Part 5: Career Readiness Guide: Prepare For Success With Your Liberal Arts Degree | The Career Management Model: Excel

Part 5: Career Readiness Guide: Prepare For Success With Your Liberal Arts Degree | The Career Management Model: Excel was originally published on College Recruiter.

This is the fifth of seven articles in this series, click here to go to the first article. If you’re searching for a remote internship, go to our search results page that lists all of the remote internships and other entry-level jobs advertised on College Recruiter and then drill down as you wish by adding your desired category, location, company, or job type.

THE CAREER MANAGEMENT MODEL: EXCEL

In the Excel phase of the Career Management Model, you focus on the tools, activities, and strategies you’ll need to demonstrate your career readiness and then actually apply it as you work toward whatever practical career outcome you’re seeking.

For many undergraduates, this desired outcome is Employment, typically in the form of a private-sector job or in nonprofit organizations, public service (government) agencies, the military, or related opportunities like AmeriCorps or teaching abroad programs. So we devote most of this section of the guide to the basics of the job search: uncovering job opportunities, writing solid résumés and cover letters, performing well in interviews, and the like.

For other undergraduates, Education—in the form of graduate or professional school—is the next stage on the career development journey. So we cover the graduate/professional school research, application, and decision-making process in considerable depth too.

This is the critical time to redouble your focus on the Core Career Competencies that signify career readiness. Remember: These competencies—more than your specific major, for example—are what employers and other real-world decision makers say they value most in liberal arts graduates. So if you haven’t done so already, begin to carefully document your experiences, in and out of the classroom, and to pinpoint how they have helped you build the various Core Career Competencies. (Your advisor, a career counselor, and/or a faculty member can offer guidance.) This careful process of cataloguing, analyzing, and synthesizing what you have to offer will be crucial to your success, whatever your next career step will be.

WHAT IF I WANT TO WORK FOR MYSELF?

You may be one of the growing number of liberal arts students who want to pursue a career path with a degree of independence and/or entrepreneurship. Perhaps you’d like to start your own business, for example, or pursue freelance/contract work, or run for political office, or launch a nonprofit organization, or blaze your own trail in some other way and be part of the gig economy.

The individual nature of these types of career paths makes them difficult to comprehensively cover in a guide like this one. But they are valid, worthy, realistic pursuits—and you can get help pursuing them on an individual basis from your advisor, a career counselor, and/or a faculty member. (We cover this enterprising path in a bit more detail starting on page 89 of this guide.)

Know, too, that many liberal arts alumni have gone on to do similar things. We can help you connect with them so that you can learn from their experiences.

Your Professional Identity

YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

We cannot have a discussion about the job search or applying for graduate/professional school without first talking about the critical concept of your professional identity, often called your personal brand.

Your personal brand is the outward expression of who you are and who you strive to be (as we discussed in the Explore section of this guide). It’s how you choose to show up in the professional world, how others perceive you, and what you are known for. The question is, what do you want to be known for, and how can you tell your story in a way that communicates that? You are the only person who can manage your brand. So you need to be thoughtful and consistent about how you present yourself—in person, on paper, and online.

Your Brand in Person
As you go about the various activities in the job search or graduate/professional school application process (or in the pursuit of your own path), keep these tips in mind:

• Research the organization(s) you’re interested in to evaluate the norms and expectations for that unique setting. What it means to present yourself
professionally can vary greatly, and you’ll want to take time to think about how you can show up in a way that honors your professional identity.

• Choose clean clothing that makes you feel confident while also respecting your desired personal brand, organizational norms, and expectations. Networking contacts or career counselors can also help you identify clothing options.

• Be aware of the cultural norms and expectations around time. In some settings this means showing up early for meetings, prepared to contribute,
whereas in other situations people take a more relaxed approach to time.

• To fully engage with people and make a positive impression, minimize distractions, including use of your cell phone, social media, email, etc. You
don’t want people to misread you as not being engaged.

Your Brand on Paper
Your printed documents communicate a message beyond the words. Here are some tips about your personal brand on paper:

• Make sure your written documents are clear and easy to understand. Don’t use “text speak” (e.g., writing in all lower-case letters). Proofread your documents.

• Use formatting techniques (e.g., font size/style, spacing, bolding, italics, underlining, color, and/or capitalization) to emphasize key information.

• Customize job search documents, such as résumés and cover letters, so that they are targeted specifically to the people you’re sending them to. By tailoring your documents you can amplify the unique aspects of your professional identity that match the job qualifications and describe why you are interested in working for that organization.

Your Brand Online
What will a prospective employer, admissions representative, or other key decision maker find on your Instagram account … or Facebook feed … or Twitter feed … or [tomorrow’s social media
sensation]? What will they uncover via a simple Google search, or on LinkedIn? Here are key considerations to think about:

• Be intentional about any images, content, and communication you use. Choose visuals that demonstrate the qualities you want to be known for.

• Use the “Summary” or “About Me” section to share highlights.

• Watch everything you say and portray. Assume it can be viewed by anyone. Nothing is truly “private.” Google yourself—what do you find?

• Monitor everything that others say and portray about you too. (Note: This includes how you are tagged in photos or posts by others.)

• Ask for feedback from others and determine if those impressions are consistent with your goals.

NAVIGATING YOUR IDENTITY

AS YOU PURSUE YOUR CAREER GOALS

Whether you’re pursing employment or educational opportunities, this is a time when you navigate who you are and what you are seeking, all while you manage your professional identity. Aspects of your personal and social identities, as well as culture (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, age, religion, citizenship status, family status, etc.), are assets you will bring to your future opportunities. However, you may have questions about how and when to share aspects of your identity. The tips below are meant to empower you with information to help you proceed in pursuing your career goals in ways that honor who you are. Your advisor, a career counselor, and/or a faculty member can also support you, with the questions below and beyond.

COMMON QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS

Here are some frequently asked questions and common concerns you might want to think about as you begin the process of navigating your identity. The questions often require nuanced answers. Your advisor, a career counselor, and/or a faculty member can help you decide which answers best fit your unique situation and help you achieve your goals.

• How do I disclose my identities in my job search or graduate/professional school application?

• I’m worried my appearance (e.g., hair color/style, piercings, tattoos, religious attire, gender expression, etc.) may raise concerns to employers or admissions committees. How do I decide whether to change my appearance for an upcoming interview? What are my other options?

• Should I list a certain organization on my résumé/CV (e.g., religious group, political affiliation, LGBTQIA organization, etc.) that may “out” me?

• What should I do if I’m asked an illegal question during an interview?

• I do not shake hands for cultural reasons. What should I do at my interview?

• How do I identify whether a company, institution, or organization will be a good fit for me?

• I know I will need accommodations. How do I address this?

• I’m worried my background check may raise concerns. What should I do?

• How do I address citizenship status if I am unable to legally work in this country? (undocumented or international students)

• How do I answer the question, “Do you need a sponsor to work in the U.S.?”

• What are the legal protections for transgender individuals in the workplace in this state?

• How can I research health benefits available to me through an employer or institution?

• I have a gap on my résumé/CV due to a leave of absence for a mental health crisis. How can I manage this in my application process or address the impact to my GPA for graduate school?

• Where can I get help knowing how to best highlight my military service as being relevant to an opportunity?

• I received a job offer and have heard that women often make less than men in the U.S. How do I make sure I am paid fairly?

• There are changes in my family (e.g., marriage, pregnancy, children, adoption, death of a family member, changes in primary-care status, etc.), and I am worried about this impacting perceptions of my ability to do my job or succeed in my studies. How do I navigate this?

RESOURCES FOR DIVERSE POPULATIONS

All of these questions are valid, and your advisor, a career counselor, or a faculty member can help you address them and direct you to additional helpful resources. You may also want to consult mentors in the communities with which you identify.

ILLEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

In the United States, it is illegal for employers or educational institutions to ask you questions about: your marital status; whether you have children or are expecting a child; religious practices; political affiliations; race or nationality; sexual orientation; age; whether you have a disability; your gender; or whether or not you have been arrested. These questions are illegal because information shared in a candidate’s response may be used to discriminate against them. If you are asked an illegal question, you do not need to answer it. Instead turn the focus back on your qualifications for the position.

HOW TO RESEARCH A DIVERSE, INCLUSIVE, AND EQUITABLE CULTURE

• Talk to family, friends, advisors, career counselors, community leaders, and/or instructors. Ask if they know any professionals who share your identity or identities, who could then give you their perspective about organizations you’re interested in.

• Research organizations’ or programs’ websites—and/or their listings on LinkedIn.com, Glassdoor.com, and social media—to see if the following items appear:

• A diversity and inclusion statement or non-discrimination policies and procedures.

• LGBTQIA benefits like trans-inclusive health insurance and LGBTQIA-friendly parental leave.

• Affinity or resource groups for different populations.

• Gender-neutral bathrooms.

• Trainings around diversity and inclusion for employees, faculty, and students.

• Disability resources.

• Review ratings via DiversityInc (diversityinc.com) or the Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work (hrc.org/campaigns/corporate-equality-index).

• Check job boards and LinkedIn groups for others who share your identity/ies.

• Ask questions in interviews to help you assess culture/climate, such as:

• How would you describe the culture and values of this organization? This department?

• What kinds of affinity groups, if any, does this organization or program have?

• What kinds of training and professional development are provided or encouraged?

DISCLOSURE

Whether you want or need to disclose aspects of your identity (such as ability status and accommodation needs, gender identity or expression, racial or ethnic background, citizenship status, criminal record, veteran status, religion/religious affiliation, family status, etc.), it will be important for you to decide what to disclose and when. In most cases, there is no perfect timing. Options for when to disclose include networking situations, during the application process, in an interview, after the interview, or when you start. There are pros and cons to each choice.

Here are some tips for increasing your confidence with disclosure:
• Practice your disclosure language with a trusted mentor, your advisor, a career counselor, or a faculty member.
• Make a list of the toughest questions you may receive, and make a plan to address them.
• Educate yourself about the laws and legal environment related to your disclosure. Equip yourself with information so you know what to anticipate, how to respond, and how to advocate for yourself.
• Reflect upon, and be ready to share, how your identity/ies and lived experiences will add value to the organization, position, or program you’re interested in. Consider how these assets may set you apart from other candidates and enable the organization or institution to diversify.
• Get support from mentors, trusted friends or family, career counselors, mental health therapists, and others. You don’t have to manage this process alone!

PURSUING EMPLOYMENT

JOB SEARCH STRATEGIES

The job search process is both exciting and daunting. How do you begin to uncover job opportunities to pursue in the first place? You know the openings are out there. Somewhere. How do you find them, especially when so many of them aren’t even advertised?

Fortunately, in addition to the career center and related offices/personnel, you also have many other job search tools and strategies at your disposal:

• Networking
• Informational interviews—networking with a learning focus
• Job/career fairs

• The career center’s job platform
• Job/internship websites
• LinkedIn
• Staffing agencies

NETWORKING

Networking—which is, quite simply, talking to people—is by far the most effective way to uncover job opportunities to pursue. Why? Because, given the choice, employers would prefer to hire people they already know, or people who come highly recommended by people they already know. It’s less risky, it’s faster, and it’s cheaper.

If you were an employer, how would you try to find someone to fill a key position? You would undoubtedly turn first to your own personal network of contacts, hoping someone you already know and trust would either a) apply for the position themselves, or b) recommend someone.

Networking is a way to build a community of support around you for your job search, which includes connections with professionals. It might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Most of us network all the time without realizing it. When you talk to someone about interests you both share, for example, you’re already networking.

What Is Networking?
Networking means building professional relationships. You can plan your networking activities out in advance if you’d like, or simply take advantage of networking opportunities spontaneously as they come to you (or you to them). Either networking approach works well.

When you plan your networking activities, you often contact someone to find out if you have mutual interests; you then have a conversation about those interests. When you meet new people by chance, on the other hand, and you end up discussing mutual interests or goals, you’re networking spontaneously.

You’ve actually been networking for years without even realizing it. You’re networking when you:
• Talk to friends or friends of friends.
• Chat with your neighbors.
• Volunteer somewhere.
• Talk to the person sitting next to you on the bus.
• Stay in contact with your professors, instructors, advisors, and counselors.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Networking
Many people cringe at the thought of networking, thinking they have to show up in a space full of people they don’t know and begin small talk. People often assume that networking means you have to be “schmoozing” or inauthentic in your conversation. But true networking is actually relationship building.

Networking becomes relatively easy after you’ve put in a little effort and time. If you’re shy, or if you’re uncomfortable contacting people you don’t know, that’s understandable. But keep this in mind: The worst response you’re likely to get is someone saying they’re too busy to talk. Or you may get no response at all, which still isn’t a negative.

Most of the time, though, you will find that people are remarkably happy to share information about their work, company, or profession. Especially since many of them have been in your shoes themselves—and know they likely will be again. Someday.

Introducing Yourself: The Elevator Pitch
At a career fair or networking event, you’ll be introducing yourself to potential employers and recruiters. That’s a conversation you’ll need to initiate and lead. The elements below help you craft your introduction, or “elevator pitch,” so you can concisely make a connection in a tailored way.

Ways to Get Help with Networking Activities
As a college student, you have several resources at your disposal that will make your networking activities more fruitful and less intimidating.

You can:

• Search for and join the students/alumni LinkedIn group (linkedin.com) affiliated with the school.
• Join the LinkedIn groups and other social networking platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) of student organizations at the school.
• Attend career events on campus, in the community, and/or elsewhere (in your hometown, for example).
• Attend gatherings of professional associations in disciplines that interest you.

How to Contact People and What to Say
In addition to networking with people you already know, you can also network with complete strangers. It’s actually very common in the world of working professionals, and there are many ways to find people to contact.

The easiest way to begin is to start with someone you do know, or someone a friend, relative, or professor knows. Think about who is currently in your network and how each of these people could support you in finding names for networking purposes.

You can also find people through:

• The school’s alumni association and/or alumni office
• Conferences and workshops
• Company/organization websites
• Student groups
• Professional associations
• Industry directories

• Service organizations
• The career center
• Your advisor
• Social media sites, particularlyLinkedIn and Facebook
• Faculty and course instructors

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS—NETWORKING WITH A LEARNING FOCUS

An informational interview is a special type of networking activity. It is a brief, typically face-to-face meeting with a person who is working in a position or field you want to explore or pursue. It gives you the chance to:

• Learn in depth about a specific industry, field, organization, and/or position, and then assess whether it’s a good fit for your skills, personality, and career goals.
• Observe and get a feel for different work environments.
• Connect with professionals who may have tips about future job or internship opportunities.
• Develop the social skills you’ll need in professional interactions.

You don’t use an informational interview as a way to apply for a specific job or internship opening. Instead, you ask about overall opportunities in an organization or profession. (Or, more broadly, you use an informational interview to simply explore potential occupations or career possibilities.)

If you aren’t able to have a face-to-face meeting at your interviewee’s workplace, you can do an informational interview by phone, email, or live videoconference. Or you can meet at a coffee shop or
another public place. You won’t get to experience the interviewee’s work environment firsthand, but you’ll still learn a lot.

How to Request an Informational Interview

After you’ve found someone you’d like to talk to, contact that person to request a brief interview. You can call or send an email, whichever you prefer. Usually you’ll ask to meet for 20 to 30 minutes.

Include the following information in your initial contact:
• Your first and last name.
• How you got the contact person’s name.
• A brief summary about yourself (two or three sentences is plenty).
• The fact that you’re contacting the person for an informational interview.
• Your phone number and email address. (Note: If you leave a voicemail message, be sure to say your name and phone number slowly and clearly.)

Advice From Liberal Arts Grads

Build Relationships with Your Professors

“Create strong relationships with your professors. They are the best resource, and they are willing to help you. They want you to succeed.”

Networking Is a Critical Skill

“Networking can be intimidating, but it is one of the most important skills to pick up in college. I’ve
quickly learned that the saying ‘It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know’ is 100 percent
accurate.”

Talking to People Leads to Opportunity

“Talk to your professors! Talk to your advisors! Talk to their peers and colleagues. I ended up getting my job because I contacted someone in one department and they pointed me in another direction. Just keep asking. Don’t give up. And don’t settle.”

SAMPLE SCRIPTS FOR REQUESTING AN INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW

Tips for the Informational Interview
Here are a few tips for making your informational interviewing activities successful, both for you and the person you’re meeting with:

• Be flexible. Work around your contact’s busy schedule when arranging a date and time to get together.

• Research the person’s occupation/organization ahead of time so that you can go in with thoughtful questions.

• Dress in a way that is authentic to you, comfortable, and showcases how you would like to be viewed in a professional setting.

• Arrive five to 10 minutes early so that you’re respectful of the interviewee’s schedule.

• Bring a list of questions you want to ask, along with a notebook where you can take notes.

• Ask for the names of additional people you can contact, and ask if you can use your interviewee’s name as a referral.

• Before you leave, ask for the person’s business card so that you have accurate name, title, and address information.

• After the interview, send a thank-you note promptly—within 48 hours.

It may be appropriate to bring your résumé to the informational interview—not to apply for a job but, rather, to request some feedback on it. You could also ask the person you’re interviewing to pass it along to others if appropriate.

Alternatively, you could send your résumé along with your thank-you note after the interview. You can say something like: “I’ve included my résumé in case opportunities come up in the future.” Tailor your résumé to the specific company/organization as much as possible.

What to Ask in an Informational Interview
Here are a few sample questions you can ask in an informational interview. You’ll likely have lots of your own questions too. Be sure to think your questions through in advance so that you’ll know how to proceed efficiently, being ever mindful and respectful of your interviewee’s time.

Bring your list of questions with you, but don’t feel tied to it. Having some questions prepared ahead of time will simply help you feel more confident, and will allow the conversation to flow more naturally once you get under way.

Personal information

• How did you become interested in this field?
• What are the most and least satisfying aspects of your work? What would you change?
• What experiences in your background have contributed to your success in this career? What would you have done differently?
• If this job or field were to become obsolete, in what other kinds of jobs could you apply your skills?

Questions about the organization/company

• How would you summarize what your organization does? How is it unique from your competitors?
• How would you characterize the culture of this organization and/or your department? For example, would you describe your position as closely supervised? Is this a high-pressure organization?
• What does your company look for when recruiting people?
• What other types of internships and jobs are available in your company/organization?
• How has the company grown, and what are its strategies for future growth?
• What is the dress code here? • What is turnover like in this organization? Why do you think people stay or leave?

Questions about the field or position

• What background is necessary or helpful for this position? For example, are there any particular educational or training programs required or recommended for this position?
• What are the best ways to enter this field? What are the best ways to learn about specific job openings?
• What are the five most important competencies or traits for a person going into this field?
• What are some of the most current trends or changes in this field? What about challenges or controversies?
• Can you suggest professional publications and associations related to your field?
• What are your job responsibilities? What do you do in a typical day or week?

• What is the employment outlook for this field, nationally and locally? Is demand increasing or decreasing?
• What is a typical salary range for this position How does this vary by setting/industry/size of company/geography?
• Does this position go by any different titles in other organizations?
• What are typical career paths for people in this field?
• Does this type of position typically involve a lot of team projects, or do people work independently?

Additional contacts

• Can you suggest other companies where I might want to contact people?
• Can you suggest other people I might meet with to gain additional perspectives about this career, or about future job or internship opportunities?
• Would you be willing to provide an email introduction to any contacts you have?

What Now? How to Maintain the Relationship
Your informational interviewing activities don’t end with the interview itself, nor should they. You’ll want to stay connected with the people you meet.

You can start by sending a thank-you note after each informational interview. A handwritten thank-you card or formal email is appropriate. Your message should include something specific you learned during the meeting; it needs to be more than merely a generic note. If you have agreed to forward your résumé to the contact, now would be the time to do so.

While it may not be possible to re-engage with all of your informational interviewing contacts regularly, it is important to keep in touch genuinely. This is one of the most difficult aspects of networking in general: keeping up with your network! Reaching out to your contacts on a regular basis—every three to six months, perhaps—helps you maintain these key relationships. You can reconnect with people to:

• Say you followed their advice and share the results.
• Send them articles of potential interest. •Update them on your résumé, experience, or personal situation.
• Tell them you read or heard something about them or their company/industry.
• Offer them something—like volunteer help on a project, for example, or a college student’s perspective on their market or their mission.
• Simply tell them you’d like to touch base and meet again.

One final, critical tip: Be sure to ask your informational interviewee and other networking contacts to connect with you on LinkedIn; it’s an easy way to keep in touch with professional colleagues, current and potential. You can do this immediately after meeting someone by using LinkedIn to send them a personalized invitation request. Once you’re connected with someone on LinkedIn, you will be updated if that person gets promoted, for example, or changes organizations. This type of informational nugget can be the perfect prompt for you to follow up.

CAREER FACT:

LinkedIn Offers Critical Career Connections

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with nearly 700 million members in 200 countries and territories. Use the site for free at linkedin.com. Be sure to search for groups affiliated with our school there.

JOB/CAREER FAIRS

It isn’t all that often that employers come to you, but a career fair offers you that very opportunity.

A career fair is simply an event where multiple employers gather in one place to meet with prospective job and/or internship seekers. The typical career fair lasts for a few hours and gives you a chance to talk to many employers in a very short period of time. You might even end up leaving your résumé with some of the participating recruiters, and perhaps take part in informal mini-interviews as well. The connections you make can lead to all sorts of positive results!

Watch for career fair opportunities on the career center website, on other job search-related websites, and in the newspaper.

Tips for Career Fair Success

Here are a few key tips to help you succeed at career fairs and related events:

• Create or update your résumé.

• Research the organizations that are attending the event.

• Practice introducing yourself.

• Prepare questions to ask organization representatives.

• Dress in a way that is authentic to you, comfortable, and showcases how you would like to be viewed in a professional setting.

• Request business cards.

• Send thank-you notes immediately after the event to reiterate your interest and qualifications.

THE CAREER CENTER’S JOB PLATFORM

The career center’s online job platform features many postings for entry-level jobs, in the local area and elsewhere. (Note: The platform also lists internships, co-ops, and volunteer positions you can explore.)

On a typical day, you’ll find dozens or even hundreds of postings on the platform, making it one of the best tools you can use to identify job (and internship) opportunities. Best of all, the listings on the platform are geared specifically to college students and recent graduates—i.e., people like you!

Talk to a career counselor, and/or your advisor or a faculty member, to learn more about how you can harness this powerful job search resource.

GET STARTED ON THE CAREER CENTER’S JOB PLATFORM

Set Up Your Account

Go to the career center job platform’s main screen and set up your account. (The career center website’s URL is listed on page 3 of this guide.)

Complete Your Profile

Fill out your profile in as much detail as you can so that you can maximize the platform’s benefits.

Upload Your Résumé

Upload your résumé so that you can conveniently apply for jobs (and internships etc.) that are advertised through the platform.

Set Your Notification Preferences

Receive notifications about jobs (and internships etc.) of interest, your pending applications, and more.

JOB/INTERNSHIP WEBSITES

Here are some additional job/internship websites you can investigate:

• LinkedIn (linkedin.com)—Combine your job/internship search with networking and find out who you’re connected with at an organization of interest, whether local, national, or global.

• Idealist (idealist.org)—This site features local, national, and international nonprofits and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) hiring for full-time employment, internships, and volunteer
roles.

• USAJOBS (usajobs.gov)—This is the official job search website of the United States government.

• Professional Organizations—Professional organizations often devote a portion of their websites to job and internship postings. (Note: College students can frequently join professional organizations—or student branches of professional organizations—at a fraction of what working professionals have to pay.)

You can also use other job search websites that have helpful information and listings geared toward entry-level job seekers. Most companies, for example, post job opportunities on their own websites and/ or on larger job-posting websites. There are also many independent websites that focus partially or exclusively on job and internship
listings geared toward college students and recent graduates.

Just be cautious, and remember the key pros and cons of using Internet job search websites:

PROS

• They offer an easy way for you to see who’s hiring and explore various roles in an organization.
• They may allow you to post your résumé for prospective employers to review.
• Many of the sites also offer automated job search agents that notify you by email or text when a position is posted that meets your criteria.

CONS

• You may not get a response from the employers who use these sites.
• The information you see about open positions may not be complete.
• You may find yourself putting so much time into using these sites that you neglect more effective, productive job search strategies such as networking.

LINKEDIN: A MUST-USE CAREER TOOL

LinkedIn (linkedin.com) is a social networking website with a professional emphasis. It offers an assortment of powerful tools that will help you connect with other people in your field(s) of interest, uncover career-related opportunities, and more. Here are five key ways you can—and should—use LinkedIn to pursue your career-related goals:

Build a Professional Online Presence. Think of your LinkedIn profile as your virtual résumé, but with much more room for detail and visual impact. You can use your LinkedIn profile to highlight not only your various experiences and your educational background, but also:
• Your key skills and knowledge areas (including the Core Career Competencies).
• The positive recommendations you’ve received from professors, supervisors, colleagues, etc.
• Your experiences and educational background.
• Examples of your work.
• Your professional interests.

Add Connections with “Warm” Contacts and Alumni. One of the most powerful features of LinkedIn is its ability to connect you with other people in your area(s) of professional interest. “Warm” contacts—professors, advisors, supervisors, as well as friends and family—are an excellent place to start, as are alumni.

Simply go to LinkedIn to search for the profiles of your “warm” contacts and/or alumni from the school. Then click on the “Connect” button near their name and photograph and ask to connect with the person. (Note: A box will appear encouraging you to “Add a note to your invitation.” Take a few minutes to do just that instead of sending out a generic, impersonal invitation. In doing so, you will stand out as someone who is thoughtful and purposeful—and therefore worth connecting with!)

Follow Relevant Professional Organizations, Groups, and Companies. Professional organizations, industry groups, and companies all offer LinkedIn groups for users who are interested in their offerings. Almost any topic or affiliation you can think of has some sort of group presence on LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn’s search tool to look for groups of interest, then join the ones that match your professional (or
even personal) aspirations.

Research Companies, Industries, and Graduate/Professional Programs. Do you have your eye on working for a specific company, pursuing a specific industry, applying for a specific graduate/ professional program? Search for it with LinkedIn’s search tool. Chances are it will have a LinkedIn presence, which you can use to learn more about the entity and follow its key news updates.

Search for Job Openings. LinkedIn has evolved over the years to offer job listings too. Just click on the “Jobs” link at the top of your profile page anytime, then search for open positions by keyword, location, or career interests. LinkedIn users often post job openings on their own news/sharing feeds as well.

If you need help building a compelling LinkedIn presence and making the most of the site’s offerings, talk to your advisor, a career counselor, or a faculty member. You can also visit university.linkedin.com/ linkedin-for-students, where you’ll find a variety of informative tipsheets and videos.

STAFFING AGENCIES

Staffing agencies hire for temporary and permanent positions on behalf of other organizations. Many companies/organizations use these agencies—rather than their own internal recruiters—to fill open positions.

Staffing agencies typically offer temporary, contract, and direct-hire positions. And they generally fill professional positions as well as administrative jobs (although the offerings of various agencies do vary considerably, depending on their niche).

If you choose to work with an agency, do your research and ask questions to find the one that best fits your needs. Be sure as well to work only with those agencies that do not charge you, the job seeker. Staffing agency fees are typically paid by the employers who work with the agencies.

Working with a staffing agency has its own pros and cons. Among them:

PROS

• Most agencies offer an extremely personal approach and will help you with your résumé, interview preparation, and job fit.
• You can gain short-term professional experience, perhaps with a variety of organizations.
• An agency can help you secure a position quickly if you’re moving to a new city without a job.

CONS

• Many temporary agency contracts offer no benefits.
• Immediate job openings may require you to start work right away.
• Though temporary positions may lead to full-time employment, there are no guarantees.

— This is the fifth of seven articles in this series. Click here to go to the next article. This series of articles are courtesy of the collective expertise of the staff in the Office of Undergraduate Education and Career Services in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.

By Shelby Konkel - College Recruiter
College Recruiter
College Recruiter believes that every student and recent grad deserves a great career. Each year, we help more than 3 million students and recent grads find part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs requiring 0-3 years of experience.