5 Ways to Prepare for the Job Market While Getting Your Degree

An undergraduate degree is great, and contrary to what people may tell you, it does open doors. The problem is that there are a lot more people trying to rush through those doors than there were before. The trick then is to make sure you know what employers are looking for – and contrary to popular belief, they are looking.

Stop Accumulating Positions, Start Accumulating Projects

Employers are not interested in hearing where you’ve been. Rather, they want to know what you’ve done. Stuffing your resume with jobs and volunteer positions is pretty, but to someone quickly scanning your resume it just looks busy.

You were student council president? Great! What did you do as president? What problems did you solve? What new initiatives did you spearhead?

We’ve been told since Grade 5 to join everything under the sun so that we can slap it on our resume, but if you can’t point to a project or an app or an event and say, “I helped make that happen” then you’re forgettable.

Show Me The Money…And How You Got It Here

If I had a nickel for the number of times someone told me they volunteered for an organization for x amount of time only to not be taken on in a paid capacity, I’d be rich enough to pay off my student loans and stop editing my resume.

I’ve learned this the hard way myself: you need to show that you’re of value to a company whether that means showing them how you’ve increased engagement on social media, how you’ve made them more money, or how you do something tangible that would be noticeably missed were you to leave. Unless you’re working directly under someone who controls the budget and has the power to say, “Hell, why not? You always come in on time and we could use an extra assistant” the supervisor that you interact with every day probably has limited power.

As disenchanting as this may sound, unless you have a terrific relationship with the head of a company, these decisions usually come down to money, not loyalty, and understanding this will allow you to gear everything from how you approach your existing position to how you apply to other jobs, much better.

You need to learn how to quantify your accomplishments.

Put It In Numbers

We live in a data-driven world, and people – especially hiring managers – like to see numbers. It’s a frustrating feature, especially if you’re someone who thinks better in words, but even if you’re applying for a job that has nothing to do with numbers you need to learn how to quantify your accomplishments. This does not apply exclusively to previous sales jobs. It can be applied to a wide range of work experiences.

You ran the social media for a non-profit? Cute. But by how much? How many followers did you gain? How much engagement was there on each of these platforms?

You ran the blog and e-newsletter for your school paper? Lovely. How many views did the blog get a month? What were the open and click through rates? Did those numbers increase under your management?

Put it in numbers. They are quick and blunt, but flipping through resumes is long and dull, so include information that will jump out.

Study Your Dream Job

Don’t wait until your final year to look at postings for your dream position. Chances are that in addition to “undergraduate degree in related field” the description will be chockfull of buzzwords and the expectation that you’re proficient in half a dozen pieces of software and you will feel overwhelmed by how few you recognize.

Helpful tip: most of these tools are user-friendly and easy to learn – they just take time. And those obscure terms are just complicated ways to refer to common sense techniques. If you’re an English major trying to get a job at a magazine or a marketing firm, you should already be familiarizing yourself with search engine optimization techniques and different online content management systems.

Nowhere, outside of elementary school, do people remember the person that quietly waited for their turn.

Be Persistent and Stop Being So Nice

Nothing makes you want to punch your screen like receiving another automated message informing you that a company has decided to move on with other applicants, but remember: it doesn’t matter how many nos you get, all it takes is one yes.

Be persistent, and stop being so damn nice and amiable. It’s futile responding to an automated email, but if a human informs you that you didn’t get a job, sending them a simple thank you is the same as hitting reply and writing, “You may now forget about me. Insignificantly yours…” Say thank you and then ask for feedback. Or add them on LinkedIn. Or if you’re going to just say thank you, make sure it’s handwritten and mailed. Do something to cement yourself in their memory.

On that note, if you interviewed for a position and you haven’t heard back, follow up, follow up, follow up. Nowhere, outside of elementary school, do people remember the person that quietly waited for their turn.

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