As college juniors and seniors you are preparing to enter the real world, and for many of you that means getting ready for that first real job. There are many steps to prepare, so I will outline those for you today.
Step 1: It is very important for you to prepare yourself with good self-reflection, identifying your signature skills, values and characteristics. You should carefully consider what values are important to you in the workplace and in your personal life as well. Without this background you will not make good choices in your job search and may represent yourself ineffectively. So this is the first step, and there are many tools available to assist you in this reflective preparation.
Step 2: If possible, secure 1or two internships or projects that allow you to work and test your earlier personal findings, and perhaps add to them as well. For example, you may think you think you want a flexible environment like a startup, but once you work in a burgeoning organization you find that it is too confusing and stressful for you; you realize that a company that is more well-established might be a better fit for you and your personality. A great learning! It was not a perfect match at the time, but it did enable you to unearth something about your needs that was very important.
Many companies use internships as the first cut for hiring consideration, but will also consider volunteer work as well. Both types of outer world experiences provide the insight and grounding in what is real in the day-to-day, and that is very important to an organization.
Step 3: Conduct research on multiple levels. What types of work do you fit, what types of industries are flourishing in the geographical areas you identified, what companies are good targets for you to seek out. Create a target list, it will enhance your ability to conduct good networking conversations and be organized in your search.
Step 4: Prepare your tools for the search and Applicant Tracking Systems; identify key words, create resumes, references, a LinkedIn profile, a business-like phone message and email address, cleanup your Facebook and write a core elevator speech. These elements should reflect your brand and values, highlighting your match to the work you are seeking in industries and companies that you identify as your targets for the process. Practice your elevator speech, prepare answers to traditional and behavioral questions, and get comfortable discussing your strengths and match easily with interviewers.
Step 5: Make that master networking list, capturing all the contacts in your life, their contact information, their work and their organizations, and see if there are direct connections to those organizations that you are targeting. Make an inventory of your online connections as well. Be strategic and prioritize your contacts carefully to enhance your success in your applications.
Step 6: Identify the time you have to do this well, and work closely with your school career office. Most schools and their staff are anxious to help but getting students to come in for help in a timely way (in advance !!) is a challenge, so be bold and go see them, participate in programs and learn all that you can. Use the online tools available to you, and most certainly use the alumnae networks to make connections.
Step 7: Stay positive and persevere, it will lead to success.