Let me introduce myself:
My name is Aerial Nicole Adams. I am a sophomore Legal Communications major, Political Science minor, from Jackson, Mississippi. I am a published author, a writer for HerCampus and The Hilltop, member of the Howard University Mock Trial Team, an intern at Digital Conventions located at the DC Convention Center, and a media intern for the Hip Hop Caucus. I have built an extensive contact list, from congresspeople to white house employees to magazine owners, many of which I gained during my freshman year at Howard.
If any of that sounds impressive to you, I got those opportunities and contacts by “securing the bag.” While the Howard name carries a lot of weight by itself, companies are looking for what you can offer them. They already know what they can offer you. When you enter the office of any company or organization, the million dollar question will be: “Why should we choose you?”
Here is a step-by-step guide for all students trying to brand themselves while still in college:
- Be Bold (but be humble). Don’t underestimate the power of introducing yourself to someone, especially those who are in power. I have gotten contact information from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and NAACP Interim President and CEO, Derrick Johnson simply by introducing myself and talking to them.
- ALWAYS Ask for Business Cards. Those contacts I mentioned? Yeah, this is how I got them. Although a business card is typically an office or generic phone number, I’ve also gotten personal numbers of influential people, whom I will not name.
- Age is Just a Number. The people you want to connect with don’t care how young or old you are. If you’re looking for a job, some people want younger, more energetic employees. Some people want older, more experienced employees. Either way, pitch yourself.
- NEVER Doubt Yourself. Don’t say you “can’t” do something. When I am in an interview, I am often asked, “Have you ever–?” or “Can you–?” If I haven’t done something, my response is always, “No, but I can learn.” or “No, but I can try.” Don’t just say “No.” Put in some effort and show that you are ready to overcome anything they throw your way. They want someone they can mold into their business, but the gag is you have to be the best at whatever job you’re given.
- Nail Your Interview. There are very few jobs or opportunities that I will say ‘no’ too. I have a resume that is four pages long and a resume that I tailor to fit specific jobs. If I take a copy in at an interview, I usually refer to my longer one. That way, as they ask questions, I can relate what I have on that resume to my skill set. Normally, professional employers don’t want this. I do it because I have experience that may seem irrelevant until I speak about what I’ve specifically done. For instance, I noted to an employer for an accounting position that working on a movie as a script supervisor makes me detail-oriented because I focused on scene continuity. That piqued their interest and made it a personable experience. This shows how you apply and transfer skills to fit their needs.
- Always Be Your Best. As I mentioned, I had an opportunity to work in an accounting position. I’ve never done accounting in my life before then, but I possessed scattered skills that I could use to learn quickly. I’d worked with Excel, filed records, learned to balance a checkbook, etc., but not all at once. They decided to hire me, and, sure enough, I ended up doing much more than accounting. I often offered to help on other projects or asked what they were working on, and they were glad that I was so eager to work. (And, no, this wasn’t my first job.)
- Don’t Give Up. None of this guarantees that you will get that job or internship or entry into an organization or institution. There will definitely be people who tell you ‘no’ or that they found someone more qualified. You will receive, “We regret to inform you…” letters, but you cannot give up. You have to take your losses as wins. If an opportunity isn’t for you, or if you’re not the fit for them, try asking what it was that you lacked and work on building that professional muscle.
Like I said, none of this guarantees you’ll land whatever you’re applying to, but these are the things that work for me. Even if I don’t get exactly what I was looking for, I gain something from my efforts, including a few mentors. So, try some of these out and comment your results.
Flourish, ladies, gents, and other identities. Flourish.