You have a great resume, impressive GPA and education, and critical connections. Is it enough? Research suggests that an estimated 1,543,000 students will graduate from college next spring. How will you differentiate yourself and successfully compete in today’s tough economic climate? The answers may surprise you.
Alumni, faculty, staff, and yes, students, are often asked to give student recommendations for internship and job interviews, special campus committees, awards, etc. Students who anticipate and practice desired employer skills, and work to improve on them as undergraduates, are the ones who will position themselves to be recommended for opportunities and increase their chances of getting noticed.
- Commit to Commit-Companies value employees who do what they say they are going to do. As a leader in your campus organization or a member of class team project, can others rely on you to achieve desired goals? How would your peers, coach, or faculty describe your work ethic?
Consider this: At a recent employer event, a recruiter shared the story of a non-UR student intern who failed to show up for training one morning. Once the recruiter talked to the college junior and asked why she failed to show up for the meeting, she blamed it on the fact that her father did not wake her up, as he had done every morning.
If this were you, would you expect the employer to offer you a full time job after the internship?
- Reflect-Successful individuals recognize the value of looking back to move ahead, and employers are looking for people who are persistent and adept at solving problems. Do you work on a problem or task until you’ve solved it?
Consider this: In September, my office partnered with an alumnus who is president of a company, to get a glimpse inside a NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway. Fifty students attended the event, which included meeting senior level executives, touring NASCAR’s corporate hospitality, and working the ticket gates. Severe inclement weather postponed the race several hours and provided some understandable moments of frustration for our students. After the race, student attendees and senior level executives were asked to meet the following Tuesday to debrief the experience. For those who attended, students viewed senior executives grading themselves on their ability to meet desired individual and company goals. Reflecting on what had worked well and what had not, the panelists demonstrated the critical role that reflection plays on future success. However, several students no showed for Tuesday’s scheduled debriefing event, including some who complained about the experience.
If you were one of the students who had no showed, would you expect the alumnus to hire you?
- Own It-How do you respond to failure? If you fail to fulfill your obligation, recognize what role YOU played, rather than place the blame on others.
Consider this: A faculty member once shared an email from a student who blamed others for his low class grade. In addition to a poorly written and angry email, at no point did the student take the time to consider how his actions contributed to the team grade.
If this were you, would you expect the faculty member to recommend you to an employer?
- Dress the Part-Whether we like it or not, first impressions are often based on our appearance. Although students are often quick to put on their best suit for an interview, do not underestimate the importance that appropriate dress for class and campus events can play as well. If you are unsure about what to wear for events, simply ask the host. As for class, ask yourself what kind of impression you will make wearing tee shirts, baseball caps, and torn or provocative clothing.
Consider this: On any given week, recruiters, alumni and CEO’s are on our campus, giving presentations and visiting with faculty, staff, and students.
As a student attending class with a presenter who is interested in recruiting or helping students network, would you expect to make a good impression, given the way you are dressed?
- Manners Matter- Are you often late for class or meetings? Do you register for events and not show up? Are you texting in the middle of a class, meeting, or presentation? Do you take the time to thank people for sharing their time and talents with you? Relationships are our number one predictor of success!
Consider this: I once asked a recruiter about an undergraduate student who had applied for a position with his well-known firm. The student had a well-rounded resume, very good GPA, and demonstrated interest in the firm. I asked how the student faired among her peers in comparison, and his response was not at all surprising. “Despite her strong resume and academic background, our firm would never hire her, because she lacks strong interpersonal skills. I also do not see her effectively interfacing with our clients or as a team member.”
In this example, the undergraduate student valued the opportunity to receive feedback and work on her interpersonal skills, and her efforts paid off. During her senior year, following an internship with another firm, she was offered and accepted, a full time position.
At the national level, employers are looking to gain earlier access to students. While it may be a year or two before you are looking for that internship or job, your day to day actions in class and out are leaving an impression on those around you.
Given your day to day actions, would you hire YOU?
Shelley Olds Burns, M.Ed., Director of Career Programs in Business, Robins School of Business