When it comes right down to it, there are few things more critical to finding a job after college than effectively marketing yourself. As hard as employers try to always hire the best person for the job, the truth is that it has never been easier for qualified jobseekers to get lost in the shuffle. The good news is that there some really effective and simple ways that you can market yourself in ways that will help you stand out from the rest.
Since marketing yourself is such a broad and important topic, we asked a panel of college career counselors to share their advice with you. Today we’re joined by Britney Fields (Emory University), Amanda Peters (MIT), Russ Coughenour (The University of Tennessee), Sherry Talbott (Bridgewater College), and Roseanne Bensley (New Mexico State University. They all volunteered their time and expertise, so be sure to give them a big ‘thank you’ in the comments.
We asked each counselor the following question:
Aside from getting an internship, what is one important thing that college students should do to make themselves more marketable after graduation?
Their answers are below. As always, we hope that you find their perspectives helpful, actionable, and inspiring.
– Associate Director, Recruitment & Alumni Relations, Emory University
I am a very big advocate of students knowing their stories. It is one thing to have your resume together, a solid GPA, and make it to an interview. But once you get there, what will you say? Can you articulate your story, your path? Can you explain why you made the choices you’ve made, or where your passions lie? Can you demonstrate your strengths and challenges when asked?
Whether in a formal interview, or just networking with alumni or family friends, a candidate must learn to be her own best advocate. If you can’t sell how fabulous you are to an audience, why should they pick you? Knowing how to market your unique story, which should include not only your experiential experience but also your campus leadership, volunteer involvement, academic accomplishments, and personal motivators, is an essential step to landing that first job. One of the best strategies, in other words, is knowing how to sell your brand.
– Career Development Specialist, MIT
Besides an internship, ideally more than one, the most important thing that college students should do to make themselves more marketable after graduation is to network. Talk to as many people as possible to gain information on career paths, the reality of jobs day-to-day, job search advice, and to establish connections for the future.
By networking from early on in their college career, students can gain a greater degree of clarity as to their future career goals. Generally, most of us know of only around 1% of the types of careers that exist. When students conduct informational interviews or meet professionals in networking events and ask strategic questions based on the student’s own values, interests, personality and skills, they can gain an understanding of whether a particular company, job or career is a good fit for them. By asking information, advice and referral questions, they can also find out what else is out there.
For example, a student who likes working with teams and wants to use their quantitative skills in a fast-paced environment may ask questions such as “How often do you work with teams on-the-job? Are these inter-departmental or cross-functional, and how do they work?”, “What other types of jobs exist in your company or field where teamwork is a focus, but that involve more of a focus on quantitative analysis?”, “What skills do you recommend I gain in order to succeed in this field?” or “Would you happen to know anyone in such a role that I could talk to for more information?” Of course, no one person is a good barometer of a career path, and students should talk to many people before making career decisions based on their own values, interests, personality, skills and other considerations.
Through Linkedin, college alumni networks, and by creating a list of target companies and asking people you know for any suggestions of people you can talk to at those companies, students can find people in any field to talk to. Those people will lead to more people, which will lead to more information….and so forth. Students- be sure to keep in touch with the people you connect with. Don’t ask for a job, but focus on Information, Advice, and Referrals, and you will have the information and connections you need for a successful initial job search and, ultimately, a career. The importance of strong connections never decreases.
There is a great deal of information on networking and informational interviewing out there, and I urge students to refer to the resources and guidance of their college career services office (or local one-stop career center; servicelocator.org) for best-practices.
– Director, Career Services, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
In addition to completing at least one internship, today’s college students need to continue to develop their credibility as an emerging professional in their field. There are several ways to do this but some examples would be to identify a mentor or to interact with that will serve to provide you with advice, beyond the classroom, to understand more about the nuances of the profession.
Mentors can serve to answer questions about career strategies and be instrumental helping you understand the unwritten rules of the profession. In addition, students should start to identify themselves as an emerging professional and be willing to adopt the language and identity of their profession in ways that show they are committed to becoming the best they can be.
Joining student and professional organizations and subscribing to journals, magazines, websites and other sources of professional information would also be appropriate. Students should have well developed opinions about their chosen profession and strive to be able to converse about pertinent topics in a mature and substantive way.
Getting involved with networking groups with like-minded professionals would also be highly encouraged. All of these behaviors will indicate to others that you are serious about your profession and that you are on track to be successful.
– Director of Career Services and Internships, Bridgewater College
There are so many things a student can do to increase his marketability after graduation. One very important aspect is to understand how the employer makes hiring decisions; it is important that students understand how to be employer centered in terms of representing themselves for hire.
Students should take time to consider what the employer is looking for in terms of skills and attributes and then be able to demonstrate what they have done to develop those skills and attributes through collegiate activities, such as leadership roles in clubs, research work with professors, or career development through shadowing and hands-on experience.
It takes critical thinking on the students’ parts to demonstrate their value to an employer and then to represent themselves well on a resume. By the first half of the resume, the employer will have already decided if they want to interview the student for the job, so it is very important that the student understand how to demonstrate his or her worth very quickly and dynamically.
If students take time to evaluate the needs of the employer, and then determine how to prove that they have those skills on paper, they will have a much better chance of being selected as a potential candidate for an interview.
– Associate Director, Career Services, New Mexico State University
Students should begin making the transition from their student life to their professional life by establishing a Linkedin profile, purging any Facebook friends that are not really friends and Google their name to see what pops up. “Every Day is An Interview” and the grace period for anything that one might have in cyberspace ends with graduation.