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What I Learned at Career Day

October 18, 2011

Yesterday, I was invited back to the University of Maryland to participate in a panel about multimedia journalism for the College of Journalism career fair.

I’ve been back to Maryland a few times since graduating but this was the first time I’d spoken with current journalism students — who are even more terrified than we were about graduating into this job market — and the first time I’d participated in a career panel. Suddenly, I felt old.

Our panel was an interesting mix of alumni working in broadcast (NBC Washington), print (USA Today), online (woot Huffington Post!), non-traditional media (LivingSocial) and political lobbying (No Labels).

While we told the students what worked for us and assured them that there are jobs out there, we also tried to show the different paths to getting jobs (everyone besides me got their job directly out of a college internship) and advise on skills with which they should all graduate.

Here are some non-journalism specific tips:

  • Stand out. Many recent college grad resumes look the same — a handful of hopefully-interesting internships, a roster of related courses taken, an on-campus job for some spending money. So when that resume comes along that includes two years in the Peace Corps or Teach for America, or a year volunteering at an inner city homeless shelter, or, yes, time spent in South Korea teaching English, you’re going to stand out and make the recruiter take a second look.
  • Be assertive. If there’s somewhere you want to work, let them know that you want to work there. Not all jobs are advertised externally and you want to be the one they think of when they’re hiring.
  • Know where you’re applying. When you interview at LivingSocial and they ask if you know what the site is, the wrong answer is, “It’s like Groupon, right?” Technically correct, but oh-so wrong for a job interview at the rival company. Get background, history and a few conversational nuggets to prove you’re already in the know when it comes to this company.
  • You are your own brand. Start a blog that shows another aspect of your personality. Use Facebook and Twitter for more than just stalking that guy who sits near you in History 350. Many jobs today are about more than just what you can do; they are about who you are. Know what your brand it — but be prepared to defend it.
  • Be nice to everyone. You never know who’s going to give you that first (or fifth) job, so cover your bases by being nice to everyone you meet. That grump who sits in the corner and never smiles? Be extra-nice to him.

UMD has had a lot of successful, famous alumni. Who’s next?

What advice would you give to a job hunter or recent college graduate?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2011 1:34 pm

    Great post Erin! I’m sure folks out here said it, but thanks so much for coming back. It means a lot to people like me who are trying to connect our students to “the real world.” And now you know how I feel every day at work – ancient! LOL.I wrote about this exact topic a few weeks ago after coaching a lot of my students on their job search. Here are a few questions I ask them to help them discern their path!

    – What do you love doing most?

    – Who are the relationships that are most important in your life? Family, friends, boyfriend, girlfriend? Will they be an important factor in your decision?

    – Whom do you admire? Why? Can you ask these people about their career path and how they got where they are?

    And a reminder – You’re going to have a completely different life when you graduate, where you can come home and not have to think about school, the clubs you’re leading, or homework. At that point if you’re not happy with your decision, you can regroup and make a new plan.

    • October 19, 2011 4:19 pm

      These are awesome tips — you clearly have a lot of experience in this area. Thanks so much for sharing!

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