COVID-19 created many challenges for everyone, especially college students. We are expected to prepare for our future through classes, extracurriculars and securing internships. Now the pandemic has disrupted everything, sending us on a different trajectory.
With the virtual world evolving and companies cutting employees and internship opportunities, how do we make ourselves stand out and secure employment?
One of the best things you can do for yourself is gain experience. Participate in organizations that strike your interest. Try to be part of executive boards and committees by getting involved. Future employers find it intriguing when your resume shows experience outside the classroom. Most organizations are meeting virtually so jump on calls and see what your university has to offer!
The saying, “It’s not about what you know, it’s all about who you know,” has a lot of truth to it. Building relationships with people is how I landed two internships while at Central Michigan University, and I am hoping it will help me secure a final internship.
My advice is to utilize the network you have now and grow it, especially if you want to end up in a specific location. One of the perks of COVID-19 is the ability to grow your relationships through platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Meet with people across the country and ask them questions, learn more about their journey, their company and their lives. Most professionals are willing to talk with you and help you in any way possible, espcially if they are PRSA members. You just have to take the first step to make it happen.
Take the time to add documents and thoroughly write about what you have to offer. Upload your resume, link any articles you may have written and published, link your online portfolio and list the skills you have.
Do not be afraid to reach out to people from the companies you want to work for. Send them a message when you request a connection and let them know your goals. Sometimes this requires reaching outside of your comfort zone, which is an important step in professional growth.
Be sure to tweak your resume for every position you apply for. If the listing has skills or duties within the job description, slide those keywords in your resume so it has a better chance of being matched in the system recruiters use.
Make sure your resume does not have any spelling or grammar errors. Lack of errors shows you looked through your resume thoroughly and are detail-oriented. Lastly, let your resume express your personality. We are in the PR field and creative juices flow through us naturally. Show it off!
I am a Leader Advancement Scholar (LAS), so part of our protocol requires us to showcase an online portfolio. Your online portfolio is a great way to brand yourself and market your abilities as a student and a professional. Simply upload the assignments and projects you completed. Consider investing in a domain name. I bought mine and it feels satisfying knowing I have my name on my website that showcases everything I can do.
To write a cover letter, or to not? Cover letters seem to me be controversial. Some professionals tell me to write them, others tell me to not bother. Personally, I write cover letters, but I am very intentional about what I put in it. I take the job description and put it right next to my cover letter draft. Much like the resume, I highlight key skills I know I have experience with, list those and discuss how I applied them.
I also like to take a moment to explain why I am interested in the company through a personal story, so the hiring committee gets a sense of who I am. It is usually no more than two or three sentences, but they realize I have a personality; I am not just another face in the crowd. Whether you choose to write a cover letter or not, that is up to you. Just make sure you are intentional if you decide to create one.
It can be uncomfortable emailing the department who posted the open position or the individual accepting the applications. You may not want to bother these people or cross the line but do it anyway. Send them messages or emails asking the status of your application or what they look for in potential employees. The worst thing that can happen is that they ignore you or your application is denied. Guess what? There are plenty of other career opportunities out there. If they do not reply, clearly, that is not a company you want to be a part of.
Job hunting can be stressful and discouraging. Every professional I connected with told me they received hundreds of rejection letters before they landed their current roles. The best advice they shared with me is to continue working hard because that dream internship or job is out there. You just have to stay determined and persistent no matter the circumstances.
All of this is easier said than done, I understand that. But put the effort in now because this is the foundation for your future. My dad was a pharmaceutical sales representative for 30 years, so he always preaches about making sure I sell myself because I am a product. Take these steps (and many more) to do just that: sell yourself.
For motivation, repeat this saying every morning, when you’re feeling down, looking in the mirror or even if you’re just driving, “I, (your name), am a valuable product of ____ University. I will sell myself because I am a boss.”
Kasia Naessens studies public relations and psychology at Central Michigan University. She loves being part of PRSSA, interning for CMU Athletics and managing the CMU Wrestling team. The senior will graduate in December seeking a career in the sports or corporate setting in Indianapolis. In her spare time, Naessens enjoys exploring the outdoors, relaxing with friends and family, exercising and writing.