values, and personality characteristics—in short, their
preferred approaches to life. Holland’s system organizes career fields into the
same six categories. Career fields are grouped according to what a particular
career field requires of a person (the skills and personality characteristics
most commonly associated with success in those fields) and what rewards
those fields provide (interests and values most commonly associated with
satisfaction). Realistic Investigative Conventional Enterprising Artistic Social Your career choices ultimately will involve a complex assessment of the
factors that are most important to you. To display the relationship between
career fields and the potential conflicts people face as they consider them,
Holland’s model is commonly presented in a hexagonal shape (Figure 12.1).
The closer the types, the closer the relationships among the career fields;
the farther apart the types, the more conflict between the career fields. For
instance, individuals with “conventional” and “realistic” characteristics will
find many similar characteristics in their career fields. However, careers preferred by “investigative” individuals will have little in common with careers
chosen by individuals who are “enterprising.”
Holland’s model can help you address the problem of career choice in
two ways. First, you can begin to identify many career fields that are consistent with what you know about yourself. Once you have identified potential
fields, you can use the career library at your college to get more information
about those fields, such as daily activities for specific jobs, interests and abilities required, preparation required for entry, working conditions, salary and
benefits, and employment outlook. Second, you can begin to identify the harmony or conflicts in your career choices. This will help you to analyze the reasons for your career decisions and be more confident as you make choices.
Never feel you have to make a decision based on the results of only one
assessment. Career choices are complex and involve many factors; furthermore, these decisions are reversible. Take time to talk your interests over
with a career counselor. Another helpful approach is to shadow an individual
in the occupation that interests you to obtain a better understanding of what
the occupation entails in terms of skills, commitment, and opportunity. Some people have a definite self-image when they enter college, but most of us
are still in the process of defining (or redefining) ourselves throughout life. We
can look at ourselves in several useful ways with respect to possible careers:
Values. Today, more than ever, knowing your core values (your most
important beliefs) will be important in shaping your career path. In a faltering and unpredictable economy, having a strong rudder will help you
steer through the turbulent times. Interests. Your interests will develop from experiences and beliefs and
can continue to develop and change throughout your life. You might be
interested in writing for the college newspaper because you wrote for
your high school paper. It’s not unusual to enter Psych 101 with a great
interest in psychology and realize halfway through the course that psychology is not what you imagined.
Skills. The ability to do something well can usually be improved with practice.
Aptitudes. Your inherent strengths, or aptitudes, are often part of your
biological heritage or the result of early training. Each of us has aptitudes
we can build on.
Personality. Your personality makes you who you are and can’t be ignored
when you make career decisions. The quiet, orderly, calm, detail-oriented
person will probably make a different work choice than the aggressive,
outgoing, argumentative person will.
Life goals and work values. Each of us defines success and satisfaction in our
own way. The process is complex and very personal. Two factors influence
our conclusions about success and happiness: knowing that we are achieving the life goals we’ve set for ourselves and finding that we gain satisfaction
from what we’re receiving from our work. If your values conflict with the
organizational values where you work, you might be in for trouble. The process of making a career choice begins with creating a career plan. A
good career plan should eventually include:
Researching possible occupations that match your skills, interests, and
Building on your strengths and developing your weaker skills
Preparing a marketing strategy that sells you as a valued member of a
Writing a convincing résumé and cover letter
Table 12.2 on page 226 provides a guide to what you should be doing
during each year of college. If you are in a two-year associate degree program,
you will have to do more during your second year than this table suggests.
You might proceed through these steps at a different pace than your friends
will, and that’s okay. What you want is to develop your qualifications, make
good choices, and take advantage of any opportunities on campus to learn
more about the career search. Keep your goals in mind as you select courses
and seek employment, but also keep an eye out for unique opportunities. The
route you think you want to take might not be the best one for you. Some students at two-year colleges pursue technical or professional
degrees that prepare them for employment after two years. Others are
planning to transfer to a four-year college or university. If you are a student attending a two-year college and plan to transfer to complete a four-year
degree, you might find that once you get to the four-year institution, you have
less time to make adjustments in your course work and career opportunities.
A major stumbling block is that transfers often arrive on their new campus
with enough credits to declare a major; at this point, changing your major
again can be costly, because it will mean adding time, and therefore expense,
Consider these early steps during your first three terms at your two-year
Take a career interest inventory, and begin focusing on the career paths
that most interest you.
Visit with a career counselor to develop a short-term strategy to test your
Enroll in a career decision-making class.
Shadow a professional in the occupation(s) that you wish to enter.
Attend a local career fair to learn about potential job opportunities. Another consideration for students at community colleges is to determine
whether transferring to another institution is necessary at all. More and more
community colleges are offering bachelor’s degrees. Check out your opportunities for advanced education right where you are.
During your last term at your two-year college, consider these options:
Determine what academic majors best match your occupational interests.
Investigate whether the college or university you will attend next has the
majors you need and whether there are any prerequisite requirements you
will have to meet before you can enroll in your chosen major. If you find
you do not have a clear career focus by the time you transfer, meet again
with the college’s career advisor.
Visit the campus to which you are transferring before you register.
Meet with both a career advisor and an academic advisor there as soon
as possible. Now that you have a handle on your interests, it’s time to test the waters.
Your campus has a variety of activities and programs in which you can participate to confirm those interests and your values and gain valuable skills.
Here are some examples: Volunteer/service learning. Some instructors build service learning into
their courses. Service learning allows you to apply academic theories and
ideas to actual practice. Volunteering outside of class is also a valuable way
to encounter different life situations and to gain work knowledge in areas
such as teaching, health services, counseling, and
tax preparation. A little time spent each week
can provide immense personal and professional
Study abroad. If possible, spend a term taking
courses in another country so you can learn
about a different culture, experience new traditions, and practice a different pace of life. Some
study-abroad programs also include options for
both work and service learning experiences. If
this interests you, find out how financial aid applies to study abroad.
Internships and co-ops. Many employers now
expect these work experiences. They want to
see that you have experience in the professional
workplace and have gained an understanding
of the skills and competencies necessary to succeed. Check with your academic department and
your career center to find out what internships
are available in your major. Many majors offer
academic credit for internships. Remember that
with an internship on your résumé, you’ll be a
step ahead of students who ignore this valuable
experience. On-campus employment. On-campus jobs
might not provide as much income as offcampus jobs, but on-campus jobs give you
a chance to practice good work habits.
On-campus employment also brings you
into contact with faculty members and
other academic professionals whom you
can later consult as mentors or ask for
those all-important reference letters.
Student projects/competitions. In many
fields, students engage in competitions
based on what they have learned in the
classroom. Civil engineers build concrete
canoes, and marketing majors develop
campaign strategies, for example. They
might compete against teams from other
colleges or universities. In the process, they
learn teamwork, communication, and applied problem-solving skills.
Research. An excellent way to extend
your academic learning is to work with
a faculty member on a research project.
Research extends your critical thinking
skills and provides insight into a subject
above and beyond your books and class
notes. One of the many important purposes and outcomes of your college experience is the acquisition of a combination of knowledge and skills. Two types
of skills are essential to employment and to life: content skills and transferable skills. Content skills, often referred to as cognitive, intellectual, or “hard” skills,
are acquired as you gain mastery in your academic field. They include writing proficiency, computer literacy, and foreign language skills. Computing
knowledge and ability are now perceived as core skills that are equal in importance to reading, writing, and mathematics. In fact, employers’ expectations regarding computer knowledge and application continue to rise.
Content skills include specific types of information, facts, principles, and
rules. For instance, perhaps you have knowledge of civil engineering related
to dam construction, or you have extensive experience working with telescopes. Maybe your work in the library and study of library science have trained you in several library databases. Or you might know
the most common clinical diagnoses in psychology. We often
forget some of the preparation we have gained that augments our mastery of specific academic material, especially
statistics, research methods, foreign language aptitude, and
computer literacy. You can apply all of this specific knowledge to jobs in a particular field or occupation.
Certain types of employers will expect extensive knowledge in your academic major before they will consider hiring
you; for example, to get a job in accounting, you must demonstrate knowledge of that field. However, for most college
students it’s sufficient to have some fundamental knowledge.
You will learn more on the job as you move from entry-level
jobs to more advanced positions. Transferable skills are skills that are general and apply to or
transfer to a variety of settings. By category, these transferable skills are as follows:
Communication skills that demonstrate solid oral and listening abilities in addition to a good foundation in the basic content skill
Presentation skills, including the ability to justify and persuade as well as
the ability to respond to questions and serious critiques of your presentation material
Leadership skills, or the ability to take charge or relinquish control according to the needs of the organization
Team skills, or the ability to work collaboratively with different people
while maintaining autonomous control over some assignments
Interpersonal abilities that allow you to relate to others, inspire others to
participate, or ease conflict between coworkers
Personal traits, including showing initiative and motivation, being adaptable to change, having a work ethic, being reliable and honest, possessing
integrity, knowing how to plan and organize multiple tasks, and being
able to respond positively to customer concerns
Critical thinking and problem solving, or the ability to identify problems
and their solutions by integrating information from a variety of sources
and effectively weighing alternatives
A willingness to learn quickly and continuously
Transferable skills are valuable to many kinds of employers and professions. They give you flexibility in your career planning. You can gain transferable skills through a variety of activities. For example, volunteer work,
study abroad, involvement in a student professional organization or club, and
the pursuit of hobbies or interests can all build teamwork, leadership, interpersonal awareness, and effective communication abilities. Internships and
career-related work are also valuable opportunities to practice these skills in
the real world. While employers expect skills and related work experience from today’s college graduates, they also have begun to focus on additional key competencies
that are critical for success in today’s economy:
Integrity. Your employment will depend on your being able to act in an
ethical manner at work and in the community.
Innovation. You should also be able to evaluate, synthesize, and create
knowledge that will lead to new products and services. Employers seek
individuals who are willing to take some risks and explore innovative and
better ways to deliver products and services.
Initiative. A great employee is able to recognize the need to take action,
such as helping a team member, approaching a new client, or taking on
assignments without being asked. Employers don’t want employees who
will wait passively for a supervisor to provide work assignments; they
want people who will see what has to be done and do it.
Commitment. Both employers and graduate schools look for a candidate’s commitment to learning. They want you to express what you really
love to study and are willing to learn on your own initiative. The best
foundation for this competency is to be engaged in an academic program
in which you wake up every morning eager to go to class. Do you hope to get a job while you are in college? Before you do, be really
honest with yourself: Is this something you must do to pay for college? Is it
something you want to do to maintain your lifestyle and acquire things you
want? Or is it a combination of both? Most students work in paid jobs. Here
are some things you should know about working in college.
Paid work can support the attainment of your college goals, provide you
with the financial means to complete college, and help you structure your
time so that you are a much better time manager. It can help you meet people
who will later serve as important references for graduate school and/or employment. However, working too much can interfere with your college success, your ability to attend class, your homework, and your participation in
many other valuable parts of college life, such as group study, foreign study
and travel, and group activities. Take some time to determine how much you
need to work, and stay within reasonable limits.
Stated very simply, students who work in paid jobs more than fifteen hours
a week have a lower chance of success in college. Students who work on campus
are more likely to graduate from college than are students who work off campus. If you want or need to work, explore on-campus opportunities as soon as (or
even before) you arrive at college. If you have a work-study award, a form
of federal financial aid that covers a portion of college costs in return for oncampus employment, check with your student employment office for a listing
of possible campus jobs for work-study students. Your career center can tell you how to access your college’s online employment system. College employment systems generally channel all jobs collected from faculty, advisors, and
career counselors into one database, so it is convenient for you to identify the
sorts of jobs you are looking for.
Many campuses offer an on-campus job fair early in the fall term. Even
if you might not be interested at the time, a visit to the job fair will give you
a great idea of the range and type of jobs available on campus. You might be
pleasantly surprised to learn that there are more opportunities than washing dishes in the cafeteria. Job fairs usually include off-campus community
employers as well, in part because your institution must spend some of the
work-study funds it receives in supporting off-campus work by students. The best places to start looking for off-campus jobs are your campus career
center and your financial aid office. They might well have listings or websites
with off-campus employment opportunities. Feel free to speak to a career counselor for suggestions. You can also use the following job-search strategies:
Learn the names of the major employers in your college’s geographic area:
manufacturers, service industries, resorts, and so on. Once you know who
the major employers are, check them out, visit their websites, and learn
Check out the website for the agency in your state that collects and disseminates information about available employment opportunities. Find
out whether this agency has an office in the community where you are
Visit employment agencies, particularly those that seek part-time, temporary workers. This is a convenient, low-risk (for both you and the
employer) way to “shop” for a job and to obtain flexible, short-term,
Visit online job boards, and look at the classified ads in the local newspaper, either in print or online. Don’t forget the classifieds in the national
press. Some national firms will have jobs that can be done part-time in
your area or even from your own living space.
Check your campus student newspaper. Employers who favor hiring college students often advertise there. Be cautious about work opportunities
that seem unrealistic, such as those offering big salaries for working at
home, or those that ask you to pay an up-front fee for a job.
Be aware that many jobs are never posted. Employers find it easier to hire
people who are recommended to them by current employees, friends, or
the person vacating the position. Faculty members often hire students for
their research labs based on performance in the classroom.
Realize that who you know is important. Your friends who already work
on campus or who have had an internship can be the best people to help
you when you are ready to search for your job. In fact, nearly 50 percent
of all student jobs are found through family and friends.
College students often view the choice of a career as a monumental and irreversible decision. But in its broadest sense, a career is the sum of the decisions
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Allison (415)555-6454 discovered. Rather, there are many career choices you might find fulfilling and
satisfying. The question to consider is: What is the best choice for me now? Before you finish college, you’ll need a résumé, whether it’s for a part-time
job, for an internship or co-op position, or to show to a professor who agrees
to write a letter of recommendation for you. Typically, there are two types
of résumés; one is written in chronological format; the other is organized by
skills. Generally, choose the chronological résumé if you have related job experience, and choose the skills résumé if you can group skills from a number
of jobs or projects under several meaningful categories. Try for one page, but
if you have a number of outstanding things to say that won’t fit on a single
page, add a second page. When sending a cover letter, heed the following suggestions:
Find out whom to contact. It’s not the same in all fields. If you were seeking a marketing position at an advertising agency, you would write to the director of account services. If you were approaching General Motors
regarding a position in the engineering department, you might write either the director of human resources for the entire company or a special human resources director in charge of engineering. Your academic
advisor or career counselor can help you address your letter to the right
person. So can the Internet.
Get the most recent name and address. Advisors or career counselors can
guide you to references in your campus or career library. Never write,
“To whom it may concern.”
Use the proper formats for date, address, and salutation. The first year of college might not seem like a time to be concerned about
interviews. However, students often find themselves in interview situations
soon after arriving on campus. They might be vying for positions on the
student residence governing board, finding an on-campus job, competing for
a second-year scholarship, applying for a residence hall assistant position,
choosing a summer job opportunity, or being selected for an internship or as
a research assistant. Preparing for an interview begins the moment you arrive
on campus because the interview is about you and how college has changed
you. Students who haven’t clarified their sense of purpose or who have taken
only a little time to reflect on who they are and how they have changed can
feel lost in an interview.
The purpose of the interview is to exchange information. The interviewer’s goal is to evaluate you on your abilities and competencies in terms
of what the company is seeking. For you, the interview is an opportunity
to learn more about the employer and whether the job would be a good fit
with your aptitudes and preferences. Ideally, you will want to find a match
between your interests and abilities and the position or experience you are
Here are some important tips as you prepare for an interview:
Check with a career counselor to find out whether you can attend a
mock interview. Usually designed only for seniors as they prep for their
on-campus interviews, mock interviews help students strategize and feel
comfortable in interview situations. Even if a mock interview session is
not available, the career center can offer tips on handling an interview
situation. Check your career center website for sample interview questions so that you can practice before an interview.
Understand the nature of the behavioral interview. In a behavioral interview, the interviewer assumes that your past experiences are good predictors of your future abilities and performance. Interviewers want to hear
stories about things you have done that can help them assess your skills
and behaviors. Often, there is not a right or wrong answer. Answering
a behavioral question can be hard. A method used at Michigan State
University and other campuses to help students think through possible
answers is the PARK method, which helps to focus on the most relevant
aspects of your experience. P: The problem or situation (What happened?)
A: The actions you took (What did you do?)
R: The results or outcomes (What was the result of the actions you
K: The knowledge you gained and applied through the experience
(What did you learn? How did you apply it?)
Dress appropriately. Dress codes vary depending on the location of the
interview and the type of interview (e.g., professional, student focused).
First impressions matter, so as a rule of thumb, always dress neatly and
conservatively. You can be somewhat casual for some types of employers,
but it is better to dress too professionally than too informally. Wired WINDOW Where to go FOR HELP . . . Chapter REVIEW . . .
One-Minute PAPER . . . Applying What You’ve LEARNED . . . Building Your PORTFOLIO . . . ‘‘ ’’ ...
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- Spring '10