Applying for a Job
You're ready to apply to your first job out of Oxy; you've identified occupational areas of interest, interned, networked, and targeted an industry. This is what you need to do now:
Interpreting Job Descriptions
After doing your research, you need to select the opportunities to which you will actually apply. Utilizing websites, professional associations, and leads, print out and review a number of job descriptions for which you believe you are qualified. Positions suggesting people with 0-3 years of experience are generally seeking entry-level applicants. Learn how to strategically read job descriptions; if you cannot perform a number of the functions indicated and/or the language in the description is unfamiliar to you, it is likely that you are not yet qualified for this position.
The cover letter is a formal business letter which is often the first contact with a prospective employer. It serves as an introduction of you and your background experience. Since it is usually the first impression you make on the employer, you want it to be your best.
A resume is an advertisement of who you are and your abilities and accomplishments. It emphasizes your skills, personal attributes, education, experience, and other background information that demonstrates your qualifications for the type of position you are seeking. The resume attempts to answer the prospective employer's question, "What can this candidate do for my organization." It is the beginning of a well-planned job search.
If an employer is seriously considering hiring you, they will generally ask for your references. While it is valuable to bring a prepared list of your references to your interview, it is usually information you will be providing after the interview process. Select professionals who have directly observed your work performance and can attest to skills, characteristics and competencies you would bring to the work place. Employers generally prefer past employers as references over faculty recommendations. A good ratio is to select two professional recommenders to one academic. Do not put anyone down as a reference who you've not confirmed is willing to take a call from an employer.
To help your referrers be thorough when recommending you, we suggest you provide them with your resume, cover letter, and goals for employment. It is also helpful to send them a copy of the job description for which you are targeting.
How many jobs you apply for and in what manner will be dictated by the industry sector and the economy. In times of economic hardship, Donald Asher, a career expert, suggests students should have over "a hundred leads going at any given time." While this may seem like a copious amount of work, sending out a high volume of polished resumes will help you understand occupational sectors better, improve your resume writing skills, and secure interviews.
Depending upon your current fashion statement, venturing into the world of work may be cause for a drastic shift in your wardrobe. Some of your individualism, at least from 9 to 5, might have to be shelved. In most workplace settings, when it comes to your appearance, moderation and conformity for the industry are the order.
Each company will have its own guidelines, so it is important to know your potential employer before you meet them. How liberal or conservative is the dress code? Do not try to set any new standards, especially in the interview. When in doubt, it is better to be too conservative than to be too flashy. For men and women, a suit is the best bet.
The interview is a conversation in which you and an employer exchange information. Your objective is to get a job offer, and the employer's objective is to find out the following:
- What you have to offer (your skills, abilities, basic knowledge)
- Who you are (your personality, character, interests)
- Why you should be hired (you have what they are seeking)
The process of determining what is important to your employment decision involves your pro-active approach to finding the answers. You must take charge of this data gathering. A passive expectation that the information will be presented to you as you proceed through interviews will leave you short-handed and ill prepared for making decisions that can alter the course of your professional life.