Best Foot Forward: A College Student’s Guide to Starting Right: Step Two: Research

As I came upon my senior year in college, I began to wonder when or if I would do an internship.  I bet you are thinking, “a little late,” and believe me, I know.  I am embarrassed to divulge that unlike most students, I actually worked at the LAS Cooperative Education and Internship Program for two years at UIC, and knew the importance of addressing these things early.  I sat through countless interviews with graduating seniors who were dumbfounded as they found out how unprepared they were to tackle the real world job market.  Seemingly simple tasks, such as creating a résumé, writing a cover letter or having the remotest idea of what specifically they wanted to do with their degrees were questions many could not answer. So despite the advantage of being warned early, I had still not had an internship, nor taken much time to research one. Like most college students charging down the home stretch of their college career, I too just wanted to be done.  Similar to a horse with blinders, all I could see was that diploma and the freedom I assumed it bought me. Unfortunately, my naïve dream that my hard- earned diploma would be my meal ticket to a top notch job would soon be shattered.

With foreboding news headlines proclaiming economic failure and the unemployment rate skyrocketing, I began to ponder what exactly I could do to secure one of the few jobs that would be available.  I saw college graduates complain about the lack of jobs everywhere and how they felt like they were not competitive enough to attain the few jobs existing. Certainly unemployment and moving back in with mom and dad was not the type of freedom I sought.  It was then that the importance of an internship dawned on me.

With this realization, I began my research with fervor.  Research is an essential step to acquiring an internship.  From my experience working at the internship program, I learned that the most important thing students can know is what specifically they want to do and research it.  Being uninformed about your career of choice is a recipe for failure. Not to mention how unlikely an employer is to hire someone without a clue about the industry they want to go into.  Use magazines, books, and the Internet.  Ask questions of those you meet who work where you may want to some day.  Check out company websites and their work and see if you like what they do, better yet, do they have intern testimonials? And do not be afraid to call and ask questions about what they look for in a potential internee. The better idea you have, the easier it is to narrow down a company, and tailor a resume and cover letter.  Now, can you spin it?

Blogger: Amanda Martin

Media Relations and Advertising Intern

Best Foot Forward: A College Student’s Guide to Starting Right: Step One: Realization

 

Every college student knows in this economy you have to have an extra edge to get hired. With the unemployment rate rising, and the large number of graduates with their degrees in hand ending up back at home with their parents or working at the local fast food joint, this fact is all too apparent. The question of exactly how to distinguish yourself in a market as dead as our current one sometimes stumps the best of us.

 When shuffling through the list of ways to pump up a resume, we stumble upon the need for leadership roles, volunteer positions, awards, high GPA’s, membership in Greek life, and a whole host of other activities besides our academic work. Yet when looking for a job, the most common question an employer will ask is, “What set of skills do you bring to the table or do you have any other professional job experience?” As a college student myself, I, too, find myself asking, with what time do employers expect students, with all their studies, to find part-time jobs and other extracurricular activities to learn a set of skills and to actually have time or the opportunity to acquire some professional experience? These questions become frustrating, overwhelming, and often get overlooked as students simply push towards their graduation date, thinking a degree in hand will be enough.

Yet as many of us have discovered, possessing a degree is no longer a guarantee to get into the professional world. As a matter of fact, if that is your only selling point, you may only get as far as being a barista at your corner coffee shop. Not to minimize such jobs, but those individuals who are looking to succeed in their field of choice will attest that this extra edge can be gained in only one place and setting. The answer: to be an intern at a company that will let you get hands-on and up close and personal experience in the field you seek a professional career in. Once students come to this realization, they have taken the first step towards acquiring an internship that will offer them the experience they need. In an economy where most graduates are unemployed, this extra edge will give you much better odds at getting that job that so many will be vying for.

Blogger: Amanda Martin

Comtech Media Relations and Advertising Intern