Posted on March 8, 2011
While most of us have long forgotten March as the month of Spring Break, there are millions of American college students out there who are about to return from Spring Break and realize they have only a couple of short months to prepare for the “real world.” I remember my college graduation like it was yesterday (which for the record, it was not). My dad in all his wisdom walked over to me, put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Jess, this is the worst day of your life.”
I get his point. Making the transition from student to professional can be one of life’s toughest.
We here at VOX, like many of our clients, believe that it is the responsibility of all of us to educate and prepare the next generation of leaders. Although we focus on developing public affairs professionals, we work with clients on programs to prepare our students and retrain American workers in disciplines across the board.
As the former VOX intern program manager, and someone who has worked directly with colleges, college students, the government and companies for the past decade on training and workforce development programs, I offer the following advice to all you college students out there just starting to think “what will I do with myself this summer?” (For all of you who have long forgotten your college days, please pass this on to your children, neighbors, fellow alum and ex-professors as you see fit!).
Top 5 Tips for College Students Interviewing in the Internship/Job Market:
1) Get Smart – It’s not enough to look at the company’s website; know their mission and what differentiates them from their competitors, and use it to answer the inevitable question “Why do you want to work here?” Employers want to know that you don’t want a job, but you want this job.
2) Make a Connection – If you know the names of the people you are interviewing with, see if they have bios online. Don’t be afraid to bring up similar interests or background, like schools attended or hobbies. Nothing can beat making an instant connection with the people you’re interviewing with.
3) Show Success –You need to be able to tell future employers that your work yielded real results. Not, “I worked on a fundraiser,” but “I managed a fundraiser with a goal of $1000, and we exceeded expectations by raising $2500.”
4) Be Memorable – While it is usually meant as an innocuous get-to-know-you question, you need to have a great answer for “tell me about yourself.” You’d be surprised how many people stumble through this one!
5) It’s Not About You – Career counselors will often remind students, especially those looking for an internship, that “you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.” While I don’t dispute that, I do caution against the “what will I get out of this?” mentality and line of questioning. Employers want to know what skills and experiences you bring to the table. You will learn more than you imagined you could by putting your skills to the test.
BONUS – and PLEASE, PLEASE check your social media accounts. YES, employers do check them. And YES, they will make hiring decisions based on the actions portrayed in a profile picture sometimes.