Tyler Dicks interned at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base this past summer. Dicks, an employer relations intern with Cedarville’s career services office and a junior computer engineering major, spent his time doing flight software development for satellites.
And he said there were many factors that contributed to him getting that internship, including strategically applying to internships and having a good resume, interviewing skills and interpersonal skills.
Internship experiences are mandatory for post-graduation employment, said Jeff Reep, director of career services.
“You gotta have more than a degree and a GPA,” he said.
And he said there are “the big five” that are critical to getting a job or internship. These five things are participating in extracurricular activities, having a pristine resume, networking, learning the application procedure and using the available resources.
Internships, resumes and GPAs
Reep said one big advantage of doing an internship is you get to interview the company at the same time they are interviewing you.
Ken Rucker, associate director of career services, said internships are necessary because internships help students solidify that they are in the field they want to end up working in, while giving them some experience in that field.
And Dicks said having an internship during the college years definitely does not hurt a job candidate but has the potential to help the student gain future employment.
In regard to internships, Reep said that there are three summers to jumpstart students’ careers. Even if a student cannot get an internship, a lot of grad schools and employers are looking for someone who is well-rounded.
“Volunteer experiences that are related to a future career show that a student likes what they do,” Reep said.
He encourages job-searching students who have not had an internship to come to career services and get assistance with their resumes. He said career services can help students list qualities that can make them stand out on their resume.
“(Students) want to make themselves look as best as they possibly can,” Reep said, “but they don’t want to be misleading.”
Rucker said employers look at more factors than the resume when considering whom to hire.
“The resume gets you the actual interview, but I don’t think it will get you the actual job,” he said.
If students don’t have stellar GPAs, Reep said they should not try to hide it, but they should market the positives, explaining that the GPA does not represent who students are.
Reep said attending a career fair is absolutely critical to developing skills needed to interact with and feel relaxed while speaking with potential employers.
“What are the little things I can say that can separate me from the other 20 people that they just listened to? What have I done? What can I bring? That type of thing,” Reep said. “If you have never (attended a career fair before), it’s going to be pretty hard.”
He said students should attend the career fair all four years because upperclassmen will then have experience when the stakes are higher.
Students might also want to apply online to a few organizations they are interested in visiting at the career fair before meeting the representatives, he said.
“When the employer says, ‘Oh, go to my website and apply,’ the student can tell them they have already done that, showing interest,” Reep said. “The skill of working the career fair is really valuable.”
He said it is important to have something to say when approaching potential employers, as well as following up with a note after the fair.
Reep said he recommends people go for their dream job at their dream company in their dream location and then work backward.
“Even if you get a rejection from your dream company, hospital, school or whatever, then a good follow up question to ask (the company) is ‘What can I do in the next few years to position myself as an attractive candidate to you in the future?’” Reep said. “I wouldn’t think a lot of people get their dream job right out of college. It’s a stepping stone.”
Reep said sometimes students are setting the sights a little too high for the dream job or merely need to expand their geographic search. If candidates think interviews are going well but are not getting offers, Reep said they should come to Career Services for a mock interview.
And Rucker said networking is the key to landing the job of your dreams.
“It is critical to network with as many individuals as possible at that particular place while, of course, trying to get an internship there as well,” he said.
He said students’ first jobs right out of college will most likely not be their dream job. But Rucker suggested that applicants learn as much from their first job as they can and enhance their skills while keeping their eyes out for future opportunities.
Rucker said students must know what they bring to the table, including their strengths and weaknesses.
“Often times when students are looking for an internship or a first job, they are in a taking mode,” he said. “Really they need to be able to state what they can bring to the table to benefit the employer.”
And when deciding whether to accept or decline a job, students should consider a variety of factors, including finances, job enjoyment, opportunities for advancement, compensation for further degrees and financial help with further education.
In addition to these, Rucker said candidates should consider geographic factors, the commute to work and family.
Reep also said that students should consider getting feedback from several sources, including professors, before making a decision.
The student perspective
Dicks said it is important to have a job after graduation, since that is kind of the point of going to school.
And he said that it’s OK to accept a job after graduation that isn’t your dream job.
“Typically that’s the case for most people, unless you are the best student in the world,” Dicks said. “You probably won’t get your dream job right away, because that’s what entry level positions are
for. You won’t necessarily get the coolest thing at the entry level, but the job will prepare you for what comes afterward.”
Dicks said the importance of companies’ reputations vary for each applicant.
“If you feel like you want to work for a well-known, big, established company, then that’s kind of your imperative,” Dicks said. “But if that’s not something you value as much, and you are interested in working in smaller, less established companies, there is definitely some pros and cons to both of those.”
Dicks said students should research the companies at which they are considering accepting offers.
“Part of it depends on how many options you have,” Dicks said. “If you only have one or two job offers, then if it seems like a good job and you are comfortable with the position, then that would be good enough. If you have a bunch of offers, then try to investigate a bit more to make sure you are making the best decision.”
After students apply for internships or jobs, Reep said it’s important for them to follow up with those companies.
“Every place you applied, try to bring it to closure,” he said.
He suggested making a list of all of the jobs applied for and marking them off as you follow up.
“Be real careful not to just go for entry level jobs,” Reep said. “The worst thing (that) could happen is a rejection letter, but other jobs may be open within the company (to which) they applied.
Many times now, people don’t (just) graduate, work at the same job for 40 years and retire. They go get experience, and then go to the next place for promotion.”
The job search and interview
When applying for an internship, Dicks said that it’s difficult to get your foot in the door with an online application.
“If you know someone on the inside, that would be best,” he said. “If you know of another student, specifically that has worked in a specific area that you are interested in, contact them to see if they have any contacts you could take advantage of.”
And when students reach job interviews, Dicks suggested a strategy for responding to questions they don’t know the answer to.
“Don’t lie,” he said. “Express that you don’t know, but you are willing to find out the answer. Make some logical answer based on your knowledge base.”
And Reep said that tattoos or body piercings should be covered or removed for an interview if possible because students don’t want anything distracting from their message.
“Some employers will have no problem with (tattoos or piercings) at all, but there is that potential, especially if it is not another millennial making the call,” Reep said. “From my perspective, I doubt if it can help you, but it might hurt you.”
Rucker said, “I can not see (tattoos and piercings) helping you in any way at all, I definitely think it can hurt you. Depending on what job you are going for, you could end up being the face of a company. Unfortunately, people hold biases to certain individuals. You need to be thinking about that as you go through this process.”
Dicks said a potential employer’s reaction to tattoos and piercings depends on the type of company students apply to because many companies are diversifying their employees.
And he recommends that students who have specific concerns about internships or getting a post-graduation job meet with one of the career coaches because the entire process of applying takes a lot of work.
“You got to put in the effort to apply to these companies, write the cover letters, attach the resume, email the contacts and do all you can, because it is not necessarily an easy process,” he said.
Rucker agreed job searches are hard work.
“Your job search process needs to be considered as if it is a five-credit-hour class, and it’s the worst class that you ever had, and you do not like it,” Rucker said. “Because, really, that’s a job search, there is really nothing fun about it. If you are a senior and you haven’t started, you really need to kick it up in overdrive, where you are spending time every single day and setting goals for the application process.”
Laura Jani is a senior nursing major and the off-campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys a freshly brewed cup of coffee, learning the Spanish language and traveling to new destinations.