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As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, college students have to adopt innovative approaches to secure a foothold in their desired industries. From proactive research and on-campus experiences to leveraging the power of social media networking and artificial intelligence for resume enhancements, students need to start facing the challenges of early career steps with strategic foresight.
- It’s essential for college students to proactively seek opportunities that align with their dream careers. This may include on-campus roles, volunteer opportunities, or assisting instructors.
- Using platforms like LinkedIn can greatly aid in connecting with professionals in your desired industry. Making a personalized connection and offering to meet virtually can make you stand out and increase your chances of being recognized when applying for positions.
- Using tools like artificial intelligence can help tailor your resume to specific job roles, but always ensure the information is honest and accurate. Keeping organized during the job search process can also make a significant difference in efficiently navigating the competitive job market.
If you’re a college student seeking the opportunity to gain more experience within the industry in which you will be receiving your degree — and most importantly, ahead of graduation — the first step is to understand that you are not alone. This process may not be as much of a walk in thepark as it seems, and more often than not, it’s going to be a tedious but rewarding task. Below are some steps that you may want to consider following if you’d like to get a jumpstart in your career.
Step 1: Do research on your dream career
While gaining experience within a professional industry may be difficult, especially as a college student, it never hurts to start looking at where you’d like to see yourself working within the next three to four years. And from there, wherever that is, you’ll want to start mirroring the qualities of that job’s requirements and functions. This means, taking on volunteer opportunities and perhaps even on-campus work-study roles if possible.
Gaining valuable work experience as an undergrad does not always have to be ideal and traditional. For example, if you have an instructor who may need a student assistant with approval from your school and is offering a legitimate opportunity that they can sign off on or provide a letter of recommendation for, that could be helpful on your resume in the long run. At the end of the day, experience is necessary and it may not always be dressed up as pretty as you’d like.
In my previous experience, my main struggle coming straight out of college was finding an internship. Unfortunately, during my undergrad studies, while most of my instructors were well-versed in the subjects that they taught, they had very little exposure to the line of work where I desired to be — the entertainment, editorial, and television production spaces. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I had a significantly rude awakening: I had gone four whole years only doing bookwork, some irrelevant on-campus work, and immediately needed to find an outlet.
Within my main social group, most of my friends at the time were studying completely different majors from engineering to nursing, and couldn’t help me even if they wanted to. Unfortunately, I realized I had hit what felt like a roadblock, with zero help, zero networking skills, zero internships, and just running off of hopes and dreams. However, that was just the push I needed and today I am a published journalist with work across several publications.
Take it from me, professional industries are ever-evolving so you’ll want to keep up. After all, the following steps could make your journey to your dream career a whole lot smoother.
Step 2: Use social media to network
Networking in person doesn’t always come naturally for some people, especially if you’re not the most social. But it doesn’t always have to be awkward, people are not mind readers and don’t know what you need until you verbalize it.
Thanks to social media, networking and meeting new people is much simpler than it used to be. Before you’d hope to run into the right person that you may need to know to help you get to the next level in your career. Now, you can find that same person who may work at your dream company online and send them a direct message or a connection request.
“LinkedIn is probably the most powerful tool in your job-hunting arsenal. The majority — 87% — of recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn to find job candidates,”
When using LinkedIn, consider taking a deeper look at the company you’re interested in and find out who is in a recruiting or managerial position. Next is to send that individual a personalized invitation or an ‘in-mail’ message simply introducing yourself (in a professional manner) and briefly highlighting the reason you are contacting them. They may or may not respond, but it always helps for company members to be able to put a face to a name, as your resume may come across their desk and you want to make an impactful first impression.
In the case that the person responds to your message or request, immediately offer to meet over virtual coffee not necessarily as an interview but mainly so that they can get a better understanding of who you are off paper. This truly could make you more competitive, separating you from other candidates also applying for the same role.
Step 3: Use Artificial Intelligence to update your resume
It’s no secret that the use of artificial intelligence is changing the game within the job market. Most companies are using AI to recruit candidates who may be best-fitting for certain positions. The tool has been used by several employers to sort through resumes and weeding out prospects.
But like most technology, AI may not always be the best when filing through resumes, and it’s not always easy explaining how great you are on paper. This is why it could be valuable to keep your resume updated and create multiple copies that highlight specific job functions for each role you’re applying to. While this may sound tedious, today’s job market is very competitive, so anything that can help push your application to the top of the list is essential.
Perhaps you’re seeking an opportunity to work in tech, the experience that you convey on your resume should reflect the future position, with accuracy. Using AI to assist in updating your resume does not give you a pass to put false information. Honesty and integrity should always be at the forefront when sharing your background experiences. On the other hand, it would behoove you to focus on the experiences that you possess that align with the future job, as it could increase your chances of securing the position. One tool that is very helpful with resume building is ChatGPT, and The Washington Post suggests that users “reverse engineer” the system when receiving the aid.
“Instead of asking ChatGPT to write a resume, ask it to write a job description for a specific position. Then compare the ChatGPT results to the job posting. The keywords the two documents share are ones you’ll definitely want to include in your resume and/or cover letter.”
The Washington Post
Step 4: Staying organized and prepared
While there truly is no right or wrong way to prepare for a job interview — because everyone is different — there are a few useful techniques that could make this process smoother for you:
- Start with staying organized and on top of every role that you apply for, because it is extremely easy to get discouraged and potentially fall off task. Staying ready so that you don’t have to get ready will take you very far in your job search.
- If you have storage on your phone, consider keeping your resume, cover letter, and portfolio handy as it can make a vast difference. You never want to be in a position where you need to immediately submit an application whether online or via email and can’t do so because you don’t have the necessary items accessible.
- Downloading the Google Docs app on your cellular device can be a lifesaver. From there you can easily export, upload, and download any files that you may need with ease, right at your fingertips.
- Sorting out a list of the jobs you have or haven’t applied to, the role type, and the progress is a game-changer. This not only allows you to see how many places you’ve expressed interest in, but it’s a reminder that you are not putting all of your eggs into one basket. If you receive an email stating that you didn’t get the job, that’s OK, move that email to a different folder and mark that role off the list.
Searching for an internship is very competitive and the only true way to win is to not get emotionally invested in any company or position prematurely — especially if no interview or offer is on the table. “While the stress is very real, we have some control over keeping it in check, the easiest strategy of which is being ready for the roller coaster,” Dawn Graham wrote in Forbes.
“On average, 250 applications are received for any advertised job, 4 -6 applicants secure an interview and one is hired. Recognizing the odds allows you to have a more balanced view, which means logic can temper emotions during the search process.”
Although you should be confident in your job search, try not to take it personally if you don’t secure the role.
The Key Point
If you don’t take away anything else, remember that it’s not about where you’ve started but all about where you’re headed. And most importantly, keep in mind that all you need is one yes. The internship search can be stressful, but once you land the job, you will understand that it was all worth it in the end.
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