By Peter Osborne
Some might call it a perfect storm. Extremely low unemployment rates. Lots of underemployed people looking to dig themselves out. Companies that are using technology (or streamlining jobs) to make themselves more efficient.
And now graduation (or the end of the sophomore or junior year) is upon us. This column is for them, and for the older executives who can’t get traction and have all but given up their job searches. Please consider sharing if you know one.
I have a good-sized LinkedIn network, so I asked for their advice. What can people do to put themselves in a better position?
• Kristian Paul Schwartz, recruiter and founder of The Montgomery Group in Atlanta: Intern, multiple times if needed, before you graduate. This way you can see what you want to do and get some experience under your belt. Plus it shows you are hungry and that’s what wins the day.
• T. Brad Kielinski, recruiter and CEO of IT Pros LLC, which has locations in New Castle and Kent counties: Self-awareness. It’s the biggest obstacle people face today when it comes to their careers. Competition is fierce. Try searching for yourself on LinkedIn to see who you are up against.
• Kim Hudson, Talent Acquisition Manager for Cardone Industries in Philadelphia (and a former recruiter for both MBNA and AAA Mid-Atlantic in Wilmington): The more hands-on experience they can show, the better off they will be. Additionally, they have to sell themselves beyond the resume. Call the company you are targeting. Attend job fairs and meet these recruiters face to face. It’s a mini-interview before they even apply. I pick my interns and co-ops from my pool of job fair candidates that I remember and like FIRST. A cover letter may be a waste of time if you’re simply sending into the abyss of online applications.
• Jason Alba, CEO and product manager of JibberJobber in Salt Lake City: Use a personal CRM like JibberJobber (disclaimer, this is my tool). Can you imagine starting to use a CRM from when you are fresh out of school, through the decades of your career? You’d have a rich “black book” of personal and professional relationships, with context about your relationship (as opposed to just what LinkedIn shows you, for example).
• Evan Klein, director of talent acquisition at LinkedIn in New York:Beyond thoughtful resumes and letters, students, particularly those active on LinkedIn or other platforms should take a warm intro approach. Through their own networks, they need to gain introductions into companies via people they know and trust. Volumes of applicants for a single internship can be in the thousands at a high-profile company. Students need to do their part to separate themselves from the pack in every way possible.
• Scott Wooters, a Dallas-based former senior executive with Citi and MBNA who now works with large companies on IT Solutions/Professional Services/Consulting and Staff Augmentation searches: Find a mentor who can help with real-world observations, build a network and facilitate intros, role play interviews and get general career guidance. Places to source a mentor are professors, friends of family, prior employers. For those who are still in school, volunteer at the Alumni Association. Make connections.
• Denise McGeever, a longtime human resource and operations executive who’s at Equifax in Newark: Take the initiative to set up informal discussions at Starbucks with their previous teachers, and parents, friends and adults that they interacted with while playing sports. They obtained valuable career advice and were advised about openings at companies where these adults worked.
And finally, here’s some advice from Cindy Biedeman Campanella, who became VP of Organizational Development at Wilmington’s Bancroft Construction after six years as director of alumni relations at the University of Delaware:
Seek opportunities for internships as much as possible. Yes, I know it would be great to have a paid internship at a Fortune 500 company, but there are more available students than available positions. Be open-minded to unpaid internships and paid or unpaid internships at smaller companies, which often provide opportunities for more meaningful work that positively impacts the operations and the bottom line of the company. You will be given much more responsibility than data entry, electronic filing, or other menial tasks.
My 2016/2017 intern landed a job at a national company immediately upon graduation based on the quality of the work and projects I assigned to her. She owned many projects from start to finish, participated in senior leadership meetings, and served on five of our company committees. The company that hired her had a 30-year-plus policy of never hiring students directly from college and all new hires had to have a minimum of two years of full-time experience after graduation. Guess what? She just set another record: She was just promoted to manager and she graduated from college in 2017.
Use the resources at your school’s Career Resource Center for resume templates as well as useful links and tools for interviewing, preparing a sample portfolio, networking, and more. Once your resume is complete, the Career Resource Center will make recommendations for improvement.
Send your resume to a few professionals for feedback. Participate in mock interviews utilizing school, personal, and professional resources. The real interview with a prospective employer is not the time or the place to practice your interviewing skills.
Many colleges and universities have executive mentor programs where successful professionals in senior management decision-making roles are paired with students who are interested in a similar career path of their mentor. Mentors meet regularly with students and share experiences, offer professional guidance, bring them into the workplace to meet other professionals, and provide networking opportunities. All of this is free to the student.
Every student has a choice to make. They can either seize these opportunities that are available to them to gain a competitive edge or they can sit on the sidelines watching others who took ownership of their destiny win the day.
Two final thoughts: Jessica Liebman, the executive managing editor at Business Insider, recently published a great column where she said simply, “I’ve been hiring people for 10 years and I still swear by a simple rule: If someone doesn’t send a thank-you email, don’t hire them.”
Mine is similar: If there’s a typo in the resume, you’re not getting the interview. Period.
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