What’s your competitive advantage?

I find myself saying the same thing over and over again during the feedback portion of QUIC interviews:

“Well, dear student, all of this information is great. But what sets YOU apart from every other business student in this College? In Ohio? In the country? In the WORLD?!?!?”

Ok, I might not get that dramatic. But I do challenge students to GO BEYOND the typical interview fare and look within themselves to find what makes them great. What in the world are you the best at? What is a quality you have that the next guy/gal in line doesn’t have? What are the qualities that people constantly tell you you possess (even if you don’t always recognize it)?

The truth is, these qualities don’t have to be profound, earth-shattering, or life-changing. You don’t have to rescue babies from runaway trains to possess great time-management and critical thinking skills. But the whole point of an interview is to differentiate yourself from your competition. For example, everyone can claim they are hardworking, but how are YOU hardworking? Do you work 40 hours per week, play intramural soccer, maintain a healthy (and safe) social life, all while maintaining a 3.8 GPA with only 3 cups of coffee per day? My word, you ARE a superhero!

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, can come up with at least three strengths that are unique, valuable, and relatable to your chosen career field. If you are struggling to come up with these qualities, stop in the Office of Career Management and set up an appointment with a career consultant. We can help you find your competitive advantage. Even if we have to drag it out of you.

Job Search Momentum – How to Keep It Moving

By Mark Wilson, Director of Employer Relations & Technology

If we are really honest with ourselves, we’ve all been scared on some level about the job search.  Sometimes this fear can bring about a really bad case of job search procrastination.  By procrastinating, we can avoid facing our job search fears by not reaching out to people to build a network, by not applying to opportunities and by not practicing our interviewing skills.  By avoiding the work of the job search we don’t have to face our fear of rejection.  As a result, the search for employment can stall and even fizzle out.

The best way to avoid letting procrastination drag you down is to keep moving forward with your search. Once you have your momentum going forward it is easier to keep going than to have to start over.  As we all know, it is a real drag on our energy and confidence when we lose our momentum and feel like we are starting from scratch. Even worse, feeling like we had circumstances on our side and then we dropped the ball letting the momentum die.

Ten ideas on how to keep the momentum in your job search alive:

  1. Set up a meeting for coffee with someone you admire and get their advice
  2. Explore your school’s alumni network and find alumni to get advice from
  3. If you’re in school, make an appointment with your career services office
  4. Find a book on job search strategy and make it a goal to read one chapter you find interesting
  5. Find a local career fair to attend in the next two months and put it on your calendar
  6. Make sure you have the “uniform” you need for interviews and meetings
  7. Polish your shoes – especially guys, we are lazy about this but it is part of your first impression
  8. Have someone review your resume one more time
  9. Learn about informational interviews and set one up
  10. Write thank you notes to people who have recently helped you or even people who helped you five years ago

The real secret to momentum is doing little things on a consistent basis.  If you keep moving you will build momentum for your job search which will in turn boost your energy and confidence.  People with these two things are much more attractive to employers. Keep doing the little things for your job search and over time you will have accomplished the big thing – finding a job.

Notes from the trenches: Self-Awareness

I recently conducted a QUIC interview with a young man who left an interesting impression on me. When I came out to the lobby to collect him for his interview, my first impression of him was the he was standoffish. He had short, one-worded responses, didn’t smile, and overall I couldn’t tell if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, didn’t eat his Wheaties, or was just a grumpy Gus.

Then the interview began, and this young man’s demeanor completely changed. It was like he secretly slugged a can of Red Bull when my back was turned. He was perky, engaging, interesting, and I was genuinely interested in hearing more about him.

Cue to the end of the interview, and once we were no longer “in character,” Grumpy Gus was back.

Because part of the QUIC interview process is to point out things you might not even realize you do (i.e. saying the word ‘like’, clicking your pen, tapping your fingers on the table), I felt obliged to tell this young man how he came across both before and after the interview, and how it altered my perception of him. He commented back that he’s been told this many times in his life, and I certainly wasn’t the first.

This is an example of self-awareness. For those of you who maybe aren’t aware (haha, the irony), self-awareness, in a nutshell, is the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. What this means in terms of interviewing is that you have to be aware of your strengths, weaknesses, triggers, and nuances so that you can you can appear in the interview to be a realistic combination of humble and confident. Able but flexible. Assertive not aggressive. Sounds almost possible right? Nah, not really. Just be yourself. Be the best you.

And how do you be the best you? By being self-aware. This is why the QUIC interview process is so helpful. Sometimes we are so focused on giving the right answer that we neglect to give the answer that’s right for us. It’s been proven time and again that the most memorable and successful interview answers are the ones that are genuine. A made-up answer may work sometimes, but it’s more likely to sound fake (because it is) and won’t leave a lasting impression on the recruiter.

For Grumpy Gus,  since he was very well-aware that he could turn on the charm during the interview, I advised him to make sure that he turned on this charm from minute one. As soon as he walks through the door to a company, he has to have the same enthusiasm he showed during the interview itself, and not to turn it back off until he is safely within the confines of his vehicle and away from company property. I was only conducting a mock interview, but if this had been the real deal, I definitely would have reservations about hiring a candidate that seemed grumpy one minute and happy the next. Employers like predictability, and being two completely different personalities in an interview can backfire.

So to all you Grumpy Gus’s, pen clickers, and “Um, like”ers out there – use constructive criticism to your advantage! The candidates who are self-aware are usually the first to take accountability for their actions, can communicate effectively, and overall are considered more likeable, aka hireable.

If you have no idea where you stand on the self-awareness front, just for fun, here is an online test that rates your level of self-awareness in various settings.

93% of THESE people use the Career Center

Want to increase your chances of getting recruited by top companies, but not sure how to do it?? Don’t fret, my friend – we have a solution for you! Come on over to 150 Gerlach Hall and visit the kind folks in the Office of Career Management.

You see, in a recent survey conducted by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers), 93% of recruiters reported using university career centers for recruiting purposes.

93%?? That’s alot of recruiters. (And coincidentally, alot of swag at the career fairs).

As for that other 7%… well, think of it this way: You know how toothpaste is usually recommended by 9 out of 10 dentists? Well, that 1 dentist is either lame or is being intentionally difficult. Regardless, you probably don’t want to work there anyway. That guy probably doesn’t smile very much.

So, get connected with Career Management and the cool kids in the 93% category – you’ll be happy you did.

Student Organizations: More than just going to meetings

By Mark Wilson, Director of Employer Relations & Technology

Recently, I had a great meeting with a second semester freshman about transitioning from engineering to business. This student was seeking information on what he could be doing right now to make himself more attractive to employers and get ready for the job search.  He was asking all the right questions and I wish we all had the self-awareness he has to seek information early whenever take on a new challenge in life.

One of his questions was what are employers looking for in college students.  There is a list of things every employer wants, and at or near the top, leadership always makes the list.  For many of us, looking for leadership is interpreted as I need to be president of a student organization.  However this in not the case, leadership should be interpreted as meaning involved and making a difference.  That is the key to joining a student organization to help build your resume.  When you join, get involved and do something.  Sadly, many students join organizations and barely attend the meetings while thinking this is what being involved means.  Any recruiter can read between lines of your resume and see the difference between true participation and simply showing up.

If you are going to join a student organization to build your resume, get involved and gain some leadership experience.  For example, a student described to me how as freshman she took on the role of concessions chair for a fund-raising event.  As chair, she organized volunteers to work the concession stand, planned a menu and shopped for food, and managed a million other details for the concession stand team.  In the end, her work raised almost $2,000 for her student organization.  This is a great example of leadership through involvement and will be very appealing to employers when they see it on her resume or when they hear her talk about it in her interviews.  Remember, you do not have to be the president of a student organization to gain the all important leadership experience employers are seeking.  Simply get involved and find a way to contribute.