Making the most of your time while in school is important to your career development: doing well academically, getting help if you struggle or start to doubt yourself, talking to professionals who can help you on your path, taking advantage of opportunities to get involved and build your skills, and even finding an internship related to your field.
All of these activities will set you up for success long term, and will help make you an attractive candidate to employers. It’s important to find ways to build your experience, credibility and professionalism.
What is Professionalism?
Building Your Professional Presence and Identity
Today, it is not enough to simply create a paper resume document, submit it for job openings and hope for the best regarding one’s future. Managing one’s career, including a professional job search, takes proactive effort over a lifetime. It starts with being very clear about who you are and what you can do, and being able to articulate that to others. Hopefully, over the course of your time in school, you have been working on gaining that clarity of person and purpose.
Professional Positioning or Branding
What is branding? Essentially, in the marketing world it means creating a unique name and image in people’s minds about a particular product or company. Branding aims to create a distinct familiar presence in the market that attracts and retains loyalty. This goes beyond a logo or tag line.
As a job seeker, you want to relay what’s special about you too, right? And in a way that goes beyond just a resume document listing skills. Positioning oneself professionally is about taking what you have learned about yourself (values, skills, interests, etc), seeing where you might fit best in the job marketplace based on your research, and then creating messaging and supporting material that express that professional position. In this instance, your online presence can actually help you build and enhance that professional image and reputation, if done right.
Online Presence and Reputation
Part of preparing for the job search is being cognizant of one’s online presence. Nowadays using the internet to search for information on job candidates is standard practice for most employers. They might do a Google search and scan social media accounts as part of their sourcing and screening process. Therefore, it is imperative that job seekers practice diligence when it comes to proactively managing their online presence. For excellent tips on managing your online reputation, this site is top-notch and chock full of detailed instructions to help:
How might you use the internet to support your job search and professional positioning? Some ideas to consider: create a professional profile on LinkedIn, write your own blog, create a video resume, build a website or online portfolio, start a Twitter account. The possibilities are endless!
Since we’ve mentioned LinkedIn, let’s talk more about this professional job seeking and networking tool. Career Services recommends LinkedIn to be a part of every job seeker’s toolbox. Why? According to a 2013 survey by Jobvite, 94% of recruiters used LinkedIn to find job candidates. Three good reasons to join: 1) It’s an easy way to create an online professional presence if you don’t have one, 2) it’s an essential tool for networking in today’s technologically connected world and 3) it’s a good idea to be where recruiters are looking!
Want to create your professional profile on LinkedIn? Here is a great check list and some other resources to to help you get started:
Networking and Informational Interviews
Say YES to conversations!
College is a great time to talk with as many people as you can about your future! Most people are eager to help, share what they know and give some advice. Whether you seek out friends of your parents who work in your field of interest, faculty in your program, alumni of CMC, or others you meet through social networks, they can all be a source of learning and information for you.
Building your network of trusted referrals is one of the most important things one can do as part of one’s career management activities. This is not about handing out business cards left and right or schmoozing your way into a job. This is about building relationships — friends, business acquaintances and colleagues — who can support you in growing professionally and finding meaningful work. Where to begin, you ask? Start with your own natural circle of acquaintances. Who do you know? This can be friends, parents, family friends, alumni, faculty or staff of CMC, or even those in your church or at your gym. And then ask, who do they know? If you’re having trouble, feel free to use the following tool to help you get started:
CMC Contact Matrix Tool 2014 (pdf) – Who do you know?
One of the best ways to proactively learn about your career field is to interview professionals who currently work in it. Doing informational interviews is a great way to gather information about your career and build your network. If you’re talking with people you already know well, you may not need guidance on what to ask. Just have a conversation! However, if you’re reaching out to professionals who you do not know, we provide you with the CMC Informational Interviewing Guide to support this activity.
You may be asked to do this as part of a class or it may be suggested by your campus counselor as part of your career exploration. But you don’t have to wait to be encouraged! Our guide helps you navigate the “do’s and don’ts” of informational interviewing and what kinds of questions to ask.
Gaining Skills and Experience
Transferable Skills Assessment
Employers believe that college graduates need to develop both a broad range of skills and knowledge and in-depth knowledge and skills that apply to a specific field or position, in order to be most successful in their careers (AACU and Hart Research, 2013). Therefore, in addition to the skills you will develop related to your specific field of choice, it is absolutely necessary to also develop “transferable skills,”through your courses, employment, internships, volunteering, and extra-curricular activities, to be most successful in your career journey.
Transferable skills are those that employers value, no matter the job or career field. They speak to your long term potential to be successful in a professional work environment. Some examples include: communicating effectively both orally and in writing, critical thinking and analytical reasoning, behaving ethically, solving complex problems, creativity and resourcefulness, understanding global contexts and issues, collaboration and teamwork.
In the 2014 Job Outlook Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, they identified the top 10 skills employers look for when hiring candidates for jobs. Building on all of your skills will be an important part of your CMC experience.
We welcome the opportunity to work with you in learning about and developing the professional skills that will allow you to be the best you can be. We’ve developed a guide to assist you in assessing your transferable skills. We encourage you to use this tool, and also look at the various ways you can build your skill set while in school with the suggested activities below:
Holding a job while in school
For some, having a part- or full-time job while attending college is a necessity. You may have held different jobs so far in your life, but haven’t thought about why they might matter (beyond the paycheck). Your jobs can be an excellent training ground for professional skill development, even if you don’t see yourself in that position or career long-term. It’s important for you to think about the ways your job has positively shaped your skill set and learn to articulate that to future employers.
See the CMC Transferable Skills Assessment Guide (pdf) to help you identify the important skills you have to offer!
Learn Through Internships or Volunteering
Do an Internship (or two!)
More and more, employers are looking for college student candidates who have applied their knowledge and skills in real-world settings. Internships have become one of the most important things you can do to enhance your appeal to those hiring.
Keep in mind that CMC hosts an online job and internship board which includes positions that employers have shared directly with us. Students can access this anytime and apply to opportunities. If your program requires an internship or you are seeking academic credit, be sure to consult with your program faculty for guidelines.
Volunteer your time for a good cause
Find an area for which you have some passion and give some time to the cause. Just because you’re not getting paid doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the service you provide, nor the skills you are developing. Whether you are employment or grad school bound one day, both employers and educators like to see candidates who show engagement in their communities and an ethic of service. Here are some sites to help you get started finding an opportunity near you:
Join a Professional Organization
Join a professional organization
A great way to get connected within your field of choice is to join a professional organization or association related to that occupation. Many of these organizations offer discounted student memberships to support aspiring professionals. You can gain insight to the profession by attending networking events, volunteering for a conference or doing informational interviews with those in jobs you aspire to have. Your instructors will also have some suggestions regarding professional organizations in their field.
See Professional Organizations on our Online Resources page
Search for professional associations at CareerOneStop
The benefits of studying overseas are enormous from a career perspective. In our global and technical work world, employers want to hire those who are comfortable living and working in diverse environments. They want employees who understand the global context of issues, and who can work collaboratively with others who might hold a different perspective than their own. Studying overseas allows you to gain a broader world view, perhaps learn a new language and develop those important interpersonal skills.
Participate in Research or Special Projects
Participate in research or special projects
Especially for those who aspire to attend graduate school, gaining hands-on research experience can be an important aspect of your student experience to make you a competitive applicant. You may gain this kind of experience directly through your coursework. However, faculty in your department may be working on special research or projects to which students can contribute. Inquire about ways you can get involved in the work of your dept. to expand your learning and skills.
The Job Search
Resumes and Cover Letters
Resumes and Cover Letters
In today’s job market it’s important to have a resume that’s flexible enough in content that one can tailor it to each job application. First and foremost, though, developing a good solid template with your target industry or job in mind, is imperative. We’ve created guides covering the basics of both resumes and cover letters to help you.
If you’re looking for templates in drafting a first resume or cover letter, we highly recommend these two tools offered through the Career Planning section of the CollegeInColorado website.
Resume Builder and Cover Letter Creator
These free resume and cover letter tools can be found on the career planning section of the CollegeInColorado website.
Building confidence for the interview is about preparation. We want you to be your best self and land the job! To support your efforts, we’ve put together an interview preparation guide, which provides tips on all aspects of preparation, from pre-interview research to interview follow-up:
Special Tips for the Virtual Interview
Job Interview Practice and Thank You Letter Builder
These free interview prep tools can be found on the career planning section of the CollegeInColorado website.
Find out the inside scoop regarding the interview process, salaries and company culture at top companies.
Find employee reviews on various companies, salaries, job titles and interview tips.
Salary Research and Negotiation
Salary Research and Negotiation
So you’ve made it through the job interview and you anticipate getting that job offer. Excellent news! This phase of the interview process can be the most daunting to any job seeker. Going in prepared is key. If you’re looking for tips on how to effectively research salary and approach the negotiation with care, watch this video and see our guide below:
Salary Research and Negotiation Guide (pdf)
Attending Career Fairs
Attending Career Fairs
Participating in career and job fairs can be daunting. Preparation is key to easing anxiety, making meaningful connections and having a great experience.
Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Career Fair Strategies That Work
This helpful video has some additional suggestions: