Thursday, March 4, 2010

Feminists for Hire: Finding a Job After College

With the mid-point in the semester upon us many students are suddenly met with the daunting question: "What next?!" Whether you're considering a job after graduation or a summer internship to gain additional skills and experience, doing your homework is still a requirement to landing the opportunity you've been waiting for.

Resume: I was once told by someone I had an informational interview with that only the President should have a resume more than one page. While some career centers differ with this advice, it's critical that you tailor your resume (whatever its length) to the job that you are applying for. Remember that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume and you should be sure to highlight your skills and experience that is relevant to the job/internship you are applying for.

Other tips: Consider developing an objective statement or one sentence sales pitch at the top of your resume. When listing your previous work experience don't forget to include your leadership with your feminist group on campus. Limit the number of bullet points (2-3) when listing your qualifications to include the most relevant skills and any quantifiable results.

Cover Letter: Your cover letter is your first introduction to your potential employer and is just as important (if not more) as your resume. Like the resume, tailor your cover letter for each job/internship you are applying for and always refer to the specific qualifications they are seeking and your experience that makes you such a qualified candidate.

Other tips: For some markets an out of town address can be a dead end for your application. If you are applying for a position in another location, particularly if it is a great distance away, consider asking any acquaintances in that area to use their local address on your resume. It may seem like a minor thing but given the competitive market and tightened budgets by many companies, factoring in moving costs could be a deal breaker.

Interviews: So you got the interview. Yes! Now the real work begins. Interviews are not only an opportunity for you to shine as a qualified candidate but also a chance to interview the organization to be sure it is the job/internship for you.

Before the interview: Do your research. Be familiar with not only the responsibilities of the position you are applying for but also the current projects and issues of the overall organization. Be sure to pack multiple hard copies of all requested materials (cover letter, resume, writing sample, etc.), develop a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer and a notebook to take notes during your interview. Dress the part. Business attire is normally your best bet. Remember: dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Plan for traffic, elevator outages, wrong turns (i.e. the things that always happen when you need to be somewhere important) and arrive 15 minutes early.

During the interview: Smile, make eye contact throughout the interview, and speak calmly and confidently. Sit up straight and pay attention to your body language throughout the interview. Potential questions the interviewer may ask include: why are you interested in this position, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what is your work style, why would you be an asset to this organization, or what was your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it? Don't feel pressured to answer each question right away and know that you can always ask for clarification. Think through your answers and always try to reference the skills and responsibilities of the position and your relevant experience.

End of the interview: Always have questions prepared for the interviewer. Potential questions include: describe my day-to-day responsibilities, do you offer any opportunities for professional development, what other staff will I work with most often, or how will my performance be evaluated? Be sure to ask about the next stage of the interview process and thank the interviewer for their time and consideration.

After the interview: Within the next 24 hours write a thank you e-mail to each person who interviewed you. Thank them for their time, express your interest in the position, and briefly reiterate your qualifications. Also attach any documents they may need to this e-mail, including your resume, writing samples, and references. Contact your references to re-confirm and alert them that they may be contacted by your interviewers. Make sure your references know the description position you have interviewed for, what makes you interested in the position, and any particular qualifications they should emphasize if contacted.

Other tips: Never underestimate the power of informational interviews! They will give you great advice, contacts and prepare you for the real deal. Find people whose jobs you want to have and send them an email. Ask for a 15 minute meeting (maybe over coffee?) to talk about their career. People love to talk about themselves and, in turn, you get loads of advice and (hopefully) connections! Also, visit your career center to practice a mock interview to fine tune your answers and develop your interview skills.

Networking: In such a competitive job market, making the right connections can make all the difference. Tap into your area alumni network and connect with networks for young professionals. Groups like the Women's Information Network (WIN) connect and support pro-choice women in the DC area and are replicated in other cities across the country. Bring your resume to the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference and talk to leaders of organizations that you want to work for. Network online by creating a LinkedIn profile. Upload your resume, get recommendations from past employers, connect with your contacts and get "introduced" to people online.

My last piece of advice for feminist job hunters is simple: tell everyone you know you are looking for a job! Take every opportunity to learn about what people are doing and sell yourself. Not in a cheesy way but in a, "oh, that's so interesting. I've actually done a lot of research about misogynist textbooks in grade schools, too" kind of way. The more people know you are looking for a job the greater the chance they will know someone who is hiring!

Finally, remember we need feminists in all sectors. If you're applying to law school, want to be a teacher or start your own business you can and MUST bring your feminist consciousness with you. Good luck feminists! Go forth and shake up the workforce!

This article was featured in our March 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine.

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