These tips have been gathered from individual interviews with career, college, and job experts, part of our Q&A with Career Experts series.
“Develop an internship proposal to present to companies who might not have hired interns in the past,” advised career counselor Jenny Von Helms in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “An employer will certainly be more impressed with a student who says ‘I want to learn this, and I can do this for your company’ than one who lacks focus or initiative. Show the employer that the company has a need, and you are the person to fill that need. I also recommend that students use the yellow pages to identify potential employers. You might not realize that a growing or strong company is right in your community if they have not established a presence.”
Resume writer Deb Dib notes that “the best use of the Web from a jobseeker’s point of view will be to research companies for networking and interview purposes.” In the Q&A interview Dib did with Quintessential Careers, she observed, “With the proliferation of company Web sites, it will become increasingly easy to become acquainted with companies’ power structures, corporate cultures, directions, and challenges. Interviewees who want to out-compete the competition have only to do their homework and interview armed with suggested strategies to help meet corporate challenges.”
Career expert/author David Helfand advises jobseekers “to recognize that they have the power within them to create their own good luck. You’ve heard the saying that luck is ‘when preparedness meets opportunity,’ which may sound a bit corny but I believe it’s true for life in general and especially so when it comes to career matters” Helfand said in an article for Quintessential Careers. “If you have any doubt try this little exercise. Think of a recent success/accomplishment (small or large) that was unexpected. Now ask yourself did that come about on its own or as a result of some action that you took (though seemingly unrelated at the time and perhaps one month to a year or more prior)? Did you choose at some point to participate in some way rather than not to? Chances are you probably just answered yes, you took some action, chose to participate and experienced unexpected positive results at some point thereafter. You created luck (perhaps when preparedness met opportunity) for yourself.”
“Strictly traditional chronological resumes no longer meet the needs of employers,” observed resume writer Deb Dib in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Employers want problem-solvers who can immediately and profitably react to the almost instantaneous changes in the marketplace. An achievement-oriented resume, one that showcases the applicant’s relevant achievements in a CAR (Challenge/Action/Result) format and places them in a position of prominence above the traditional job chronology, should prove the applicant’s value to the employer and secure an interview.”
Career counselor Jenny Von Helms advises college students to give more consideration to unpaid internships. “One of the biggest mistakes I see students make is refusing to pursue non-paid opportunities,” Von Helms said in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Although I understand that many students are paying some or all of their own way through college, there are so many great options that are overlooked. I have also found that “non-paid” does not necessarily mean without compensation. Quite a few non-paying internships will reimburse students for public transportation or offer other perks, such as parking, meals, and discounts. I also believe the dynamics of the relationship change when a student gets paid for an internship. The student who is paid is now an “employee” where there are clear cut expectations of work in exchange for money. The unpaid internship experience might offer the student more of an opportunity for learning with less pressure for ‘a result.'”
“Job seekers should always remember that the employer has little or no interest in what the job seeker wants from a job,” cautioned resume writer Deb Dib in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “They want to know what the job seeker can do for them; what bottom-line impact will they have, and how soon can they expect that impact. All personal marketing materials must be written with that vision. The biggest mistake jobseekers make is to focus their resume on themselves by using a boring objective and strictly chronological listing of jobs. A great resume focuses on the job seeker’s targeted market and uses a defined strategy to show the applicant’s value to the employer.”
Career counselor Michelle Watson notes that “employers are seeking success stories.” In the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers, Watson observed that “resumes are now focusing not only on “regular” job descriptions, but also include concrete, measurable accomplishments. Physical portfolios, long thought of as tools for artists, will become commonplace as candidates strive to show their talents, not just talk about them.”
“A job seeker in any economy must brand herself or himself as does any good marketer of a product,” noted resume writer Deb Dib in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Personal career management today and in the future will mean creating a brand awareness, of becoming known in one’s industry for certain innate qualities and quantifiable achievements that drive efficiency, innovation, and/or profits. Resumes and other personal marketing documents must be kept up to date, business, industry and/or technical knowledge must always be expanded, and networking must always be happening. Looking out for new opportunities must become second nature.”
The idea of career portfolios is catching on, and Web sites are getting into the act. Career counselor Michelle Watson notes that in the near future “career sites will offer the ability to create career portfolios — prospective employers will see the candidates references, writing samples, design projects, and the like, on their computer even before a formal face-to-face interview. In the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers, Watson pointed out that Web sites are already beginning this portfolio approach. “Interfolio.com was specifically created for candidates (such as future teachers and graduate school applicants) to place their credentials files online. Other sites, like PerfectAgent.com, allow candidates, as part of their electronic resume, to record audio ‘interviews’ via the phone. It won’t be long before pre-recorded video interview become commonplace, and perhaps even interviews conducted through instant chat/video features.” Editor’s note: Read our article, Your Job Skills Portfolio: Giving You an Edge in the Marketplace.
Patrick Combs, author of Major in Success, offers this advice to college students: “Be aware, the most important homework you’ll ever do during college will never be assigned. Do the unassigned homework (Fully explained in my book or by any good career counselor).” In the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers, Combs said, “Don’t make the single biggest mistake most students will make — don’t let your fears stop/kill you from going for that way cool, totally great, off the beaten path job that no one else has the guts to try for. Screw safety, screw what other people think, screw your major, screw money, and go for the job that, for you, would be sheer bliss.”
Career counselor Michelle Watson offers this advice to jobseekers: “Be assertive. Don’t wait for companies to come to you.” In the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers, Watson advises: “Follow up on any letter or application you send out, whether it is an open position, or a request for an informational interview. Don’t be afraid to use your contacts and connections — there is always someone else out there who would do so in a second. Create a portfolio of items that demonstrate your skills, and create a company binder of information to take to your interview. Show both! Employers will be impressed with your research and interest. A student I worked with recently just got a prestigious internship offer as a sophomore because she made a company portfolio. She had information that her recruiter didn’t even know!”
Read more tips from our Quintessential Career Experts series in Quick and Quintessential Career & Job Tips — #2.
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