Thursday, February 7, 2013

4 things I wish I had known when job hunting

One AWE senior gives you the 4 things she wished she had known when job hunting !

Career Fairs Matter
I feel like everyone knows this already – go to career fairs, they’re important. But people are often at a loss as to how exactly career fairs help you. Company reps stand in front of a table and talk to person after person and end up with a giant pile of resumes. And I don’t know how many representatives I’ve talked to who have said “I’m not actually in charge of recruiting” or “I don’t actually have any input on those decisions.” When that happens, there really isn’t much to be done but to get contact information (yay networking?) and some information to put in a cover letter. But maybe forty percent of the time the person I talk to is actually someone with some influence. And talking to a person trumps submitting an application any day.

Career fairs cut out the electronic middle man – the keyword screenings and the task of making yourself look impressive on a piece of paper. And maybe, while you are standing in line for a company you’ve always thought you wanted to work for, you’ll pass by a table of another company you’ve never heard of and discover your dream job there.

Don’t Try to Look for the Perfect Job
 Job descriptions are three to four paragraphs at most – that doesn’t really tell you anything. When I started out on PennLink and other job boards, I would use the advanced search function to the maximum – chemical engineering, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, environmental science. And there would be maybe 20 or so results. And I would read through all the job descriptions and think “Is this something I would want to do?” But some companies don’t have job descriptions or don’t put keywords so I would hear of friends going for interviews for companies or jobs that sound amazing and wonder “why didn’t that job come up on my search?” 

And really, I’m just an undergrad – what do I really know about what I want to do? I mean, I have a vague idea, but I haven’t have actual experience so who am I to know that I’d like a process engineering position over a production engineering position? Sure I can do research online and talk to people, but at the end of the day, just putting a resume up for a job that sounds like it could be interesting might make all the difference.

Sometimes  Quantity Trumps Quality
It’s the unfortunate truth. Sometimes sending out a slightly-tailored resumes and cover letters to 100 companies can nab you more interviews than 10 meticulously crafted cover letters. The percentage might not be higher, but in the end that isn’t the number that matters. I don’t pretend to be an expert at how companies recruit – there probably isn’t a standard method anyway. Recruiters have said that they spend less than a minute looking at resumes and there is the saying that cover letters don’t matter – none of this I know for sure. But getting an interview is kind of like getting your foot in the door, sometimes it’s about timing and chance just as much as it is about how well you aim.
4    No One Ever Ends up where They Thought They Would
So cliché, but so true.
It’s funny how much I doubted that truth when I first started thinking about a career. My dad is a planner (he teaches Urban Planning, our vacations are very organized) so maybe I inherited that type of structural thinking from him. I figured that I would study hard and find a job that I would look at and know somehow that it was what I wanted to do. Like destiny.

I’m a senior now, so I’ve had four years of listening to other people talk about how they found their internship or their job. I know that’s not technically all that much experience, but if I had to give a rough unscientific estimate of how many people found the job they thought they would find, I would probably say it’s around 20%. Or some other surprisingly low number. Usually it’s the job that you didn’t even know about, or the company that you’ve never heard of that calls back for an interview.  It’s the job that you Google because your friend mentioned it that ends up being just the right fit. It might even be the company that you thought you were interviewing with just for practice that ends up being the one.

Job searching is unpredictable – there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through, events you have to show up for, emails you have to open. But from my experience, everything usually works out all right in the end.

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