The countdown is on; 7 months till I finish graduate school and enter the real world. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my short-term and long-term career goals and trying to figure out what I actually want to do. In the past week I went to the ‘Faculty of Social Sciences: Career Networking Breakfast’, which was a roundtable workshop that allowed you to spend time with working professionals from an array of fields. I also went to a session called “The Graduate Job Search: Career Options Beyond Academia.” It was put on by Catherine Maybrey, the Graduate Career Strategist at McMaster University, who was absolutely AMAZING at answering questions. When I go to career talks for anthropology students time and time again I hear ‘your research and writing skills will be your greatest assets.’ But I need real, practical advice, not this subtle encouragement that it will all turn out okay. I’ve done the legwork and now you all can reap the benefits. Here is some of the advice/tips I picked up at those two career sessions.
Advice and tips from the ‘Faculty of Social Sciences: Career Networking Breakfast’:
• Volunteer– this is how you will get experience outside of school and build up your network.
• Practice your public dissemination of knowledge (no worries, I blog). You need to be able to transmit information to your bosses and the public. Be able to write things succinctly.
——- At some point you will have to summarize a 50-page report into 10 bullet points for your boss.
• Be Interesting; don’t be basic. Make sure you have a good thesis title so that when it is written on your CV people will actually read it and understand it.
• Identify your promising mentors.
• At interviews you should bring new ideas to the table. Use your cover letter to demonstrate why you would fit the position. Your cover letter and interview should be totally different.
• Chances are you will do contract work.
——- You probably won’t get benefits
——- On your resume make sure you are listing these things are contract positions so that it doesn’t look like you are unstable and move around jobs a lot
• You have more negotiating power than you think. You won’t get what you don’t ask for.
——- Negotiate: Salary, vacation, training, start date, hours of work, and location of work
• Try to take a finance course. If possible, get your work to pay for this. Or take a free course online.
• Try to get government/official certifications
• It is okay to take a lower position job but you need to distinguish yourself right away. Try to get involved in other projects or take on new responsibilities.
——- These entry positions allow you to apply for internal job listings.
• At the beginning of a new position listen up and be resilient. Don’t waste your time on things you are not interested in.
• Figure out what the rewards are for the job. Find out what matters to you and make sure your morals align with your work.
——- Do not talk about partisan politics at work.
• Change roles often at the beginning of your career. This is when you have the most flexibility.
• Make your job yours!
Advice from ‘The Graduate Job Search: Career Options Beyond Academia’:
• Use the career resources at your university/school
——- There are special job posting boards
——- You can get your resume and cover letter edited
——- They have mentoring service and job shadowing programs
——- You qualify for these services for 5 years after you graduate
• Identify the companies/organizations that you want to work for. Figure out what you like and what you don’t like.
• Go to career fairs before you are even looking for a job.
——- Find out what skills people are looking for so that you can start fulfilling them before you graduate.
• Volunteer for things that will build your skills.
• Most resumes are screened using software. It is important to understand how this works.
——- Look at recruiting companies’ blogs to understand how they source their talent.
• Conduct ‘informal interviews’ with people in the industry. One way of doing research on careers is by asking people directly about their experiences. You should do this with people whose career paths you admire and with people who work at your ‘dream’ companies. Rules for this and mentors in general are:
——- Limit interactions to 20 minutes
——- Never ask for a job
——- Do not ask how much money that make. You can say “from what I’ve seen salaries at entry level positions are ____, does that seem to be correct?”
• Be on LinkedIn
• Double check your Facebook security settings to make sure it is private.
• Sign up for tailored searches on job boards and get email notifications.
• Remember that you are interviewing the company at the same time when they are interviewing you. Find out if you think it is a good match.
——- Find out what training programs companies offer.
• Watch this video from Harvard professor Deepak Malhotra on ‘How to Negotiate Your Job Offer’ and use his 15 pieces of advice.
• For women worried about the gender gap in wage, the best way to combat this is to research the average starting salary for the position. There are websites online that have this information.
• Get your supervisor to be your reference only is they can speak to what is required for the listed job. Also consider how difficult they are to get a hold of and if that will impact you.
• When considering an office administration/assistant/receptionist position the biggest thing you need to evaluate is whether there is opportunity for growth and promotion in that company. Do they offer training? Could you make lateral moves in the company?
• Be Proactive! This was Catherine’s top advice for us. Don’t wait till you need a job. Start looking while you are in the program so that you can have a job lined up when you finish.
Some of the points are repetitive but it just reinforces their importance. I have learned a lot in this past week plus I am reading Lean In* so I feel like I am bursting with information.
*Highly highly highly recommend reading Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Believe the hype on this one!