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Posts tagged ‘job searching’

Your Class Schedule Isn’t Enough to Get You a Job

99% of resumes divide their information into two sections: Education and Work Experience. There’s a reason for this. Potential employers want to know about your education to see what your interests are, what your talents are, if you’re generally pretty smart, and if you have a nice looking institution to put next to your name. They want to know about your work experience so they can tell how you’re able to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of a workplace and if you can meet the minimum requirements of the job.

iStock_000009629000XSmall In other words, employers look at your education to know who you are. They look at your work experience, on the other hand, to see what it is you can do.

Despite this visible distinction right on the resume, many entry-level applicants, especially the ones who have impressive higher education credentials, think leaning on their education will be good enough.

I don’t care if you aced all your classes at Harvard. If you aren’t showing off outside interests, experience, or ambition, you’re not offering your employer very much at all.

So how do you fill out those non-education chunks of the resume? By volunteering, working odd jobs, and extracurriculars. I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before, but I’m going to try to be as crudely practical about it, based on my observations, as I can. Hopefully that’ll provide a fresh perspective.

Volunteering. Aside from all the good altruistic reasons for volunteering, from a purely strategic perspective, volunteering is a great way of getting work experience without competing for the job position beforehand. It doesn’t matter all that much what you’re doing, but if you want to show that you can show up to work on time, follow instructions, and work well in a group, give up a few hours to a soup kitchen, a youth group, or whatever other charitable labor you can find.

Working odd jobs. Work experience doesn’t have to mean a corporate position with benefits, 401(k)s, and regular salaries. Anything you can get paid for doing (as long as it’s legal) counts as a job. So if you need to show that you can hold your own in a professional setting, mow some lawns, paint some houses, or weed some garden beds. If you do it enough times over the course of a couple months, then you’re technically “freelance.”

Extracurriculars. After your first one or two jobs, the structured things you did with your spare time aren’t going to matter very much. You’ll probably cut them out of your resume altogether. However, before that first job, the extracurriculars are not optional. They’re an essential part to the overall story of you as a professional. Whatever field you want to work in, you’ll need to prove that your interest in it runs deeper than the minimum credits required to get your degree. And you’ll need these extracurriculars, once again, to show off your ability to handle the basics of a professional setting: showing up on time, handling responsibilities, and working well with others.

Welcome to the Frustrating World of Job Searching


It’s March, so those of you on the cusp of graduation are probably starting to get bombarded with advice on how to land your first “real” job.

’Starting to’?” a lot of you are saying incredulously. “I’m a liberal arts major. I’ve been getting nagged about that for four years!”

Fair enough. But your final spring is when that nagging gets kicked into overdrive. That’s when your school starts hosting workshops on interview skills and résumé writing. That’s when your parents start politely (or not so politely) gauging how long you’ll be living at home post-graduation. That’s when that question starts appearing in every conversation: “So… what are you doing after you graduate?”

Those conversations suck. Period. There’s no way to make them feel any better. Your only options are to either (a) stumble through a half-answer about various things you’d like to do, even if there are no real plans established, or (b) just throw up your hands and admit that you have no idea, and really, how could you?

You’re going to get a lot of moments like this one, from The Graduate. Whether it’s a family friend, an older sibling, or some overly exuberant host of an interview workshop, people are going to bombard you with ideas and advice: often practical, often absurd, and often unnecessary.

It will be frustrating, incredibly frustrating, because even though the advice comes with the best intentions, it also carries with it a nagging feeling that you’re doing something wrong. Every time you hear someone tell you to not wear those shoes, to leave that off your résumé, or to make sure you shake the interviewer’s hand harder, the whole enterprise of job searching starts to seem more and more disingenuous, and more and more completely disconnected from everything you spent time learning in school. It feels like the only way to impress a future employer is to constantly project a fake version of your self that is completely flawless.

I write this not to offer advice, but to offer empathy. Most soon-to-be graduates will be told to do this and to not do that a thousand times before they land that first job. Each nugget of advice will be presented as if it is the magic ticket to starting your career — just get a haircut, just buy a new tie, just change the font to “Georgia.” In truth, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going on in an interviewer’s mind and exactly what factors help or hurt on a given interview. You’ll probably never know his or her reasoning. All you can do is to prepare yourself for the small portion of the interview that you have some control over. The rest is up to chance.

This is not to say that there isn’t a lot of good advice worth listening to. There are plenty of good solid rules about professional attire, a professional demeanor, and a professional email address that may seem overly obvious, but can easily slip by unawares, and can cost you a job.

But it is just as easy to overanalyze and obsess over the little details to your detriment. If you find yourself starting to worry that the way your parted your hair is going to cost you a job, it’s time to step back and remind yourself that everyone else in the building went through the exact same excruciating process to get where they are. And they all know, on some level, exactly how uncomfortable you inevitably will feel during the interview.

So when you start getting anxious, stop and take a deep breath. There will always be another chance to adjust the little details to perfection. But a good chunk will always be left up to chance. Accept the unpredictable, for better or worse.

’Accept the unpredictable’?” some of you say. “Well, that advice sucks.”

True. But so does the interview process.


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