Commencement for the Class of 2015 is less than a month away! While many College of Charleston seniors have jobs or graduate school lined up (congratulations!) following graduation, some are just getting started on the job search front.
Linda Robinson, coordinator of recruiting and technology programs in the College’s Career Center, offers several tips for seniors to make themselves ideal candidates between now and their first day in the “real world.”
“Students often ask me, ‘When should I start?’ and my answer is always, ‘Now.’” Robinson said. “Even if you couldn’t start a job tomorrow, it’s never too early to start looking for what’s out there and talking to your connections about your career.”
2. Find your dream job, then create your application materials.
In Robinson’s experience, this streamlines your resumé and cover letter.
“I always suggest looking for the jobs you’re interested in first, then write your resumé and cover letter. That may seem counterintuitive to people but until you know what the requirements are for a position, you don’t know what to emphasize in your cover letter and your resumé. So print out job descriptions and think about how to show that you’ve gained the qualifications they require,” she explained.
3. Take liberties when organizing your resumé.
“The rule of thumb on a resumé is you put information in reverse chronological order from most to least recent within categories,” Robinson explained. “The important thing to note is the categories – you can just make your own! That way, instead of a section heading called ‘Experience,’ you can start off your resume with a heading called, ‘Relevant Experience.’ This allows you to move that highly relevant internship to the top of your resume while shifting the less relevant positions to the bottom.”
In addition, students can place pertinent courses under the “Relevant Experience” heading. “If you’ve taken a class in which you’ve learned skills that apply directly to this position you can certainly add the class to the relevant experience category,” Robinson said. “Just make sure to use the course title and include the semester and year you took it. Then explain what makes it relevant – did you work on a specific project? Explain what you did in the class, principals you learned and your individual accomplishments.”
4. Talk to everyone.
“Once you know what kinds of jobs you’ll want to pursue after graduation,” Robinson began – and she urged those who don’t yet know what kind of job they want to visit the Career Center for guidance and ideas. “I really recommend talking to people about your interests and that could be anyone; professors, family members, friends… This doesn’t have to be people who are employed in those jobs. Everyone will try to help you if you ask.”
5. Ask for an informational interview.
Informational interviews can, at the least, lead to some great advice and at best they can quickly turn into real job interviews. Robinson suggested that in an informational interview, “Ask questions about the person you are interviewing. Things like, ‘How did you get started in this career, what is a typical day is like, what he or she likes about this career, what has he or she has learned from it, what are the downsides of this job, what advice would he or she offer, what training do you think is necessary for a job like this?
“People like to talk about themselves and they’re flattered that you want to know about them. Also ask him/her if there is someone else you could talk to about this career, thus expanding your own network,” she said.
6. After an interview – informational or not – always, always, always send a thank you note.
“Thank you notes are absolutely necessary,” Robinson advised. “Whether you’re talking to an alum of the College for his or her advice or you’ve just had an informational interview, you should always send a thank you note. Emailed or handwritten is fine.”
The stakes are higher for a thank you note following a real job interview. “This gives you an additional opportunity to reiterate what makes you a good candidate, what you like about the company and how interested you remain in the position.”
“Students should have a LinkedIn account set up,” Robinson said. “First they should create a resumé, then they can translate the resumé into their LinkedIn profile. They should have a clean and polished headshot as the LinkedIn photo, and they should specify an area of career interest since that’s how recruiters will often search for candidates.”
Robinson also suggests using Indeed.com and CisternOnline to find job listings. “These sites are updated every day, so if you don’t see a job one day don’t give up. There are lots of job openings popping up for graduating seniors.”
Finally, Robinson added, “Don’t forget about the Career Center! We’re here to meet with you, answer questions, work on your application materials and our website offers several resources for students and alumni.”
8. Don’t worry if you’re moving away after graduation.
While it’s more difficult to search for a job in a different city than the one in which you’re living, it’s not impossible.
“Indeed.com is a good tool for long-distance job hunting,” Robinson said. Additionally, “a staffing agency might be a good option if you’re looking elsewhere. If you don’t already have an extensive network in the area where you’re moving, a staffing agency could place you in a job pretty quickly. It may not be your dream job, but it’s an opportunity to make more connections and hopefully find your dream job!”