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The Career Advice That Everyone, But No One, Is Giving You

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

Do whatever you want. Within reason, of course. I could write a million different articles to give you advice about what to do in your early career. At the end of the day, none of the advice will get you further than you were going to be. A year and a half ago, I was doing everything right, if not even going above and beyond, and I still didn’t receive any internship offers and barely any interviews. During that time, I was working with a career coach, and she is now having the same problem, according to what I can see on her LinkedIn page. It doesn’t seem like there is one correct answer to job searching and career building because every person is different. The person you talk to at one company may think that your cover letter is great and will land you many first-round interviews, but another person may say that cover letters don’t make a difference in an application. The other day I was in a meeting where one recruiter said cover letters aren’t vital, but they will help, but any typos or grammatical errors can stop your application from moving on. How ridiculous is that? Damned if you do and make a mistake, but damned if you don’t. No one truly knows what anyone else is looking for when they look at you as a candidate! Keep in mind that recruiters are also stressed about finding the perfect person for the job when that person might not exist.

While I don’t think there is one piece of advice that helped or changed my career, I do have some advice that I think actually helped me or things I’ve realized throughout working with different organizations in very different cultures.

  1. During my second to last week at CNN, the company laid off hundreds of employees. Recently, Meta, Twitter, Gannett, DoorDash, BuzzFeed, and many other companies laid off thousands of employees. Companies lay off employees when they want to cut costs; there is a decline in demand for their products or services; a seasonal closure; or an economic downturn. While it could be argued that there is a decline in demand for many companies I’ve listed above, the point I want to make is that you are just a number at these companies. If you go above and beyond in your role, don’t go much beyond that. Taking care of yourself and living your life to the fullest should always come first, especially if people want you to sacrifice that for no extra compensation.
  2. Don’t be afraid of stepping on toes. Send that recruiter another follow-up email. Talk to your manager about starting a new project. Reach out to the person on LinkedIn that has your dream job and ask them for an informational interview. What is the worst they could do? Say no? Their perception of you changes? I know this is much easier said than done, but I promise you that no one thinks about it as much as you do. If they are bothered or don’t have time, they will say something or they won’t respond. Ultimately, how people respond to you advocating for yourself and your career is not your responsibility. Obviously, it is your responsibility to be kind and respectful, but they are equaling as responsible for communicating appropriately, especially if it is one of your managers.
  3. Build out your LinkedIn! Not trying to brag, but I think my LinkedIn (linked) is a great example of a well-built LinkedIn page. When messaging people on LinkedIn for informational interviews, it gives people a better idea of how to prepare for y’alls conversation. Additionally, it gives recruiters a more extended version of your resume and cover letter! There is so much someone can learn about you from your LinkedIn page! The following are key aspects that I believe are important to building out a good LinkedIn page:
    1. A good profile picture! If you go to UT-Austin, there are always opportunities for free headshots. If you’re a college student at another school, they probably have similar opportunities. If this doesn’t sound like you, set your phone in front of a blank wall, put a blazer on, and take a photo. The photo does not need to be incredibly high quality, but it needs to look professional.
    2. An original headline! There are over 50,000 “Student(s) at The University of Texas at Austin” or some variation of that. Ideally, you should include some goals or purposes for your career. It should be unique to you and what you want to make you more memorable!
    3. Your about section: In this section, it should be roughly the same thing as the first paragraph in your cover letter. It should include a little bit about yourself, what experiences you have, what your goals are, and what a good way to contact you is. This is arguably the most important section! 
    4. Your Experience Section: After your freshman year of college, this section should only include experiences, such as internships and jobs, that you have had in college. Right now, this might not make sense if you’re currently starting college, but you as a person and your perception of those experiences will change, and they won’t be as relevant. Other than that, include all the information you can about every experience. Specifically, put an “about” section in the description if it isn’t an easily identifiable company, so people don’t have to navigate away from your page to look at your company’s LinkedIn page. You want them to focus on you!
    5. Your Education Section: If you are in college or graduated college, don’t put your high school education. Most people will assume that you graduated high school if you are currently in college or graduated college because how else would you have gotten there?
    6. Give and ask for recommendations! A paragraph recommendation can go a long way when a recruiter looks at your profile. These recommendations are much less formal than a letter of recommendation or a reference, but it shows that people you’ve worked with are willing to back up your work.
    7. Other aspects of your profile: The rest of the sections are not as relevant, but I recommend filling these other aspects because they make you more discoverable by recruiters when looking for people. It also gives recruiters a better idea of who you are and what you have achieved!
  4. How you set up your resume will be based on your industry and the job you are applying for, but there are a few universal aspects. However, keep in mind that your resume can always be improved. You can work a 40-hour workweek just working on your resume, and everyone will always have a suggestion on how you can change it. Keep that in mind as you’re job searching!
    1. Quantify your experiences. If you say you worked with a group of people, how many people did you work with? If you say you led an organization or recruited people to your organization, how many people did you lead, or how many people did you recruit? The numbers change your experience from a recruiter’s perspective, so try to answer their questions before they ask them!
    2. Put your experiences in backward chronological order. This just makes the most sense, and I don’t have a better reason for why this is good practice.
    3. Remember to do a basic spell check and proofread at least once before sending it in. There have been a few times when I only did a spell check and didn’t proofread it, and there were a few obvious mistakes that could have made or broken my application.
  5. Do your company research, but you can wait until before your first interview. When applying for a job, it’s important to do an overview look at the company to make sure their values align with yours, but there is no need to go deeper than that. However, before your first interview, do a deep dive into the company to see what they are really looking for in the role so you can best answer their questions about how the position fits into your timeline.
  6. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one specific role or one specific industry. Having goals is important, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that the world can drastically change within a day. With that, many people’s goals changed, and it’s important to give yourself the grace to let those goals change.

All in all, there will be many people who advise you on what to do. Especially in your internships, people always want to be helpful and hear themselves talk, so they will give you advice on what mistakes they made throughout their careers. However, the world is changing every day and the same piece of advice might not be applicable to you and the advice I’m giving in this article might not be applicable in a year. The best we can do, as job seekers, is to be ourselves and try to find companies that allow us to do that.

Hi everyone! I am a senior graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in December 2022 with a major in accounting and a minor in journalism. I love writing about wellness and will do some music or game reviews from time to time. I hope you enjoy reading my articles!