As a college student, I always appreciated when alumni shared insights into the post-Etown world, so these days I try to help students in a similar fashion. I graduated from Elizabethtown College in May 2011 with a degree in professional writing and minors in creative writing and mathematics. Two days later, I began working full-time at a marketing and publication company in the Philadelphia area. I’m a copy editor/proofreader for five trade magazines, eight catalogs and numerous other publications. It’s been a year and three months, and I love my job – it may seem impossible to find your “dream job” right out of college, but it isn’t. Here are some tips to help you get there.
Let’s be clear: I was very lucky to have a solid job offer before processing in the Dell at the Class of 2011 graduation ceremony. Factors beyond my control were working in my favor – the most important being that I was in the right place at the right time. However, I took specific actions all four years of my college career that helped land me where I am today: working in a 9-5 corporate job, five days a week, and doing what I love to do. Here’s what they were:
1) I had five on-campus jobs, three of which were directly relevant to my major. In addition to filling out your résumé, jobs on campus show post-grad employers that you’re motivated to do more than just excel in the classroom.
2) I completed three internships – two I found on my own, and one I obtained through the College. Internships are wonderful opportunities to gain “real-world” experience, even if they don’t fit exactly with what you want to do after graduation. They look impressive to employers and give you more chances to ask for recommendations.
3) I was an officer of a club. Leadership experience is crucial, as is being actively involved in an extracurricular activity. Employers appreciate candidates who can take initiative, work in teams, communicate well and organize events or activities with little “grown-up” guidance.
4) I went to Career Services; the department offers tests, free to students, to help them decide what careers/fields might suit them. It also offers one-on-one sessions if you just need to “talk it out.” Whether you’re scared or confused or you think you know exactly what your career path will be – it helps to talk about it.
5) I got personal with professors and bosses and others in authority at the College. Not to say I developed relationships with all of them, or that I shared every detail of my life, but I made sure they were familiar with my personality, character, sense of humor, work ethic, etc. These qualities make an impression, and when it comes time to write a recommendation or speak to a potential employer about you, they’ll remember.
6) I kept a positive attitude, starting the day I moved in my first year at Etown. When it came to classwork, extracurricular activities, jobs, internships and everything else, I did what needed to be done and didn’t complain. Behind closed doors, at times, I griped to my friends, but I really tried to stay positive and keep looking forward. It’s a good habit to get into. No one wants to hire Oscar the Grouch.
7) I made myself look good – on Facebook, making sure there were no inappropriate words, pictures or insinuations on my page. Along the same lines as #6, I avoided posting anything that implied a negative attitude. Yes, employers look at that, and yes, it may be unfair, but it’s a simple way to make yourself seem more employable.
8) I started actively seeking employment five months before I graduated (over Christmas break). This involved searching daily on several job sites, applying for almost anything that sounded relevant and tolerable, and speaking with friends, family, professors and more about potential opportunities. I kept an open mind, chasing after internships just as vigorously as I pursued jobs. (As it turned out, I applied for and got an internship, and then a full-time job became available at the same company. This is how I got the job I currently have.)
9) I acted professional in all correspondence with potential employers, especially during job interviews. When the hiring manager asked, “Why should we hire you?,” instead of saying, “I need a job and I’m desperate! Please!,” I pointed to my relevant experience (see #1 and #2) and said, “This is how I can benefit your company.” Carry yourself as a confident professional, even if you secretly see yourself as just a kid who’s willing to do anything to get a job. Employers know the difference. One caveat: Don’t cross the line between confident and cocky. Be polite, say “thank you” and send thank you notes to those who take the time to meet with you.
10) I followed my passion. You probably hear this every day, but it’s so important when seeking employment. If you go into an interview and act like you just want the paycheck, and aren’t truly interested in the work, you’ll get kicked to the curb. When I was considering changing my major, I went to a Career Services counselor. We talked about actuarial science (my initial major) and then about writing (my favorite hobby), and she remarked, “When you spoke about math, your affect was flat. But when you spoke about writing, your face lit up.” Yes, actuaries make three times what I’m making, but to tell the truth, I don’t think I would have gotten a job in that field. The interviewer would’ve said, “When you spoke about this job, your affect was flat. We need someone who actually wants to do this … and that isn’t you.”
Questions or comments for the author? E-mail Patricia.Cangelosi@gmail.com.