You’re investing time (and money) building your skills, knowledge, and experience in graduate school, and earning that degree is just one piece of the puzzle in your professional development. As you think about future career options (inside or outside of academia), there are a number of things to consider–and work on–to help you be the right match between you and potential employers.
Check out these strategies:
Reflection. Reflect on what you really want. What are you passionate about? What type of impact do you want to make? What work environment would best suit you? Imagine yourself in different environments and jobs – what draws you in?
Build Relationships. Networking, meeting people, becoming known, expressing genuine curiosity in others – is absolutely critical. Informational interviews, mixers, conferences, and coffee meetings are all great strategies to build relationships. Be intentional in your approach to networking and always try to walk away with two names of potential contacts. Often times, job candidates who make it through the first round of resume screenings are those who have somebody advocating for their application.
Professionalism. Evaluate and maintain your brand and professionalism – examples include an intuitive e-mail address, an appropriate voicemail message, a polished and up-to-date LinkedIn profile, and non-embarassing posts/pictures on social media sites.
Translate – Practice internalizing and communicating how aspects of your graduate work translates into a broader skill set – project management, meeting multiple deadlines on time, problem-solving, clear and effective communication, etc.
Communicate. Practice communicating your work to all different types of audiences, at different levels of detail, in different mediums – academic presentations, posters, concise slide decks, executive summaries, and conversations with your neighbors are some examples.
Intangibles – Be confident about what you bring to the table; passionate about your background and the job opportunity; genuine and true to yourself; steer clear of being presumptuous or full of yourself.
Focus on the Employer. Convince recruiters that you want to do those tasks, in that job, in that organization, in that sector. Directly state how you will bring value to them, what you can do for their organization, and what you can do to further that company’s goals. This requires that you research employers very carefully–mission, environment, catalysts for change, job description, etc.
Application Materials. Create targeted, specific, non-generic application packets that convey why you want the position. Use specific words from the job description in your cover letters and resumes. Quantify your contributions when possible and discuss the impact or results of your work. Have somebody proofread your materials; simple things like spelling errors can get your application tossed out. Treat the job search like a job and give it the effort it deserves.
Interviews. Take the interviewing process seriously and prepare ahead of time. Anticipate what you’ll be asked. Role-play various interview questions. Prepare a few examples in advance that show qualities you wish to highlight. Effective stories will be succinct and include: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Be specific. Focus on your role in projects you’re discussing. Make good eye contact.
Tips gathered by Briana Randall from the Employer Panel at the 11th Annual Career Symposium & Networking Reception–an event co-sponsored by the Graduate School and Career Center in January 2015. Briana is the Associate Director of the Career Center. Check out more academic and non-academic career development resources.