Yesterday I received an email from a former MSU professor for one of the advertising design courses I took as part of my Design Specialization. She basically started off this email bold and to the point, asking me “What advice do you have for 2011 grads and what do you wish you knew prior to graduating that would have changed your job search?” Wow, what a question to ask a 22 year old recent college grad whose still trying to adjust to the post college life of not being able to sleep in past noon and eat pizza 3 meals a day. That question really got me thinking about everything that’s has taken since I left the land of green and white last May. She then asked if I could come up some evening a speak to her evening class and give her students some advice and insight into life after MSU. I’m not quite sure where to start since so much has happened since May 6, 2010, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far…
Around this time last year, I was frantically revising my resume, preparing a portfolio, attending job fairs and networking events at every chance I could get. I was literally applying to every job at every company in my field that I could think of…big or small, local, or thousands of miles away. Well, boy was I in for a reality check. Not only was unfortunate to graduate at one of the worst times in our economy, when jobs were scarce and the ones available had thousands of applicants competing for one spot, but a lot of companies weren’t even hiring full time. It was just a bad time all around for finding a job.
What I Didn’t Know, But Wish I Did
- The chance of landing your dream job with your first application, first resume submission, and first interview is probably NOT GOING TO HAPPEN (and if it does I need to know your secret)! It’s tough out there and yes, my parents, industry professionals, and professors told me and my peers this, but of course I didn’t really believe them. Well, they were right.
- You need to start standing out now—Brand Yourself. Being an advertising student I knew I needed a portfolio if I wanted to go into design, and writing samples if I wanted to copywriting and a social media presence if I wanted to go into media planning, but I started building up all of that too late. From the moment you lock in your major you NEED to start branding yourself and networking…no matter what major you’re in. Learn the industry. Know the big players and the big news. Go to every career fair, networking event and speaker conference you can. Join clubs and organizations, get on E-boards, volunteer, produce writing and design samples, and keep all your projects, papers, research etc to use as a demonstration of your abilities. You need to make sure you stand out. Take any and every opportunity you can to network and get your foot in the door.
- Learn how to write a great resume and cover letter. This is so important. As graduation nears, like myself, you’ll want to just apply for every job in your field you can find. Before sending out handfuls of resumes and cover letters, make sure you know how to construct one. I took my resume to critiques several times before I finally got any sort of positive feedback. No one likes their work to comes back all marked up in red pen, but trust me it’s worth it for the sake of your resume and future job. A great resume = JOB! Now a cover letter is another story. Make sure you know all the do’s and don’ts. My first few cover letters were a disaster now that I look back on them.
My Advice to Soon-to-Be Grads
- The job market is slowly, but surely starting to look more promising, but jobs are still scarce or highly competitive. Look at every opportunity that comes your way and don’t rule anything out, even if the opportunity is for a job that is totally unrelated to your degree. You never know where an opportunity now can take you in the future. It’s all about keeping an open mind, a positive outlook and being grateful for any opportunity you can get.
- Whatever job you land, make sure you do your best to be good at it. Being bitter or constantly complaining about how you aren’t doing what you want to be doing won’t get you anywhere. Learn your job and do it well! I don’t know if I can say this or not, but I graduated with an Advertising and design degree, but currently I’m a corporate buyer. Of course I’m not doing what I thought I’d be doing, but I am doing my best to learn the industry I am currently in and putting 110% into doing my job successfully.
- Don’t give up on doing what you love. If you’re stuck in some entry level office assistant job for the time being, but you love to write and design then keep doing it! Keep writing and contributing to your portfolio in your free time, attend weekend classes to build up your skills, check out local industry events/conferences (they are usually open to anyone whose interested). When an opportunity you want does come your way you’re ready and have current work to show. Employers love to see that you still made the time and put in the extra effort to build up your knowledge and skills in what you’re really passionate about. It shows character and motivation and pins you as a go-getter. Just because you aren’t doing what you think you should be doing now doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future.
This is all just my personal opinion from the experiences I had leading up to graduation, during my crazy job hunt, and my life since leaving MSU. I’ve faced a lot of challenges and had some tough decisions to make, but I think my experiences have really taught me a lot about the kind of person I am and have showed me that with some extra work and motivation I am capable of accomplishing anything. Wonderful opportunities will continue to come my way, and your way…It’s all a matter of time, patience, and determination.