EDITOR’S COLUMN: Seniors, it’s almost go time

This week marks the spring semester’s half way point, meaning there are less than ten weeks before over 1,000 students are thrown out into the world to do life. This semester I have been blessed with professors who want me to quickly get a good job almost as much as I do, and they have been doing their best to prepare me for that. I wanted to pass along their knowledge, as it’s helped me narrow my search and get more calls back.

Do your research

So many of the degree programs offered here are multi-faceted and versatile. Many roles out there are so similar that it’s worth putting some effort into researching exactly what area of your field you want to land in. If you’re not already applying for jobs or internships, start looking through postings to determine just how many roles are out there for you. Investigate their nuance and gauge your interest.

The best way I have found so far of doing this is by talking to someone in that position already. I had been tasked with multiple networking assignments during my studies, which allowed me to take my own advice. I’ve just kept doing them on my own because I found it to be so informative.

These interviews with professionals who are already doing the work I want to do has helped me narrow my search drastically. They are also saving me from possibly having to job-hop because I’m not happy with where I landed. I have already rescinded applications based on these interviews because certain aspects of their jobs sounded monotonous or outside my wheelhouse. I would not have known this otherwise.

There are also amazing resources from the Department of Labor Statistics that can help you pinpoint the best markets for your field and give you real-world estimates of what the role should be earning you. LinkedIn can also be a great resource for discovering new roles in your field, finding group discussions related to your field or simply making connections for those interviews I discussed above.

Sell yourself like a pro

I have also had the privilege of getting dozens of professional and peer eyes on my resume, and I garnered feedback that has increased my callback and interview rate. First and most importantly, you do have experience, even if you haven’t worked a day in your field.

Using a line item on my resume as an example, I took ENGL 419 last semester. In that course, we were tasked to create a fake company and make all its marketing materials. Through that, I developed a website, instructions, infographics, flyers, a newsletter and a sales brochure. So now I have an experience entry as a marketing material developer for my fictitious company with a note that this was for a class at the end.

I still performed the same functions as I would in this type of role at a real company, received the same feedback from a professional and made the same revisions I would for any other client. So what if it was for a class? This can translate to just about any program and its major courses. Just get ethically crafty with your language and sell your experience. Also, it’s time to get down to a one-page resume and lose your non-career-based experiences if you haven’t already.

Consider making a template for your cover letter as well. You’re going to be writing a ton, as they’re quite role-specific, so make your life easier and have the basics at the ready. Consider including things like why you’re interested in the role and company, a data-driven snapshot of your applicable experience, your skills written in a way to match what they’re looking for and going so far as to use keywords from their post to stand out as a match.

Prepare to humbly talk the talk

So now that you’ve narrowed your search and delivered the perfect resume, they want to interview you. Preparation is key. Do some research about the company, its history and the role you’d be working in so you’re ready for any question they throw at you. Then it’s time to turn inward. Polish your elevator pitch, formulate some commentary about your experiences and even do some recon and Google potential interview questions for the role you’re applying for.

Then, once you’ve got some rough answers, grab a friend, a professor, an advisor or anyone and have them ask some questions and record it. Reviewing your mannerisms and seeing where you think you could do better is immensely helpful in ensuring that you’re ready when it’s game time.

For me, this exercise revealed I needed to think a bit harder about boiling my responses down. I meandered around my point for far too long and sometimes that led to missing it entirely.

Then, come up with good questions to ask back. This is your opportunity to interview them as well. Consider asking questions about company culture, whether there are opportunities to move up within and even how they responded to the pandemic. You’re committing to them as much as they are committing to you, so it’s worth a little bit of tire-kicking.

This hunt can be scary, especially if it’s your first time in your field. But with practice, research and detailed supporting materials, you’ve got this in the bag. Good luck, seniors. We’re going to need it.