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Q&A with the Résumé Girl

By Christopher Schonberger

A good résumé is your VIP pass into the world of employment. It doesn't guarantee that you'll get snapped by paparazzi or pick up a tasty heiress, but at least you're "in the club." And once you're in there, you never know what might happen. To help you catch the eye of the "bouncers" of corporate America (or that hip, uber-exclusive start-up), we hollered at Résumé Girl (née Lauren Hasson) for some tips on working the job-hunt like a pro.

What’s the most common mistake you see working with recent grads who are starting to look for jobs?

Without a doubt, the biggest mistake is looking for jobs in just one place: the Internet. You’ve got to look offline! Understandably, I think we’ve become programmed to immediately turn to the Internet for everything. And while you can find an awful lot of jobs there, you can so easily overlook some of the greatest leads anywhere. Those can only be found by word of mouth—i.e., networking.

Even though so much is happening online these days, good-old-fashioned networking is still absolutely vital to finding and landing the job of your dreams. Web-savvy grads may not realize this, but more than 70% of available positions go unadvertised—which means you aren’t going to find them listed in an online database or even on a company’s website. You’re going to have to use your network to find them.

Let’s say I went to a decent school and got an average GPA but had great grades in my major. I want to go into marketing but have spent most of my summers working at the camp I went to as a kid. I also had to work while I was at school, which is probably why I got a D in Psych 101. Does my résumé stand any chance of getting looked at?

Yes, absolutely! But it’s all in how you present your qualifications. The way you worded your question suggests that you aren’t very confident that you’re qualified for a marketing position when you really are.

Here’s how I would position you: You attended a reputable school, had great grades in a demanding major, and have demonstrated your dependability and work ethic through consistent employment. Sounds better, doesn’t it? And it will probably attract more employers than the overly humble approach!

To take it a step further, I would make sure to highlight your marketing coursework in depth—yes, coursework completely counts!—as evidence of your marketing knowledge and project experience. Look at this from the employer’s perspective: the hiring manager needs to know that you have in-depth knowledge of the field you’re going into. The less they have to train you, the better.

The digital age makes searching for jobs more impersonal than ever. You can spend all day trolling job listings and submitting applications online, and you may never hear back from anyone. Is applying through online databases just a black hole of résumés, or is there a way to stand out from the e-crowd?

It requires a little extra effort, but you can definitely make yourself stand out from other candidates.

When applying for jobs, I recommend a two-pronged follow-up approach: call before and after you submit your résumé. Call beforehand to let them know that you’ll be submitting your résumé, are very interested in the position, and just wanted to introduce yourself. Then, if you haven’t heard anything in about two weeks, call or email them to follow up. It’s a great chance to reiterate your sincere interest in the position.

This approach will keep you in front of the employer and demonstrate that you really want the interview more than the candidates who did not take the time or make the effort to call.
Don’t underestimate the power of genuine enthusiasm—employers certainly want to hire people who go after what they want. This kind of proactive communication sends a message that you have the energy and drive to get things done.

A lot of recent grads troll the Monster.coms of the ‘net and get discouraged by phrases like “3-5 years of experience required.” Where would you suggest looking for programs and jobs geared specifically toward recent grads?

Your campus career center is a great resource for job leads. Their full-time job is to create and maintain relationships with employers so that the employer makes more positions available to students at you school. Definitely check them out.

And, like I said before, I strongly encourage you to pursue offline networking just as eagerly as you do the online search. Here are a few practical ways to put the networking wheels in motion.

  1. Get involved in alumni associations even before you graduate! It may sound strange, considering everything you have to do before you graduate, but plugging in to your school’s alumni network now is a great way to gear up for your job search. Alumni are excellent sources of career info, advice and opportunities. And fortunately, most of them love connecting with current students. You’ll find that alumni are more than willing to connect you to other people or opportunities that might help you in your career.
  2. Join professional organizations as a student member and attend meetings. This is a great way to network with professionals in the field that you want to enter. Plus, it reflects initiative on your part and a real demonstrated interest in the field.
  3. Get involved in your community—take time to volunteer. These activities not only let you give your time for a great cause, but they also create the opportunity to work alongside potential networking contacts (i.e., job leads). I’m a big fan of Habitat for Humanity, which, along with other weekend-oriented service organizations, are pretty popular among young working professionals. You’ll connect on a personal level first, then on a professional level.
  4. Leverage your parents’ networks regardless of their occupation. Here’s an example from my own life. My sister wanted to pursue an internship in marketing. My dad, a surgeon, helped her out by passing along her Personal Networking Cards to his patients and colleagues. And you know what? He made some great connections for her. Also, don’t forget your mom—she’s probably your biggest fan! She’d love the chance to tell people about you! Whether she’s a lawyer, doctor or a stay-at-home mom, she can be a huge help in your networking efforts. So let her!

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