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Shannon’s Tips: On getting your first job.

4 Feb

Each year, hundreds of thousands of young people graduate college, enter the work force  and resumes flood the inbox of HR departments and hiring managers.

So you’re a college senior, or maybe a few years out. You’ve had internship after internship, project after project and your resume and cover letters are strong, neat and consistent. Your professors, advisors and/or internship supervisors have edited and you’re ready to pound the pavement.

How do you stick out? What if you don’t know anyone? How come your college roommate’s brother’s ex girlfriend’s aunt’s dog walker is the head of some hedge fund and they got a job with out the blink of an eye?

It’s okay. You can and will get the job. It’s a long, intricate process that if done well with 100% effort, will result in a perfect entry level position in your chosen industry. Here are tips and suggestions from my experience:

1) Change your cover letter and resume for every position. I know this is a pain, trust me, I know, but if you genuinely want the job then tweak the resume and cover letter and be sure your they both directly reflect the job description. If the job requires a lot of interaction with clients/customers then find a way to incorporate those in your bullets underneath previous experiences.

2) Read the companies website thoroughly. This an obvious one but try and focus on the companies mission and values and reflect those in your resume and cover letters as well. This will impress the interviewer.

3) Research before the interview. Be on top of current events, jargon, publications, etc. Google the heck out of the company as well. Maybe they were just awarded something, hired a new CEO or on the contrary, battling a law suit, or any other negative publicity.

4) Convince these people that you can the job more efficiently and effectively than anyone else they’re interviewing. During the interview, focus on the experiences where you took initiative, used creativity, worked together, and most importantly delivered results. Be confident, but not cocky and always be truthful.

5) Bring your work. You need a portfolio to help you with number four. Keep it no more than 10-15 pages in a folder or binder. Bring a variety of materials. For my position (communications specialist) I brought examples of design work, press releases, media clippings and publications I assisted with from one of my internships.

6) Know your goals. If the interviewer asks you, “so what do you want to do?” or “where do you see yourself in five years?” Have solid, concrete answers, even if you’re unsure. Don’t say, “hm well, um, well, I’m not exactly 100% sure …” or “work in (said industry.) Be specific and forward explaining your goals.

7) Be yourself. I’m a firm believer of “when you know, you know.” When I first walked into my interview with the job I currently have, my now boss said he went to Texas. Well being a crazed Syracuse fan, Texas played Syracuse in the  Final 4 in 2003, the year Syracuse won the national championship. Bam. Instant conversation starter.

This is probably not the first time you’ve heard any of these tips and pointers, but during my very long (~15 ) interview process, I noticed these helped me the most.

And who knows, maybe you’ll grace the cover of your college’s quarterly magazine …

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