Searching for a job or internship can be stressful! Researching open positions, preparing your resume, stressing over interviews… not to mention classes on top of that! Lucky for you, colleges often provide a number of resources through a “career center” that can help you prepare for your job search. However, since these career centers are often funded and staffed by the university, they generally have the larger picture in mind and are focused on the success of all students rather than helping you land your specific dream job.
With that in mind, here are a few things that your career center ISN’T telling you – and how to make the most of the opportunities that they do provide.
Your resume is not enough to get you the job or internship.
First things first: The purpose of your resume is JUST to get you an interview. The average time spent reviewing a resume before determining whether or not to read more is 6 seconds. It’s massively important for your resume to be effective, but once you’ve scheduled your interview, it becomes obsolete and whether you move to the next step is dependent on your interview skills.
Many career centers focus the majority of their resources and counseling on the idea of the “perfect” resume. They provide templates, lists of suggested words, and will work with you through the various drafts of your resume. The problem is twofold: First, they provide the same templates and resources to every student, making it extremely difficult for you to stand out from your peers. Second, there is a lack of preparation for other aspects of the job search.
Make sure that you’re dedicating equal focus to your resume, interview skills, networking strategy, and follow up communication and solidify yourself as the top candidate for any job or internship you’re targeting.
Career Fairs are great – but only a small percentage of students take full advantage of them.
Your career center on campus likely plans several job and internship fairs throughout the course of the year, but their involvement typically ends with the promotion of the events. 80% of jobs are not posted online (yes, you read that right) – so get out there and network! Career fairs are a great way to do this, but there are a few things you should do to make sure you’re getting the most out of them.
To start, practice your elevator speech. This is a way to develop a clear and articulate depiction of who you are, your experience, and your goals. Corporate representatives at career fairs meet dozens of students over the course of a few hours – make sure you’re the one they remember. Your elevator pitch should be a quick statement introducing yourself followed by what you’re looking for in an ideal job. Not only is this far better than simply signing their sheet or dropping off a resume, it will also give you great practice for communicating in an interview setting.
Leadership matters, GPA not so much.
This doesn’t mean that you should neglect your studies, but make sure to carve out some time to get involved in other areas. Career centers often place added importance to grades due to their affiliation with your school but you’ll find that hiring managers are equally impressed by life and leadership experience as they are with your GPA. Join a committee in your sorority or get involved with a club in your major or hobby. Not any organizations you’re interested in? Start your own!
The key is highlighting ways that you have dedicated yourself to learning and development outside the classroom. Many organizations on campus function similarly to businesses which allows you to relate these experiences to potential situations in your future workplace. Leadership roles go a long way in helping you differentiate yourself from other students who might have the exact same GPA (or even slightly better!) than you.
You don’t have to settle for an entry-level job just to “get your foot in the door”.
If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this! It is a common myth you don’t have to fall for. University career centers are motivated by how many graduates get hired after graduation, not necessarily the quality of their jobs. So, many students accept the first jobs that are offered to them and most who accept entry-level positions are still in those roles 3 years after graduation.
If you have a goal of working for a particular company, consider other ways that you can get your foot in the door. Are there smaller companies that you can work for where you can learn the ropes before you apply for a larger role in your goal company? Do you know someone higher-up in the company that can help you navigate out of your entry level position?
I’m not saying that you should be applying to take the CEO’s job right after graduation (give it at least a few years!), but spend some time thinking about your skills and experience and the value you can bring to an organization. Research their corporate structure to understand the hierarchy of roles and go from there in determining where you would best fit.
Brette Rowley is a contributor for The Young Hopeful and a Career Coach in Charleston, South Carolina. She can most often be found speaking to groups of young professionals or working with them one-on-one to build meaningful careers and land jobs they love. However, in her spare time she loves traveling, taking her dog Mellie to the beach, and tailgating for Clemson football games (or any sporting event, really). Connect with Brette on her site, Instagram, and Twitter!