1. Set objectives
No matter where you are in your career or education, you should know what your goals are. If you do not, it is easy to get swept away in the day-to-day of work or classes until you look up and see you missed out on many opportunities. I am a compulsive note-taker, so I wrote my goal out. Begin with one large goal. Mine was to have a job lined up upon graduation. From that one goal, set objectives that will help you achieve your goal. Objectives are imperative to the process because they keep you on track and give you confidence.
I learned this my sophomore year. I set the main goal to have at least one job offer before graduation. With this goal in mind, I set the following objectives: going to a career fair, applying for summer leadership conferences, accepting every interview invitation and being selected for an internship. I would not have known where to start without guidance from my professors, who spent their time and energy guiding their students through the recruitment process. Your educators care about your future and want to help you; make connections with them.
2. Know your strengths and weaknesses
Believe it or not, it is hard to talk about yourself sometimes because you may not know yourself as well as you think. When writing a resume, attending a career fair or prepping for an interview, it is important you know your strengths and weaknesses. Know what you are good at. For me, my strengths are organization, prioritization and professionalism. Also, know what you are not so good at. When I was interviewing, my weaknesses were technical skills and experience. I was writing my resume thinking, “What do these partners care about my lifeguarding and bartending experience?” Truth is, they cared. No matter what jobs you worked or did not work, have a way to tie your experiences into your career because they make you unique. When talking with a potential employer, play up your strengths and capitalize on your weaknesses because you never stop learning.
Confidence is key, especially in the recruiting process. It is normal to get nervous before going into an interview, and especially a large career fair. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, then you know yourself. It is easier said than done to just be yourself, but once you let go of trying to put on a show for the interviews, then you will begin to see results. The most memorable interview I had was with a manager that sat me down and then Googled “top 20 most awkward interview questions.” To this day, I still say it was the best interview I ever had because I just got to relax and be myself.
4. Know your recruiter
I learned this lesson the hard way. When I declared accounting, I had no idea what accountants did, so when I went on interviews, I was not sure what I was even applying to do. It was not until a year later that I learned the importance of researching the company you are applying to and the person interviewing you. Prepping for an interview gave me the boost of confidence I needed for the interview. Asking questions during an interview shows your interest in the job and the company, so come up with some during your research. Additionally, you can learn a lot about a job by asking your interviewer questions about themselves and what they like about the company. Not only will this research help you prepare for an interview, but it will also help you determine if the company is a good fit for you.
5. Keep those connections
I have asked multiple executives what they wish they had done differently at my age, and the number one answer was networking. Meaningful connections are the foundation of a career. I do not just mean connecting with people on LinkedIn (although this is a great start), but really putting time into these connections. You could have a great resume, but if you make no effort to connect with people, you will not do well in this business. It may be a simple gesture to send a thank you email, but it goes a long way.
A tough issue that goes along with maintaining your connections is what happens when you are rejected. I faced this as a junior and it really threw me for a loop. I was doing so well and reaching my objectives but then I hit a setback. Rejection is hard. I believe Chris Trager, a character in the TV show “Parks and Rec,” said it best, “How we deal with tragedy defines who we are.” I learned that there will be many opportunities in life, but not all of them will be the right one for you. Keep an open mind for your future and maintain the connections you make on the way.