Authored by Sean Schofield, Assistant Director– Cohen Career Center
“I don’t have any relevant experience,” said the downtrodden student holding a white piece of printer paper marked only with contact information and large heading labeled “Education.” The very same student who, less than five minutes into our appointment, would go on to reveal former part time employment at a restaurant, research with a faculty member, membership with a fraternity on campus, and time spent volunteering at a local Boys and Girls Clubhouse.
The most exciting part of my job is not helping students develop the transferrable skills that employers seek, it’s helping students build and share the story of the rich and diverse experiences they have taken part in… stories that speak to any potential employer. It’s helping students start to think differently about the life that they’ve led so far, and to empower them with the understanding that there are three primary components that make up what I like to call “The Hired Mindset.”
1) Understand that Organizations Hire PEOPLE, not Machines
One of the most common misconceptions that I hear when I work with students is that they do not have the requisite skills necessary to secure opportunities in a field of choice. The problem with this concept is that people like, enjoy, converse with, and ultimately hire PEOPLE. This flies in the face of what most students believe, a perception that often confuses employability with titles, language proficiencies, or the equations that we can solve. All that skills and abilities can do is tell part of a job or internship candidate’s story. Take, for example, one of the most common ways for any employer to open a job interview – “Tell me about yourself.” A simple prompt, allowing us to speak on the one area in which we are a true expert, yet this statement strikes fear into some of the most competent applicants. Tell me about yourself is one of the best opportunities to “set the stage” for interview success, and one of the only parts of a job interview that you can really practice thoroughly. Don’t waste time talking about superfluous things, but instead discuss who you are academically, talk about extracurricular involvement, and allow your goals and passions to shine through – but make them relate to the position, the organization, and the industry.
2) Some Skills and Competencies are ALWAYS Transferrable
While you, as a job/internship seeker, should be measuring your potential employer with regard to your Values, Interests and Aptitudes, the hiring official(s) will be measuring you on whether or not you will help them advance their goals, fit in with their organizational structure and culture, and represent them well when it counts. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) lists seven highly important competencies that students must demonstrate in order to get hired (www.naceweb.org), for which I offer my basic interpretation of each:
- Critical Thinking – This is not only measured by your grades and ability to solve complex problems, but also by the creative ways you approach obstacles.
- Communications – Not just your ability to speak or write, but also your ability to listen and follow instructions. You can successfully demonstrate communication skills by showcasing your ability to relay information, and by proving that you can listen to and interpret information.
- Collaboration – Everyone wants a team player, and you will need to be able to work with a diverse group of people (diversity can be measured in a number of ways) to accomplish a common goal. Students are often concerned with leaving their “legacy,” which they believe to be accomplished only when operating independently from the greater group, but collaboration is what wins championships on the field and keeps residence halls running smoothly.
- IT Application – Familiarize yourself with the technical needs of each position that you apply for, and make sure its application will not be a point that holds you back. YouTube and Lynda.com are great ways to learn technical skills that will impress potential employers.
- Leadership – The most misunderstood of all of the competencies! We think that a chief officer of an organization leads, but true leadership lies in a person’s ability to lift up those around them, or assist others in making meaning of their experiences.
- Professionalism – This may be tough to hear, but you are a brand. Everything that you do will either support and grow, or diminish your brand in the eyes of others. Those Facebook posts that you think are inaccessible to employers are not, what you tweet is viewable to the world, and the way that you dress and present yourself when meeting people goes a long way in demonstrating your character. Make sure you treat every day like a job interview!
- Career Management – Develop your ability to describe your experiences and connect your past with your present and future! This is also a chance to reflect upon areas where growth and development are needed.
3) Storytelling Can Get You a Job
Let’s face it, storytelling is an effective way to get a point across. There are multi-million dollar industries based upon people’s willingness to sit and watch a good story play out on the screen, stage or television, and few people find themselves apathetic to the hero’s journey (the formula that plays itself out in nearly every classic according to Matthew Winkler’s TED-Ed Animation). Although it may seem a bit erroneous to measure your accomplishments against those of Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen or Frodo, when you speak about your experiences, frame them in the following way: you faced a conflict or challenge, you developed and implemented a solution, and the day was won. Getting hired isn’t about each individual experience you’ve had, it’s about how you weave them into a story that the hiring manager is excited to hear.
During the 2016 #NoTitleNeeded initiative, we hope you and your organization will focus on emerging contributors within your group or cause. The belief that you are capable is one of the greatest contributors to leadership efficacy. Build this leadership efficacy in your members by thanking them for the (#NoTitleNeeded) contributions they are making to your shared goals. Would you like to celebrate #NoTitleNeeded, but in need of materials? SLD is offering a #NoTitleNeeded pack complete with buttons and stickers! Sign up to receive a #NoTitleNeeded Pack here: http://bit.ly/2fvV71r