Finding Your First Job After Studying Begins Long Before Graduation
Posted November 8, 2017, by Amanda Sparks
For many students, the beginning of the final university year is the beginning of the reality of a job search and anticipation of the world of work. Many have been very successful – success being defined as high marks, a healthy GPA, and the “right” coursework for the career they envision.
All of these measures of success may certainly “qualify” you for a great entry position and may even get you into that interview, but being a great candidate on paper is only a part of the entire employment equation. There are many others with the same “paper” that you have, and employers have a large pool to pick from. They are looking for more than a skill set that may have been accumulated through coursework, for what you know. They are looking for what they believe you will be able to do for their organisation.
Questions Employers are Asking Themselves About You
During the interview process, employers are evaluating you in several areas:
• Do you have the personality that will be a cultural fit for the organisation? Traditional, conservative enterprises will want a display of corporate professionalism; a fresh new tech startup will want a personality that is more casual and perhaps risk-taking.
• Are you excited about the company? What do you know about them?
• Are you confident and looking for challenges?
• Are you self-motivated and willing to take initiative?
The issue is this: most of these skills are not developed in the classroom but, rather, through other activities – sometimes part-time jobs, internships, volunteer work, membership in clubs/organisations, etc.
On the other hand, if you are looking for experiences that will boost these “softer” skills, why not approach each class like it is a career position? You’ll be surprised by the experiences you can actually set up if you do this.
Each Class Can Be More Than Its Curriculum
If you begin to practice the following behaviors in each class from your first year forward, employers will be able to answer “yes” to those quiet questions they are asking themselves about you.
1. Approach Your Studies As You Would Your Job
The basics of employee behaviour include getting to class on time, being positive about the coursework and assignments, getting those assignments completed on time, getting to know and interacting with your professors and fellow students, and going “above and beyond” just the required when you find the chance to do so.
Another part of preparing yourself is to know when a challenge may be beyond you and when and where to get the assistance you need. If writing is a challenge, for example, look into some tutoring or perhaps do a short writing course to improve your skills.
2. Your Teachers Are Your Bosses
If you were on the job, what kind of a relationship would you have with your boss? Here, you take the lead from your boss. Some are very formal and authoritarian; others are relationship builders. Learning the difference and how to respond to various types of bosses is part of the critical preparation for career employment.
3. Listen Carefully and Ask Questions
During lectures, you can practice listening skills. If you are actively listening, you will be able to ask the right questions for clarification, etc. The more you practice active listening, the better you will get at it.
4. Take Leadership Roles in Group Projects
These projects are perfect opportunities to boost your skills in team dynamics and leadership – problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking. Being a member of a team of some sort will always be a part of career employment.
5. Practice Self-Management
A key soft skill that employers want is the ability to self-monitor. Learn to schedule and organize long-term projects/assignments, setting interim deadlines for completion of each part. This is a habit that will serve you well on the job.
6. Take On Challenges
The easy courses result in easy high marks. But anyone can do that. Can you take a course or two that represent a huge challenge for you? Perhaps you are not a superior math student. How about taking an additional math course that presents a big challenge? Perhaps your English skills are not great – how about a literature course in which you have to also write about the literature you read? Employers like to see candidates who have taken on these kinds of challenges and survived.
7. Apply for Internship Opportunities
Internships are the perfect way to get your foot in the door of your dream company. The best thing you ever can get from the tertiary provider is the opportunity to become a part of some powerful company – you never know what industry leaders your faculty has connections with. Get as much experience as possible and add a couple of impressive additions to your CV to help you stand out from the pack.