Searching for a job takes a lot of dedication. If your college career is drawing to a close, it's time to start thinking about what you want to do after you walk across that stage. The millennial unemployment rate stands at an unfortunate 12.8 percent so it's never too late to start exploring your options and making connections. As someone who has been through the job search and conducts interviews in my current position, I have learned some things about this process. There are a few things you can do to make job hunting a more successful, rewarding experience for yourself!
1. Be organized, track your applications on a spreadsheet
A good rule of thumb is to send out at least five applications each week during an active job search. With so many applications, it can be difficult to keep track of what you have and haven't applied for. Some companies may even take several weeks to reach out to you. Have you ever received a call for an interview and in the heat of the moment forgot what the position actually entailed?
A spreadsheet (or even just a journal) is a great way to record important information about jobs you've applied for. I include columns for job title, the organization, expected salary, expected work schedule, and the job description. I also copy down any contact information, when the position opens, and the anticipated hiring date. When you hear back from a position, you can review the information on your spreadsheet to feel more prepared for your interview. It's also a convenient way to track rejection e-mails and scheduled interviews.
2. The rumors are true...networking is key
You've probably heard that networking is vital to getting hired. "It's all about who you know." This can be true and in some fields even more so. For example, in my local school district, knowing the administration or a teacher at a school can boost your chances of getting a position. Attending job fairs can be a great way to put a face to your name and leave a great impression.
Reaching out to professors and professionals you know personally can also be a way to connect. You may find that your cousin knows someone who works at your dream company. Build connections and look for links in connections you already have. Plus, most employees are happy to make a referral as some companies provide referral bonuses!
3. Use your university's career services and alumni center as a resource
Many colleges and universities have great resources available for students and alumni. They may offer career counseling, host career fairs, or know companies who are interested in recruiting recent grads. North Carolina State University offers ePack, which is like a combination of LinkedIn and a job search portal. Companies and organizations have to specifically post to ePack for their positions to be featured on the site, so they tend to be open to students and alum of the university.
These resources can be useful and are typically free or very affordable. You're paying for access to it in your tuition, might as well make good use of it to advance your future opportunities!
4. Take chances
Let's say you open up a posting and it's your dream job. But maybe you're not sure if your qualifications match up perfectly. Take the chance! It doesn't hurt to start putting your name out there and take a chance. If you don't apply, you definitely won't get the job. But if you do apply, there's a chance you may hear back and ace the interview.
I don't recommend applying for a job that requires 8 years of surgery experience if you have none. But if you can make your skills and experiences stand out, it's worth a shot. For example, I recently saw a posting for a job that I met all of the qualifications for, except for one that said, "experience studying abroad preferred." While I didn't have that particular piece, I was really interested and still applied. Sometimes you just have to be fearless and relentless in the pursuit of your dreams.
5. Tailor your resume to fit the job you want
I have multiple versions of my resume saved to my computer that I use for different applications. You want to make sure that the resume you submit has things that will make you stand out. Most hiring managers will only want a resume they can quickly glance over to determine whether or not to call you in. If your resume is long with too many bullet points, they are not likely to spend the time reading every single detail.
If you are applying for a position in an office environment, listing out your job experiences at Panera Bread are not relevant. If you're applying to a job in customer service, you'll want to list your positions that show your customer service skills and experience. If you have limited experiences, you can also just switch up your bullet points under each experience to highlight tasks and responsibilities that will translate into the job you are applying for. And it's also time to cut down on the fat of your resume. Listing your high school awards and accomplishments if you've gone to college shows your inexperience.
Remember, your resume should always be concise and relevant.
6. Don't neglect basic interview etiquette
Great, so you've landed an interview, what next? There are some interview basics that you've probably heard a hundred times, but they're still important. Dress the part and make sure you look presentable. Be on time! Being late to an interview, no matter the circumstances, tells the manager that you're not that interested... or that you're not a reliable employee. It's also important to give yourself enough time to find the right building/floor. Some interviewees even recommend scoping out the location a day or two before.
If you're scheduled for a phone interview, make sure to go to a quiet area 5 - 10 minutes before the start time and answer the call. If you're scheduled for a video chat or conference call, make sure to be prepared 15 minutes before the start time so you have ample time to resolve any technical issues or difficulties you may run into.
Be honest and follow up your words with actions. I went to an interview where 7 different staff members were present. I mentioned that I am good at remembering names and at the end of the interview they decided to test me and asked me to repeat all of their names. I looked each of them in the eye and recited back their names, leaving them impressed. And as always, be sure to have good posture and be polite.
7. Perform a mock interview with your friends
It can be worth your time to practice an interview with a friend or family member. While you can't predict exactly what kinds of questions you will encounter, a mock interview can help settle some nerves and help you feel more confident in your responses. A lot of interviewers use scenario questioning, such as "Tell me about a time where you..." In an interview, these questions may throw you off your game if you have to spend a few moments trying to think of a good example.
Preparing yourself for these types of questions can help you make the most of your interview time and make you come across as more confident in the interview. There are many resources online where you can find popular sample interview questions. Whether you jot your responses to get your thoughts flowing or have a friend pretend to interview you, practicing will help better prepare you to be your best when put on the spot.
8. It's okay to be nervous
Interviewing for your dream position can be nerve-wracking. It's okay to be anxious or nervous. You never know how the interview is going to go. There's also a lot of other factors that may play into it, such as how much the salary will be or if the employees seem friendly. Don't let your nerves get the best of it, because the interviewer is usually aware that you are going to be slightly nervous. Try to do something that helps your mood prior to the interview. Avoid drinking something heavy in caffeine before the interview because that can magnify anxious energy.
Once the interview is over, it's a great idea to talk to a loved one or do something nice for yourself. But you don't have to obsess over every little detail. I went to an interview one time and did something that I thought was totally embarrassing and lost me the job, but I ended up being hired. The manager even said that the thing that I thought was embarrassing just made her remember me. It's okay to be nervous but don't let it sabotage your day.
9. Be knowledgeable about the company and position
Another important thing to do before your interview is to prepare yourself to speak confidently about the company and position you are applying for. While you don't have to know everything, if you do some research on the company's website about their values and company culture, it can give you an edge. If a company is really focused on sales and being the top in their field, it is likely they value someone ambitious and hard-working. A company who is philanthropic and works to improve education may be looking for someone who shares similar interests.
You shouldn't feign who you are, but knowing what is important to the company can help you highlight the right skills that will make you stand out. This is why that spreadsheet can come in handy! Knowing about the job description will help you ask the questions you need to fill in the blanks about what the job will actually entail. Informing yourself beforehand will prepare you and show the company that you are invested in them.
10. Remember the interview isn't just about your future
Sometimes we have one-track mind during interviews. "I need money," "I need a job," "I want to start my career." But you must keep in perspective that the interviewer is thinking about the company's future. They're not concerned with your life. Instead, they want to know how hiring you will help their company.
While it can be difficult to focus on that when you're talking about yourself, remember to explain what kinds of skills, experiences, and knowledge you obtain that can push the company forward. This is why it's helpful to understand the position and the company's values. Putting all of these things together, you can speak about yourself in a way that shows the company what you can do for them.
Looking for a job is challenging but the end result can be very rewarding. Make sure you are well-prepared for interviews. Even if you don't get the position, take it as a learning experience. The more you put yourself out there the more you will get in return.