Congratulations to the Class of 2010 – you did it! You’ve finished four (or maybe more) stressful years of college and you’re ready to enter the working world. You’ve heard all the dismal news about the economy, unemployment rates and limited entry-level jobs, yet you’re still heading out there with your chin up and resume in hand looking for an opportunity to put that degree to use. You put in all the time and money to get to where you are today, but a bland resume, being un-prepared for an interview and sharing to much about yourself online can easily land you back at the starting line when applying for a post-grad internship or job.
You don’t need to put your resume on neon-colored paper or make it three-pages long to stand out among the rest. The experience you put on there should speak for itself. Your resume and cover letter are the first impression you make on a potential employer, and if they aren’t a fan of your work right off the bat, you most likely won’t get an interview. The hardest part of putting together a resume is getting started. Before you step off campus and lose access to your schools fantastic career services, meet with an advisor and have them recommend what information belongs on your resume. Have a mentor or favorite teacher? Ask them to give it a look-over too, they’ll be honored that you asked. Already off campus? There are plenty of employment agencies that look over resumes and offer advice for a small fee. When you leave these sessions, you want to make sure your resume represents you professionally and also provides talking points for your interviewer.
Never earned a paycheck or only spent time waiting tables? Play off of the experience you have on your resume. Whether you were in a Greek or student organization or worked at the same restaurant since you were in high school, you’ve gained leadership and time management skills that can be applied to any job. Don’t dismiss class projects either. Capstone classes are there for a reason – to provide you with real-life experience. If you spent an entire semester dedicated towards a specific client or cause, whether you implemented the strategies or not, it’s still a valuable learning experience that you can discuss in an interview.
Once your resume earns you an interview, you’re halfway there to landing the job. Now it’s time to rock your interview. On the day of the interview, make sure you have extra copies of your resume, examples of your work and dress professionally. While this might sound obvious, I’ve seen numerous applicants show up in shorts, flip flops and empty handed. Even if you’re applying to be a lifeguard, flip flops are never appropriate interview attire. You might have sent your resume to the interviewer 100 times, but still bring extra copies – you never know who’s going to be sitting in on your conversation.
In addition to being prepared for your interview, always bring a few questions to ask your potential employer. Whether it’s, “Why do you enjoy working here?” or “What are you looking for in an applicant?” always ask a question. It makes you sound like you care about the company and are passionate about working for them.
Last but not least, make sure your online presence is clean or hidden from your potential employer. The pictures of you on your 21st birthday or out at a bachelor party are not work appropriate and could cast the wrong light on you and your reputation. Also make sure any profanity or inappropriate quotes, Tweets or comments don’t show up next to your name. Take advantage of Facebook’s extensive privacy settings and make your Twitter account private if you don’t think it’s appropriate for work. Future employers will Facebook and Google you and attempt to dig through your online history; don’t give them something negative to talk about.
Best of luck to the class of 2010! You’ve come this far, don’t let anything else get in your way!