I am going to graduate from college this spring and I'm already looking at positions in my field. Is it too early to apply to jobs since I don't graduate until May? If so, are there things I SHOULD be doing to get ready for application season?
Today's question was answered by Betty McWillie, of McWillie Career Directions.
It's not too early to start getting prepared. Some employers start picking talent for the most competitive positions early on in the academic year, but right now you have a semester to go, so most seniors still have plenty of time to start preparing for the career launch.
Your first step is to prepare what I like to call “your marketing documents." You are the product, so these application documents will include a targeted resume. If you aren't sure where to begin, remember that your college most likely has a career services office that can help. Start by writing your accomplishments and achievements relevant to your chosen profession. To make this “targeted," you'll look at the descriptions for jobs you'd like to do after college. Essentially, the description is the thesis statement for the resume, cover letter and interview. I have seen so many times that when students look at the responsibilities listed in the job description, the light bulb goes off and they can more readily write their resume to match that.
Once you gather your summary of qualifications, you can create the bullet points on your resume, which are examples of things you've done. Don't exaggerate, but do tap into internships, co-ops, volunteer work, class projects and extracurriculars that are relevant to your target jobs. Group projects, research, volunteer service work, leadership positions on campus -- those are ways to leverage your resume when creating your application plan. You'll then write your resume to highlight your quantitative accomplishments and show recruiters you're highly qualified for the position and ready for the job.
Suppose you've been working your way through college and didn't have time to do an internship. Remember that customer service, communication and conflict-resolution skills can also come from fast food and retail jobs. Flexibility and adaptability are listed in a lot of job listings and can be hard to achieve, but you can get those skills from foodservice and retail.
I once talked to an employer who specifically looked for experienced waiters for sales roles -- they had great experience in so many areas -- communications, treating people well, awareness of customer service, diverse backgrounds, dependability, conflict resolution, etc. So never underestimate your experience when preparing your application materials.
Once you start putting together your marketing materials, look them over and flesh out your weak areas. If you don't feel like you have enough relevant experience, it's not too late to do that through a part-time job, a volunteering gig or helping faculty with research.
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