Landing my dream job, Part 1
Landing my dream job
Part 1: The Resume and Career Fair
By Gwynnie Frey
I didn’t want to hear anything about getting a job until Fall semester of the final year of my degree. Yes, I knew I had to get a job. No, I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted that job to be. And no, I was not looking forward to the rigmarole of recruiting season.
I had been told multiple times that I had to go to the career fairs and have a great, updated resume… But I really, really didn’t want to. I felt resistant to going and talking to recruiters about how I really didn’t have a clear idea about what I was interested in. I have this problem where my face gets red, really fast if I feel on edge, or insecure about what I’m talking about, or if I’m asked a question I don’t have an answer for. So basically, going to a career fair was an opportunity for my face to turn red repeatedly in front of strangers.
Of course, I did as I was told and went to the career fair, but boy oh boy, I felt sickly nervous the entire time.
I walked around and around the giant career fair, sporting a satin purple button-down shirt, and gripping my folder until sweat trickled down my wrist.
I had identified a few key employers I thought I might be interested in, but was so nervous that I lapped them a few times before actually going up to someone to fumble a few poorly conveyed questions. The recruiters I talked to all seemed equally as awkward as me, and answered my questions as best they could, probing me about what I was into. After I felt I could bear it no longer, I sprinted out of the building, my heart and thoughts racing.
Second Try, This Year
I changed a bit, I was a year older. I had taken some classes that really sparked my interest in databases and big data. I had learned to code. And I really, really liked it. Of course, I still had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew what I liked.
Cue career-fair season…
Last year, my resume was a total mess. It was a hybrid confusion that might be a resume for half a graphic designer and an aspiring project manager.
This year, I had a thesis. Big. Data. I wanted to do something that would let me see, mold, manage, play with, learn about BIG DATA.
My experience hadn’t changed a lot, aside from taking a data mining class and a couple of database management classes. But my perspective changed entirely. I now had the confidence that spending hours in a basement slaving over SQL instills.
Even though my resume for the upcoming career fair was not tailored for specific employers, it was tailored to what I was interested in. I had a clear idea of the message I wanted to convey.
My resume also included details that set me apart. I made sure that employers could see immediately that I was into Big Data and an artist with an aptitude for visual communication and thinking. I didn’t abandon my former self, just enhanced it with something relevant to the people I was talking to.
The Catch Phrase
Part of my problem I had at the career fair before was that I really had nothing to say about myself. So, I could ask employers questions, but couldn’t talk about myself in a way that made sense. This is BAD if you’re trying to get someone to think you’d be a great addition to his or her organization. This year I came up with a thesis:
“I love drawing ERDs. I do it for fun.”
This does not sound very professional, I know. But it does communicate something true about me that demonstrates my interest in the field I want to go in to. It’s also not something you hear every day.
The Big Day
I had my crisp, concise resumes in hand, and had abandoned the purple shirt for a smart black suit and blue shirt. I felt ready to talk to some people about me.
I started slowly; talking to employers I didn’t know much about. I introduced myself, said what my degree was and when I would graduate, and then gave the pitch:
“I’m really passionate about databases and big data. I draw ERDs for fun!”
The first person I said this to laughed out loud. She said “REALLY? Wow, well do we have a position for you!” She then showed me all of the things I could do within her company that would let me work with big data.
The excitement I got from this initial interaction carried me with a smile to the next table, and my energy kept building. Most companies accepted my resume with enthusiasm, and I was able to ask a number of questions that really mattered to me, not just the bank of questions that, lets face it, we all ask because we think we are supposed to and are too petrified to say anything else. I talked to every company at the fair that had any opportunities that matched what I was looking for, even if the company was not one I would have identified as one I wanted to work for. I left the career fair with only 2 surplus copies of my resume (I had printed 30), and a huge grin.
The Next Day
The first call about my resume came the next day in the afternoon from an insurance company who I had talked to on a whim. They wanted me to send them an electronic copy of my resume and to set up a phone interview. This would be the first of twelve follow-up calls I would get, setting me on the road for finding the right fit for what I’d do next.
Look for my next post on getting through the Round 1 interview process alive (and employed).
Gwynnie Frey is a 2nd year Masters student in the Information Management program at Syracuse University. She is interested in management of large data sets and exploring the human interaction factors that inform data collection and the design of data management systems. She received her BFA in Sculpture from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2008. Follow her on Twitter @gwynniem.
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