Recently, a friend of mine and I were at a coffee shop doing homework and other tasks one afternoon. Currently, I am in the midst of filling out internship applications and she is fully invested in filling out job applications. As we sat there, I wrote cover letters, added and modified items on my resume, and updated my LinkedIn. But when I mentioned this to my friend, she had no clue that she too had to do any of these things.
While the majority of our college years are spent paving the pathway for our future careers and job opportunities, hardly any of that time is devoted to actually instructing students about the keys to entering the professional world. Within the business school, certain courses and instructors make it more of a point to make these formalities known than in other areas of campus. So, as a business student, I’m here to pass on a few tricks and tips that everyone should know before they graduate in order to help them in their future job searches and grad school applications.
- Resume: Your resume is perhaps the first (and sometimes only) thing that hiring managers and admissions boards will look at to build a profile of who you are. Because of this, you have to make sure that your resume is great. Most times, there are different formatting details for different industries, so be sure to do research on what a typical resume looks like for the field you want to enter into. However, across the board, resumes should not exceed one page, should clearly showcase your name and contact information, and should have consistent and clear formatting throughout. (For University of Utah students, there are example resumes on some of the different colleges’ websites). While most people think of only having one resume, resumes are actually meant to be tailored to the opportunity that you are applying for. In this case, you should work to build up a lot of different extracurricular activities, work experience, volunteer positions, internships, and other acknowledgments so you can pick and choose the ones that best suit the skills they are looking to see.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an amazing tool that most business students are required to make for one class or another, but should honestly be used by everyone. While it works as a digital extenuation for your resume, there are also a handful of other tools to showcase the many different aspects of your experience. Some that are notable are the ability to add pictures that coincide with experience, a section to add/test/endorse skills, and areas to add your courses, projects, awards, and organizations. LinkedIn is also a great way to connect with past professors and employers and to post about your professional achievements. If you are thinking about applying to certain positions, you should be sure to follow the companies, schools, or organizations that you are looking into. This is a great way to learn a little more about what they are doing on a daily basis, while also showing them that you are interested.
- Cover Letters: Ah yes, the dreaded cover letter. The sight of a cover letter on any application can cause both confusion and panic to set in. But, they are actually a lot more straightforward than they appear once you learn what the basic purpose and structure of one is. First and foremost, a cover letter is meant to showcase all the things about you that an employer cannot see on your resume while also offering additional explanations and testimonials from things on your resume. The basic points that you must hit within a cover letter are a solid opening that lists who you are and what you are applying for, an argument for why you would be a good fit for the position, an explanation of why you are interested in applying (or why they would be a good fit for you), and a closing that offers a means of contact and a sign of thanks. Just like your resume, this should not exceed one page, and most importantly, you must always check to see if there is any additional information you must add for that specific application.
- Business Apparel: In the past, business apparel used to mean a very specific way of dress. But, with a shift in the way the majority of generations view jobs and the workplace, there has been a cultural shift of what is considered acceptable to wear to work. Much like other aspects of navigating the workplace, this will be very specific to the industry you work in or the specific company/organization you work for. However, my best advice is to always aim to dress too nice rather than too casual in situations where you are unsure. Better to get a feel for how others at the office dress and be able to tone it down than to be the only person wearing khakis in a room full of suits.
- Email Etiquette: Perhaps the most overlooked yet most important thing you can know is how to properly compose an email. To start, do not ever—and I mean EVER—leave the subject blank. Your subject should be straightforward, focused, short, and summarize specifically what you are emailing about. People in professional settings receive upwards of hundreds of emails a day, so making sure that yours cuts through the clutter is important. For an opener, always begin with hello instead of hi, or simply use the person’s name and title. Begin by introducing yourself if you have never spoken to them before, and make sure that you once again reiterate the purpose of your email. In terms of the body, the majority of people have short attention spans, so try to make your paragraphs as short and straightforward as possible. Anywhere that you include a list, be sure to use bullet points, numbers, or some type of formatting that makes it easy to read and follow. Lastly, I almost always end my emails by thanking people for their time. In the settings of most different emails, there are ways that you can automatically set a footer that includes your name, company/organization, position, and sometimes a graphic. I highly recommend using this as it signals your professionalism and involvement.
I know this may seem like a lot, but still today, a good portion of college students (business majors included) are unaware of many of these things. While they may seem simple in nature to most who have been a part of a professional field for some time, it’s important to pass along these tips whenever possible and to take advantage of events and university staff that will help in the process. Following these tips isn’t the answer to everything, but it could be a good start to get you well on your way to earning the positions you really want.