Ten Steps to Prepare College Students for the Job Market

A real good article in a recent Wall Street Journal offers ten steps to prepare college students for the job market. The reporter spoke with career coaches, recruiters and recent graduates. Read it here.

The ten pieces of advice are:

1. Look for a job early (while still in school).

2. Network with professionals while in college.

3. While is college, work part time or take an internship.

4. Get involved with career-related clubs and activities.

5. Apply for many jobs, but don’t be a application hound. Apply for jobs that you’re qualified for.

6. Become professional while in school:  Dress well, create a LinkedIn account, clean up your online presence, make business cards.

7. Set career goals. They can always change (and probably will), but write down specirfic goals with deadlines.

8. Go to the college career center.

9. Keep track of your achievements and share them online (like on your LinkedIn page).

10. Develope relevant skills. You don’t need to have a job to practice and get experience. Be creative and make things that are similar to your career goals.

Bonus tip from me:  Be positive, energetic, and do at least one little thing every week to help make your life’s work a reality.

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Question about getting a job in advertising

Q:  I don’t have any relevant work experience. On my resume could I list some of the courses I took at VCU if they are relevant to the job?

A:  Relevant work experience is a valuable thing to have.  However, think about it deeper.  Think about the people you know who do their job well.  Did your best teachers have the most teaching experience? Do the best mothers and fathers have several kids before they become good parents?  Are the best 7-11 cashiers the ones that have been cashiers for many years?  In my experience, the people who do their job well have the passion to be good, the creativity to solve problems, and the ability to think on their own.
Change your definition of “relevant work experience.”  An employer wants to see that you are relevant to them.  There are many ways to show that you are relevant:  from school projects, from work experiences, from pastimes you’ve enjoyed, from your philosophies, from your passions, and from any stuff you’ve done.  Many jobs (including all types of communications and marketing) need people who are passionate, creative, connected, problem solvers, smart, and willing to work hard.  When you demonstrate that you have these qualities, you will have the attention of any employer.
Another important point is that ALL experience is relevant experience.  How you approach your school work is probably similar to how you’ll approach all types of work.
One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'”
If I was looking to hire someone (for any job), I would seriously consider hiring a street sweeper who approached his/her job like Michelangelo approached his work. This is especially true for any entry-level position.
Sistine Chapel

Write your resume to show that you have the passion and dedication demonstrated by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

Sure it’s nice to have relevant work experience (in the traditional sense). Fortunately, you can have a strong job application (and/or resume and cover letter) without any relevant work experience.  You have the ability to apply for many, many jobs with which you have no direct work experience (in the sense of doing that job before).