After the ceremonies, parties and post-commencement vacations are over, it’s time for new graduates to join the real (working) world. Enter Subhash Risbud, director of the Internship and Career Center (ICC). Though Risbud said the ICC has been under strain this year due to budget cuts and layoffs, he encouraged students to drop by South Hall for career advising, interview and resume workshops, and networking. The Aggie asked him to share his tips for successful job-searching.
The Aggie: What should graduates be doing right now if they don’t have a job yet?
Risbud: Try to come to one of the ICC coordinators or staff people, who, depending on their discipline, may have a networking contact they can suggest. Or, more likely than not, they will say, “Here’s a database of people who have been looking for jobs through us.” Try to get a name of a person; don’t just send a resume on a website. It’s almost too late for that. At this point it’s got to be a one-on-one contact. Directly get the hiring manager or CEO or CFO. I’ve been in this job seven years, and my experience is when you load your resume onto a website, even then you need to do this other step. I’m not saying it’s useless to upload your resume to a website, but the time lag is so large. If you were to talk to someone at the ICC and say, “I’m graduating, is there a person” – I emphasize that – “a person I can contact who you know through your network?” Make a one-on-one appointment. They have a rich database of people that you can contact right away. And then when you talk to that person, then it’s no longer a cold call.
Aggie: What should graduates do if they are not sure what career they want to pursue?
Risbud: Going back in time for a junior or sophomore, there are workshops for that that we conduct, like one workshop called “What in the world should I do?” Or, there is a program called Career Discovery Groups. It’s not for credit, but they give you a span of career options that you get exposed to. One hundred or 200 students take the class and they are encouraged through a series of seminar discussions to figure out what does this career mean, what that career means. We bring in people from those careers to tell students what they are. One of my principle opinions is that if you explore 10 different things or talk to people who are working in those 10 fields then it helps you focus on your own career. Branch out into different things. We don’t have infinite lives; we can’t try each career. Imagine a career for yourself, and you can even offer your services initially on a volunteer basis.
Aggie: Many students have a “dream job.” Should they hold out for that when looking for their first job, or should they just take the first job they can get?
Risbud: I think for the first job, what you get you should take. The world isn’t designed so that we can wait for our dreams. Although it’s good to dream all the time, but you can dream while you are doing another job. Because your dream job will come — but the evolution of that will be battling with the evolution of your personality. You will change, too. In alignment with that, your dream job will also change. What you dream of now won’t be what you dream of five years from now. My first thing is to make a living.
Aggie: What should students keep in mind about using social media?
Risbud: We’ve been discussing that at the ICC because many staff report that it comes back to haunt students. Adequate caution of what you put on it is extremely important. People think only their friends are looking at their Facebooks because of the privacy settings, but they’re really not. So when you put something on Facebook, or even on e-mail, you should consider it public domain because there is no way to protect that kind of information. Put on professional information, but don’t put stuff on there that you don’t want everyone to know. We have been told by students who have been interviewed by companies that human resources do look at your Facebook page, and somehow they do get access whether you like it or not. Facebook privacy is not guaranteed, so be careful.
Aggie: What are some of the biggest mistakes new graduates make in their job search?
Risbud: Starting too late is number one, and putting together a resume that is too focused and narrow. You have to market yourself as having education from a well-known university and being a bright, young person willing to learn new things. So you don’t want to box yourself in. It gives the employer the impression that you can’t be retrained in something else, and you want to give the impression that you’re willing to be flexible. In our resume writing workshops the ICC conducts that’s the first message you get. But resume writing has only limited value after you get past the first hurdle of human resources. I think it’s there people make a bigger mistake, in the interview step. If you say, “I want to do communications” and the person says, “How about if you did a photographic assignment in Nepal for a while, would you like to do that?” You should be willing to say, “Yeah, that’d be fine!” Go into an interview with some degree of rehearsal, not in the sense of memorized lines, but rehearsal in a sense of how the scenario will evolve when you start interviewing. The majority of errors are made in the first 30 to 50 seconds. So be conscious of that. When you interview they have to see you as a colleague right away.
Aggie: How do you present yourself in an interview if you don’t have a lot of experience in the job you’re applying for?
Risbud: The way to sell yourself is to say all the things you’ve done that are not necessarily degree-related but you did on your own initiative. If you did an internship and you didn’t complain about it being unpaid, what you accomplish there is a very good reflection of how you will actually work a full-time paid position. To push that would be the essential part. That’s another mistake people make, to talk about transcripts and their work at UC Davis, which everyone knows anyway. So I would stay away from speaking about that, because they want to know about extracurricular stuff. What you did over and beyond the homework, midterms — they assume you did that. What else did you do?
ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at email@example.com.