Friday, June 21, 2013

Starting Out 02: Before You Apply

Before You Apply
Back in the old days . . . well, in my case, 1981, we distinctly remember the lecturer’s ‘opening salvo’ on our first day at university and something remarkably similar to that heard by the lucky few in a police line-up. She said, ‘turn to your right and turn to your left. Because, believe it or not, only one out of the three of you will graduate from this course.’ It was an extremely discouraging thought and one we still haven’t forgotten - despite that first day of university being a long time ago.

Fortunately, today’s universities and colleges are enthusiastic to see as many students as possible graduate from their particular institutions and, as such, it’s far more likely that the people who sat beside you on your first day will also be there at your graduation.

Unlike 1984 - the year we eventually graduated - today the intimidating thought is that with all the graduates entering the workforce and applying for the same positions as you, only one of you will get the job - somewhat unsympathetic, but accurate.

We all begin our careers at the same spot - funnily enough, the beginning. Therefore, with the level of competition that exists in the graduate market place today, how do you get the jump on all your other company?

Join a Professional Association
What's it really like to work in a particular field? Consider joining a professional association – or, better yet, the student chapter of a professional association! There is a professional association for almost any career field in the world of work and you can join at any time, first year to senior year (or beyond). Professional associations keep you up-to-date on issues and developments in your field; alert you to who the ‘movers and shakers’ are, and tell you about companies - or individuals - with whom you would like to work. Professional membership is an excellent addition to your resume - there are few better ways to show your serious commitment to the field.

Research, research, research
Did someone say research? To prepare successfully for your job search, you will need to know as much as possible about the companies that interest you. Knowing how to research firms and organizations is vital to a winning job-search undertaking. To customize your resume and cover letter to a specific position, and particularly to prepare successfully for an interview, you need to know as much as possible about the corporation or business.

Employers perceive ‘researching the corporation’ as one of the decisive factors in the assessment of applicants as it reflects interest and enthusiasm. In the interview, it indicates you understand the purpose of this process and establishes a common base of knowledge from which questions can be asked and to which information can be added, thus enabling both applicant and interviewer to assess the position fit more correctly. The best way to research a company is through their corporate website; however, surfer beware – similar to annual reports, corporate websites can often mask the truth – it’s highly unlikely many, if any, corporation websites will tell you they’re going bankrupt or that their product is in violation of the environmental accords.

At a minimum, try to locate the following items of basic information about the organisation: age, services or products, competitors, growth pattern, reputation, divisions and subsidiaries, size, number of employees, sales, assets and earnings, new products or projects, number of locations, and foreign operations.

Armed with this information and you will certainly impress at such a time you arrive at the interview process. Indeed, most employers, when asked what job candidates can do to shine in the job interview, the response is to comprehensively research the corporation and be able to talk proficiently about it during the interview. Graduate candidates who have done their homework are better able to discuss how their experiences and qualifications match up with the firm’s needs; prepared candidates who know the organisation can also talk about how they can make an immediate contribution to the company. The candidate who can do this is typically the candidate who gets the job offer.

Understand What Employers are Really Looking For in Recent Graduates
When an employer looks at your CV, they are looking to see if you have the skills they need. However, their main concern is not so much ‘where’ you have developed these skills, but ‘whether’ you have developed them. To further get a jump on your competition, these are the skills you will need in almost all jobs for which you apply and which all employers value highly:

  • communication: speaking and writing clearly; listening and reading accurately, 
  • numbers and IT: understanding ideas expressed numerically; using the latest popular commercial software packages, 
  • working with others: working in a team; dealing with the people; being in charge of others, 
  • organising and taking responsibility: planning; meeting deadlines; organising projects, and 
  • problem solving: finding solutions when you get stuck; thinking logically; thinking laterally 
Believe or not, as much as you may wish to trump that you have just graduated with a degree in partial physics or financial arbitrage, that’s only a portion percent of the acquired skills employers are seeking – never lose sight of the fact they are also looking for evidence that you have acquired the above skills by looking at your education, your work experience, and your leisure activities.

Next article, we’ll attempt to put all of your newly-minted currency into practice and motion, beginning with – The Resume.


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