With the start of spring semester, many Saint Rose seniors and those completing their graduate studies are focused on – and perhaps put off by – the process of finding a job.
Paul Conti, an assistant professor of communications, has devoted his career to interviewing people as former news director of WNYT-TV, the NBC affiliate in Albany. Today, he shares the rudiments with undergraduate and graduate students in his media production classes. Here, Conti discusses some of the finer points of job hunting:
On networking: show up!
Conti: I think it is important to join or to visit with as many professional organizations as you can. These groups are always looking for students to come to their meetings. Go to as many of those meetings as you can.
Often times, departments here at Saint Rose bring these organizations to campus. You usually only see half a dozen students attending when there should be 40 or 50 students, given the opportunity for networking. In my department, we frequently have media professionals on campus. It’s a really good opportunity for students to meet with them face to face, have them look at their résumés and give them feedback in a no-pressure and no-commitment way. If you impress them, you have a friend in your corner all of a sudden who can help you navigate the uncharted territories of job searching.
Even if there aren’t opportunities on campus, there are always local chapters of organizations that meet off campus and welcome student involvement. Frankly, these organizations see so few students at their off-campus meetings that the ones that do come stick in their minds. It’s really a huge asset to have that contact with people before you enter a job field.
Conti: When you network at social functions it isn’t appropriate to have a résumé to stuff into someone’s hand. A well-designed business card can contain a web URL that will take them to your portfolio site, which should contain a résumé. At virtually every meeting I have with someone who visits the campus I will be asked for a business card. It may seem quaint or antiquated, but it is still regarded as a business tool and I believe I would assess a student who had a business card to present as well-prepared.
They only need a simple business card, with their name, phone number, email address, and a URL link to an online profile.
Students should get rid of any silly or unprofessional email addresses. For example, I can recall an address of a candidate that was hotpants@(blank).com. Though the email address wasn’t entirely the reason behind not hiring them, it did add to their character profile.
Try to get an email address that is as close to your name as possible. You have plenty of opportunities between Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, and Gmail. If none of those have your name available, for $25 you can buy the domain, and create whatever email address you want. For example, if your name is John Doe, your email account can be firstname.lastname@example.org. It looks very professional.
On assembling a portfolio: do if before you order your cap and gown!
Conti: I think the earlier you start with a profile the better off you are, simply because students who wait until the eve of graduation are unable to recover a lot of their material.
Increasingly, the online portfolio is replacing the analog version.It is more convenient and probably safer. Art majors probably are split between carrying examples around and having electronic portfolios. Music majors have largely migrated to online collections of their work. Business majors are using online portfolios.
I would suggest students start their portfolios as soon as they begin college and continue adding to it. I don’t care what business you want to go into, your employer will want to know that you can write. Writing samples are really important in all of the disciplines here.
Conti: Interviewers frequently ask questions about current events, especially those related to the business that you are job-searching in.There are tons of professional publications for every single discipline on this campus that represent what is current in that area.There are places you can go to read all about that.
It can seem daunting to a college student who has nightly assignments: read X amount of chapters and Y amount of articles, and then, on top of that, worry about something else to read. It’s not really as oppressive as it sounds. If you set aside an hour on a Saturday morning to do that reading, and do it on a regular basis, you would begin to retain that knowledge. You don’t have to spend hours. Just make time once a week.
On expecting the unexpected: do not freak out!
Conti: You’re always going to get these weird questions that come out of nowhere that are very difficult to answer. The kinds of questions they are going to ask will be like “If you were a chocolate bar, what kind of chocolate bar would you be?” You should be prepared for a question like that. These questions are used to see how a candidate handles themselves under stressful situations.
They will most definitely ask you questions about what they do and what their company is involved in. You should be prepared to answer those questions and discuss those topics with some level of intelligence.
On using super-sized web sites: nope. Think small!
Conti: Job search engines, such as Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com, largely post jobs just to post in a public way and meet some requirement. It also opens up the applications to a larger group of people so the requirements may be stricter. You have to sit down and you have to decide, “what do I want my job to be?” Once you do that then you can target the companies that have those types of jobs. Go to their sites and see what kind of job postings they have. If one fits, then apply
On whether to apply or not to apply: see previous question!
Conti: People usually just apply to everything that seems like it’s something they might be interested in. That’s not always very efficient or very fruitful. You need to sit down and decide ‘what do I want my job to be?’ If it’s your first job, what do you want your first job to be? Have an awareness that a first job does not have to be a forever job. Identify the jobs that you are interested in and then target the companies that have those jobs.
On customizing your resume: one size does not fit all!
Conti: I think it is very important to keep in mind that there isn’t one resume or one cover letter that works for every position. You need to tailor the resume to the job that is posted. The job posting will say that they want X certain skills and Y certain qualifications and you need to be very clear in your résumé and cover letter that you have those skills and qualifications. A common mistake, especially with all these online job postings, is failing to submit the materials that they are asking for.
On holding the employer to his or her timeline: don’t!
Conti: When job postings state things like “reviews will begin in two weeks” or give some sort of time frame, that’s hardly ever true. There are a lot of things that can easily get in the way or take longer than expected in the hiring process. I wouldn’t get frustrated if you don’t hear from them initially, even if they do have a date. They will get to it when they can get to it.
On follow up: perseverance or pain in the neck?
Conti: I am an advocate of polite persistence. I realize that in some small number of cases that might irritate the individual offering the job. For a larger number it will demonstrate your resolve and your dedication to follow through. I encourage people to remember their manners and to be gracious no matter the response. Kill them with kindness.
When I was hiring reporters, individuals who stayed in touch during the process were demonstrating they would make good journalists.When they give you the opportunity to ask questions one of them should be: ‘what the timetable is for making the decision?’ Use that as your target date for sending a note or calling.Persistence will pay off more times than it will cause failure.