Last year my family visited Duke University and heard a speech by the dean of admissions about why middle school is a good time to start preparing for college. His message, though, has implications, not only for preparing for college, but for getting your next job.
He said elite schools like Duke get thousands of applications-he put the number at Duke at around 27,000, while the acceptance rate is around 1,400!-where the student not only has stellar grades, but also has been class president, captain of the basketball team, president of the student council and with honors on and on.
That sounds really tough to sort through. But he put the selection criteria in terms of just two things: passion and impact. (Forget, for a moment, my post on the overuse of the word "passion.") He said college recruiters want to see that the student has found an area that he or she really feels strongly about and that he or she has made an impact. That could be as class president, captain of the basketball team, through volunteer activities with organized charities or just in the neighborhood. It means making a difference where you are, not necessarily jetting across the world to save the whales or earthquake victims in Chile.
A lot a people will say, "What about college grads? They're new to the work force." You can ask about college, about lab assignments they had. You can ask about high school, about things they do in extracurriculars. How have they been part of a team and what things have they relied upon to ensure the team's success as well as their own?
To that end, IBM systems engineering guru Bruce Douglass offers some great advice for computer engineering students:
... try to get as much experience as you can with real, hands-on projects. Focus on getting internships that will expose you to the practical side of engineering.
That way, you can have something to write on your resume-and not just that you had an internship, but what you did there. Did you help the humane society get its adoption process online? Did you help a charity move to a online volunteer signup program?
In stating your accomplishments, remember to start with a business problem, then go into what you did to solve it or improve the situation. Author and consultant Matt Podowitz <strong>advised in this post</strong> doing some research on the company to find the measurements that hiring manager will appreciate. Is it time saved? Money saved? Number of problems reduced? That research can help you also find out the company's issues and priorities. Then rather than just talking about the past, tie your accomplishments to your future ability to address the company's issues.
Here at IT Business Edge, we have a wealth of resources for job seekers. Use these job descriptions to learn the duties commonly associated with various IT job titles.
Also check out these other job search posts:
'How to Get Fired!' Excerpt (This funny book is actually about how to stay employed.)