Landing Your First Professional Job: It’s About More Than Getting an Interview

by Julia Motis, Communications Intern

Finding a job is not as easy as handing in a resume and waiting to be called for an interview.  In this competitive market, employers are seeking the most skilled and confident people to fill their open positions.  How do you gain this confidence? For recent graduates new to the professional job scene, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, start sooner rather than later.  Nina Mattson, Coordinator of Career Services at Montgomery County Community College, emphasizes the importance of getting work experience during college.  In other words, don’t wait until you have a degree to put those skills you are learning into action.

In resumes, as well as during job interviews, Mattson encourages recent grads to interpret past experiences in ways that convey value.  Describing how you applied what you learned in college will definitely elevate your status in the mind of the employer.

“While they may have been small cogs in the wheel – for example, delivering pizzas or answering the telephone – emphasizing an awareness of overall operations is bound to make a good impression,” Mattson shares.

Also, you must come to the interview prepared. Tara Wainwright, Perkins/KEYS Advisor at the College, says it is important to know the ins and outs of a company before you even set foot in the interview office.

“It’s embarrassing if you know nothing about the place you’re applying to,” hints Wainwright.

By taking the time to research, you can tailor your interview responses to better communicate how your skills, talents and values are a match for the company. But don’t just list your talents; show them.

“If you say you’re a good communicator or you’re comfortable with technology, you have to have proof,” says Wainwright.

Both she and Mattson suggest bringing several concrete examples that demonstrate, specifically, how your skills enhanced a company, service or product. The key is to focus on results and accomplishments.

Both career service professionals also stress the importance of highlighting contemporary skills, especially proficiency with emerging technologies and social media.

Most importantly, new jobseekers need to have a positive attitude! Wainwright suggests that instead of looking at this process as a “job search,” consider it your personal “campaign.”

“Using the term ‘campaign’ brings to light the importance of branding yourself, creating your professional image, and marketing your greatness to others. It also includes the fact that you need to network, talk to people, and get the word out about your skills and your interest in working,” explains Wainwright, who learned about the idea from Career Coach and Author Jay Block.

Campaign materials can include your resume, online presence and profiles, and portfolio, among other materials.

“It’s almost like a dating website profile; you are putting together your description for someone to be interested in you!” shares Wainwright.

She also points out that the process of looking for a job is a skill-set in itself – one that none of us is taught.

“New job seekers need to learn the necessary skills to conduct a successful campaign. On-the-job skills are not enough,” she says.

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