By Arnie Fertig
Dialogues with college seniors in the midst of trying to figure out "what comes next" often reveal a disconnect between student life and launching a successful career. It's easy to empathize with the cry, "I can get an A in my senior seminar but I don't have a clue about how to get a job."
Ideally, colleges and universities would fund career services departments with a full complement of savvy professionals. However, more often than not, budgets are cramped and the staff doesn't have time to do as much as one would hope and expect from them.
To get the most out of this practical college offering, students shouldn't wait until senior year to build a relationship with a counselor. Even when they're freshmen or sophomores, students can take aptitude and other diagnostic tests to identify important traits and preferences to keep in mind when figuring out what career path to pursue. Still, sometimes professors and career services aren't up with the latest in the realm of workforce development and staffing best practices.
A recent conversation with a college senior at a competitive university revealed these misconceptions.
1. "My college professor told me that you can't have whole sentences in a bullet point, and that bullets can only be one line." In a corporate PowerPoint presentation, that might be the case. However, on a resume, it has become common practice for a bullet to be a single complete idea rather than a sentence fragment.
For example, you might have two or three bullet points under any given position that describe, in a few lines each, how you went about fulfilling a given responsibility along with the results or accomplishment you attained.
2. "I haven't worked long enough to have any accomplishments." It does take a while to build a true legacy of achievements in any given role. Still, all it takes is stepping back to get a larger perspective on what you have done.
Sometimes that means figuring out what you've done that enabled your boss to do his job better. Maybe your contribution was taking responsibility for something that freed up someone else to complete a task at a higher level.
When you think about it this way, your accomplishment resume bullet might begin with one or another of these verbs: "handled," "enabled," "dispatched," "organized" or "contributed to."
3. "I posted my LinkedIn profile a year ago, so I'm all set with that." Not really. This is a key time in your life to be building a professional network that will last for decades. It's time to graduate from Facebook and Snapchat to using social media to find people with whom to network.
Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete, giving full descriptions of what you've done, skills you've acquired, volunteer activities in which you've engaged, languages in which you have fluency and more.
Use LinkedIn to find people with whom to conduct informational interviews to learn about what jobs are like from the inside rather than relying on your best guesses and fantasies.
Research many profiles to learn what jobs tend to lead to what other jobs, and where people have gone who have had the initial jobs you are considering. There is a host of ways to use LinkedIn, and it should become a part of your daily routine.
4. "I really would love to work in X industry, but I've never done it before, so I can't apply." It is true that many companies use college internships as a way of trying out students to see them in action. They'll then offer jobs for after graduation to the most promising of those interns. But clearly, that is far from always the case.
Remember: Often entry-levels jobs are just what they purport to be – a way for people to get in at the ground level of any business or industry. Use personal and family contacts, LinkedIn and many other ways to network your way into companies in which you have an interest. Don't just rely on job boards.
This is the kickoff of key recruiting for upcoming spring graduates. Set your sights high, learn what you need to impress employers and go out and make your mark. What you might lack in experience, you can make up for with sheer energy, ambition and a clear, defined desire to contribute to your first employer.