School career centers have several career counselors on staff to keep up with the demand of the student body. Often, each counselor specializes in a certain area. For instance, there may be a career counselor assigned to only engineering students. Others may specialize in helping pre-professional students prepare for graduate school applications and interviews. The career office website should give you all of the necessary information you need to make an appointment with the counselor that will be the most helpful for your situation.
Schedule in advance to ensure that you are meeting with the correct counselor at a time that works for you. Beware: appointments can fill up fast. If you need a last-minute appointment, career offices offer walk-in periods (or days) when anyone who needs assistance can see an available career adviser. Scheduling further out, if possible, will likely give you a better experience because you have more time to gather all of your materials, which allows the adviser to provide better, more relevant feedback. Before arriving, there are a few steps to follow:
Step 1: Gather all of your materials
What are you going in for? Simply a resume review? Or will you be participating in a mock interview? In either case, bringing along an updated copy of your resume/CV is a must. If you are going over a job listing and discussing the application steps, bring both a resume and a cover letter. Tailoring the cover letter to the opportunity will be very important to your success. If you need help with the format of your resume or cover letter, check out the career office website, which should have examples that can get you started. Google searches and sites such as Resume Builder can be good resources as well.
If you have never written a cover letter before, do not worry. Take a look at some examples. Typically formal, a cover letter is essentially a showcase of you, your skills, and why you are a good fit for a job. Broken down, a cover letter may include an introduction to who you are, the position you are applying for, why/how you align with the job description, reiteration of your interest, and your contact information. At the very least, you can come walk into the interview with an outline of your educational background, skills, and what you would like to emphasize as an asset to the job description. A career adviser will then guide you through the basics of the cover letter and talk you through how to market yourself (and your skills!) effectively.
Putting in some work before stepping into the career office will ensure that you get the best feedback on your materials. After the session, you can make final edits and send off the application with confidence.
Step 2: Preliminary questions
Come prepared to ask any questions you already have, whether it is about the format of a resume or cover letter, the interview process, or other aspects of the application. If you are studying journalism or creative writing, for example, you may have questions about providing samples to potential employers. While you will probably want to ask your professors for advice on what constitutes strong, appropriate samples for the position, your career adviser should be able to answer questions about those, too. Your counselor may remind you that many employers prefer PDF submittals for required samples.
Do not be afraid to ask about how to market yourself! If you would like to know what personal experiences and skills are most valuable to employers in your field, ask your career adviser what you should emphasize. This is especially important if you have switched majors, and perhaps most of the experiences on your resume do not necessarily relate to your current field.
Step 3: Job Listing
One of the simplest ways to get great feedback in a career advising session is to bring the internship or job listing for which you are applying. Any information about the company will be helpful as well. A physical copy can be great because you can mark up the listing; go ahead and underline, circle, and annotate any requirement or task descriptions. This will allow you to have a reference of how you fit into the job description. You can discuss the posting with your adviser. You should come away knowing 1) your goals, 2) why you are applying to the job, and 3) why you would want to work for this company. Conveying this information effectively will make your application stronger. Companies look for candidates that best align with the job description. Sometimes this means using similar phrases and terminology. Finding similarities between the qualities they asked for and the qualities outlined on your own application may convince them that you would be a good candidate.
For a resume or cover letter review, a few materials and a little preparation can go a long way to getting great feedback that will send you on your way to a new position. If you are going in for a mock interview, keep all of the above in mind as you look over all of your (hopefully completed) materials.
For a mock interview, consider an additional step:
Step 4: Compiling Possible Interview Questions
Conduct searches online for common interview questions. Practice ones you think will be relevant to your field. ALWAYS be prepared to answer the prompt: Tell me about yourself. Reflect on your experiences and why you are a good fit for the position. When you can explain (and convince) someone that you have the qualifications, skills, and positive attitude to do the job, you are ready to tackle some of the harder questions.
So what are the most difficult questions to answer well during a job interview? Behavioral questions. Examples? Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult person at work. Tell me about a time when you worked with others in a team. What would you do in this situation?
These are situational questions that, all in one, force you not only to display your critical thinking and communication skills, but also reveal insights into your personality. Employers love them. Honestly, these questions may be the most important portion of the interview. Why? Because your answers to behavioral questions are often what says the most about you. Potential employers analyze your answers as a measure of your self-management skills and how well you communicate under pressure.
As scary as it sounds, as long as you prepare, you should make a good impression. Knowing who you are and how you handle situations around you is most of the battle. Your career adviser can give you the advice and practice to work out the kinks. Put in the effort and the results will be even more rewarding.