You thought it was all over when you nabbed that high school diploma. Then you were overwhelmed with hundreds of college pamphlets in your mailbox. You finally chose the college that would open a world of opportunities, and now, whether you’re a junior looking for an internship or a senior preparing for the job of your dreams, you start to think college may just not be enough.
With a growing majority of high school graduates entering college, classrooms are getting more crowded, dorm vacancy is increasingly scarce and the job market is much more competitive. You’ve probably been feeling a bit intimidated, but here is your chance to relax, because experts have compiled five helpful steps to give you the edge over your know-it-all chemistry lab partner.
1. Talk the talk.
Though many colleges stress the importance of a high grade point average obtained after hours of studying in the library or endless nights in the computer labs, experts say there is one key to the Success Piano that isn’t being played nearly enough. That key, according to Dana E. Crawford, a career coordinator at Temple’s Career Development Services, is none other than networking.
“Eighty percent of jobs are found through networking, so 80 percent of time spent in your job search should be geared toward networking,” Crawford said.
Lisa Taylor Richey, founder of The American Academy of Etiquette, added that many people don’t prepare for an internship or job until the day of their interview, whereas part of getting the interview in the first place is being prepared for success wherever you go. She advises that wherever it is you may be, you should always be at your most positive and professional self.
“You never know who you’re going to sit next to on the train,” Richey said.
2. Market yourself with a resume
If the employer hasn’t met you yet, you’re just going to have to find a way to help them get to know you, and how amazing you are, really fast. That’s where the oh-so-dreaded resume comes in. According to Crawford, who said that the most widely used service CDS provides is resume critiquing, the most important thing to remember when writing your resume is readability.
“You can have a wonderful resume but if you can’t read it, then it doesn’t matter,” Crawford said, adding that an employer should have a good idea of what you have to offer in about 15 seconds of skimming your resume.
Crawford said that as a general rule of thumb, students should use bullets, not write in anything smaller than 10-point font and use the top to bottom method, listing what would be most important to the employer first.
She stressed the importance of organizing a resume according to your qualifications and not just in chronological order.
“Students sell themselves short,” Crawford said. “They also write their resumes in terms of what they’ve done as opposed to their skills.”
Another big thing to keep in mind is that you’re trying to sell yourself through your resume and cover letter, Crawford said. Make sure your name is bigger than anything else and that it’s the first thing listed on the page.
3. Follow up!
According to both Crawford and Richey, the important thing to make sure of in your cover letter is that you end the last paragraph with a sentence stating when you will be calling to follow up for your interview.
Richey suggests you follow up within one to two weeks, depending on the size of the company, just to make sure your well-marketed name wasn’t lost in the pile. You can take this time to ask questions you may have for the employer and the company of which you’re interested.
4. Prepare for anything
You’ve written your resume, you’ve personalized your cover letter and you’ve done all you can to make sure nothing was “misplaced.” Now, you have to prepare for your golden ticket to the job market – the interview.
“Know absolutely everything you can about the company and the person interviewing you, a few things you want to get across, dates of past job experiences and how you succeeded while you were there,” Richey said.
Richey added that dressing conservatively, by sticking to black, gray or navy blue tones, is important. She recommended that men wear a suit with a sharp tie that doesn’t distract the employer from himself. For women, she recommends a skirt suit, always worn with pantyhose, and shoes that have a slight heel. Both genders should also steer clear of any heavy jewelry, maintain their personal hygiene and have clean looking shoes.
5. Ace the interview
You’ve made all the preparations and you’re feeling comfortable, but don’t rest just yet. This is, after all, the deciding factor of whether or not you’ll be setting foot in that office ever again.
Richey said upon entering the office where you are trying to get an internship or job, the first impression is key. You should never underestimate the power of a good handshake. Confidence plays a very important role, as well.
“You have to feel it to believe it before you can display it because they’ll see right through you on an interview,” Richey said.
She also stressed the importance of turning a question and answer session into a conversation.
“To be interested is to be interesting to someone else,” Richey said.
If you’re still a little shaky on what it takes to make it, Richey offered some last words of wisdom.
“Network, network, network! Action, action, action! I would also focus on ‘I’m a leader, I’m a leader, I’m a leader,'” she said.
Kristin Granero can be reached at email@example.com.