This month, thousands of students entered the hallowed halls of colleges in the Washington, DC region. For many, once the excitement of moving into dorms and registering for the requisite classes has subsided, collegians will settle into pursuing job opportunities. Whether a necessity, or a means for generating work experience for their resumes, entering the workforce – from searching for jobs to the on-boarding experience – can be a daunting task for rookie employees.
For college students, there are some key imperatives to help them become successful job seekers: streamline the job search; create a flawless cover letter and resume; prepare for the interview; ask the right questions before you accept the position; give an award-winning performance at work; and, treasure your mentors and advocates.
Streamline the job search
Applying for any-old-job is a strategy that can lead to a disappointing workplace experience. Streamlining the job search is the first step in gaining temporary or long-term employment. Job seekers typically visit online job sites first to find opportunities. In addition to surfing popular sites, such as DCJobs.com or Career Builder, there are a number of websites tailored to specific industries. For example, CareerMD is an online career source for physicians and residents looking for jobs in the health care industry. The American Marketing Association job site lists thousands of opportunities in marketing and communications. Another site, the American Institute of Architects, lists architecture opportunities spanning internships to project managers.
Paid jobs, apprenticeships or internships in a desired field, such as technology, marketing, and business, are often advertised at the campus career services office. Recruiters who advertise jobs and internships with career services typically have a pre-existing relationship with the office, which can be an advantage to college job seekers because of that rapport. Many campus career centers allow students to register for online alerts for posted positions, workshops, and campus job fairs.
Create a flawless cover letter or resume
Before applying for an internship or job, students should create detailed, flawless cover letters and resumes. These documents are an introduction to potential employers, who critique the applicants’ experience, soft skills, and specialized skills before deciding if they even want to bring candidates in for interviews.
Recruiters typically spend less than a minute to peruse a cover letter or resume, so it is important to structure your cover letter and resume, list only relevant information, and proofread everything. Structuring your cover letter or resume covers everything from ensuring your documents are the appropriate length to layout and font.
The cover letter expresses the candidate’s interest in a position. It also details a few highlights that complement the position for which a college job seeker is applying, and lists specialized skills, such as web design, HTML code, certifications, and foreign language proficiency. It should also include the person who recommended that the job seeker apply for the position, if applicable.
A college student’s resume should be one page – the average person does not have enough relevant job experience to justify a two-page curriculum vitae. Highlight the principal tasks (primary work responsibilities) for each job or internship. Do not use informal fonts and large pitch for your resume. Stick to fonts like Times New Roman or Arial in 12 pitch. Ask a trusted friend, parent, or mentor to proofread your cover letter and resume before submitting it – errors will almost guarantee that a potential employer will not call you for an interview.
Finally, be sure to follow applicant instructions the company lists. If candidates are asked not to call the company about the position, respect the recruiter’s process. If candidates are allowed to call the prospective employer, only ask questions that are not covered in the position announcement. For example, if the job announcement states that travel is required, do not ask (before or during the interview) if traveling is expected.
Next: Part II of the Workplace Primer for College Students
© Copyright 2012 Ask The Strategist™
This article originally appeared on Ask The Strategist, a blog written by the author.