Digging In, Not Digging a Hole: Tips for Getting that First Job

Ah, spring! It’s a time of renewal and restoration filled with flowers, sunny days and budding trees. However, it also can be a time of frustration, apathy and defeatism if you are a senior in college trying to get your first public relations job in this tough recession.

Nonetheless, I remain the eternal optimist and truly believe that hard work and a stick-to-it attitude can pay big dividends. The early bird gets the worm? How about the aggressive and savvy student gets the job?

Here are a few tips I provide to my students at IU about job searches, resumes, cover letters and interviews. It’s not rocket science, just a few common-sense rules that may help you.

1. I would strongly suggest there are NO RULES when it comes to job searches, resumes, cover letters and interviews. An unorthodox approach may be the exact way to garner attention of would-be employers.
2. There is no truth to the rule that a one-page resume is mandatory. On the contrary, please take enough space to “tell your story.” Tell them why you will be an asset, not an ass, as an employee.
3. Highlight your coursework that is applicable to a particular job or interview. C’mon now, customizing your resume in Word ® is so very, very easy.
4. Make sure you provide an up-to-date phone number and address on your resume as contact information for employers. Don’t make it hard to be found.
5. Don’t overdo the adjectives in describing your job at the Tastee-Freez. Managed a top performing team of two in the dispensing of frozen concoctions is a bit overblown.
6. Ask smart questions in the interview. They will be impressed if you ask tough questions. We know one great question is, “As a potential employee, how will you judge my success?”
7. Take innovative approaches to telling your story. How about spending $20 and assembling your very own Web site? This can be a place to store portfolio materials, tell a bit about your personal interests, etc.
8. Check and make sure your references will give employers fair, accurate and detailed information. Its amazing how many references, when called, are not exactly overflowing with great accolades on the student. Just be careful who you list.
9. Try at all costs to avoid “just” simply submitting a resume online to a nebulous, no-named e-mail box. Chances are it will fall to the wayside and not be culled from the thousands they receive. Remember the “no rules” axiom in point one. Instead, find someone in the organization and send your resume directly to them.
10. Write a cover letter that talks about them not you. Everybody likes to read about themselves. The same goes for company leadership.

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