Finishing your studies is a huge milestone – finally those years of sleepless nights and cramming for exams pays off and you’re able to celebrate your graduation with family and friends. But for most of us, this time of life is also a time of transition; a time when we move from the realm of student life to the wide professional world of competition and motivation to get ahead.
A college education may have given you the right foundation of knowledge but not every school teaches you what you’ll actually need to do to get the job. If you don’t know the right people to help you get your foot in the door (let’s face it, nepotism is rampant) it’s easy to get lost in the crowd when it comes to applications and interviews.
Here we share with you a few tips to really making yourself look good to prospective employees – from your CV to meeting the selection committee.
Presenting Yourself on Paper
How do you put all the life, vibrancy and intelligence that is YOU down on paper? The answer is to write your CV in a way that explains your behaviours. Start by listing your education and experience concisely and then go back and add descriptive sentences that show you manage certain situations and what qualities allow you to succeed. It’s a challenge, but still keep it to one page – no one wants to read a novel about your life – they want to see how you can add value to the company.
For each position, take your basic CV and customise it to the necessary specifications – don’t just submit the same standard form to each important opportunity. As for your cover letter, really use it to relate your knowledge, skills and abilities to the open position; you can also add in a sentence or two showing how you fit in with the organization’s culture. And there has never been a better time to use spell check or run it by a trusted friend or relative. Don’t miss your chance due to a simple spelling or punctuation error.
Apply, Apply, Apply
Part of finding a job is persistence. The more CVs you can get out there the better your chances of finding a position that’s a great fit for your personality and lifestyle. Before you find an actual job, make ‘finding a job’ your job!
Set your hours for combing advertisements and hitting the pavement. Find out where your desired companies advertise their open positions- is it on the internet, in certain magazines or newspapers or maybe just by word of mouth?
Speaking of your desired companies and positions, don’t hesitate to apply for a range of different jobs. Really analyse where you can put your skills to use- just because you graduated with a certain degree doesn’t mean you can’t be good in other areas as well. A background in psychology, for example, can be a key hiring factor for a position in business management.
As part of your current position as a ‘job seeker’, make sure you’re able to create a professional image and first point of contact. Keep your Facebook profile clean and professional. Check your email several times a day in order to respond immediately to potential employers. Also, keep your mobile phone charged and handy. If you can’t answer a call because you’re in a noisy place, immediately return the call from a calm environment.
Keep at least a mental log of the companies you’ve applied to – there’s nothing worse than getting a call from a company you forgot you sent your CV to.
Before the Interview
You’ve finally set the date and time to meet your prospective employers in person- what to do? This is quite simple- do your research. The more you know about the company the better you can help show how you can become a valuable asset.
Get to know the names of people in certain positions; know what each department does and whom you’d be dealing with on a daily basis. Find out what the company’s goals are and what they may have already achieved.
It’s also important to look the part – yes, you’re a starving student but you’ve got to create a good first impression. Do shop for a sharp interview outfit according to the position requirements. Groom to the maximum, from your hair to your clean skin and beautifully manicured fingernails.
Also, bring a nice-looking notebook and pen or small tablet to take notes during the interview. This is also a good tool for recording any questions you may have.
On the Big Day
You’ve read up on the company and have your interview outfit laid out and ready to go. Hopefully you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep and woken rested.
Now is the time to eat a healthy breakfast including plenty of protein and whole grains- you’ll need your energy! Leave early, extra early to arrive with plenty of time. When you get there, greet each person you see cordially and professionally- the hiring manager may very well ask the reception staff what they thought of you.
While waiting for your interview, remain alert and professional. Be observant about your surroundings- you could gain valuable insight as to how your life might be here if hired.
During the Interview
Once you’re in, try to remain calm. Some questions may take you off guard, but there’s nothing wrong with pausing for a moment as you formulate an intelligent answer. Do make the effort to ask a few well thought out questions when the time is right- remember, you’re also interviewing this company to see if it’s a good place to lend your talents. When you actually ‘click’ with the right employer you’ll probably know it.
If appropriate, send a follow-up email thanking the employer for their time. Reiterate your contact information and your interest in working for the company.
You may have to go through a number of interviews before you finally get the job, but by maintaining a positive attitude and following these steps you’ll be well on your way to success!
This article was contributed by Sonia Moran for UKEAS Nigeria, where you can find application and counselling services for international students wanting to study at high schools, colleges and universities in the UK.