Earlier this month I had the pleasure of heading back to my Alma mater, Penn State for the spring meeting of the Alumni Society Board on which I currently service as the Outreach Chair. In addition to much “official business,” I enjoyed many authentic interactions with students, faculty, and other alums. This time around, it was particularly the student interactions, through a mentoring dinner, guest lecturing two classes, and judging a student Ad/PR pitch, that opened my eyes to the volume of questions our soon-to-be grads have weighing on their minds.
Many college seniors are burdened with the worry of not having a job immediately lined up after graduation, and still many others haven’t a clue as to what job they even wish to earn.
I could sense their worry, but I simply wanted to express to them that there’s no reason to stress, at least not this early in their not-even post-graduate career.
In my less than 32 hour visit on Penn State’s campus, I know I left many questions unanswered, so I challenged myself to answer 37 MORE questions submitted by Penn State College of Communications students that I feel offer immense value to any communications graduate – no matter the college or university. To raise the stakes, I also challenged myself to answer each question in one sentence…or less. For me, a particularly passionate (and long-winded) communicator, this was the ultimate challenge!
So let’s see how it turned out…(the questions highlighted are the ones that were asked most frequently).
- How can I stand out?
Share a personal (relevant story); make someone laugh; be authentic; and let your guard down.
- Did you stick to a career that was similar to your major?
At first I thought I wanted to ditch my PR degree and venture into public policy, but with career experiences I was quickly reassured PR was my passion and that is exactly what I do currently.
- What skills or qualities have you seen recent college graduates lacking that we should try to acquire before graduation?
In a list: fortitude, responsiveness, reliability, gusto, and hustle.
- If a company didn’t give you an internship when you were looking for one, did you apply again after college to work for them?
I didn’t personally, but my advice is to go for it; if the worst outcome is a “no,” it’s worth the effort.
- What is an important piece of advice for a recent college grad breaking into the communications industry?
Your first job may not be even remotely close to your dream job, but you have to start somewhere and so many times that road takes you to far greater destinations than you could have ever planned.
- How does someone break into such a competitive industry?
Jumping in feet first; seriously, just go for it and try to make the biggest splash possible!
- How many jobs did you go through until you found one where you were happy and stayed a while?
I’m not quite the norm here, but my post college jobs were on a political campaign (1 year), in government (3 months) and then launching off into entrepreneurship which has been my longest and most stable career path thus far, with only big things ahead.
- What did you wish you had done differently in terms of marketing yourself straight out of college?
I wish I would have been stronger in my approach such as starting my blog sooner, devoting more effort into my personal website, creating a personal logo and having my own business cards, to name a few.
- How were you able to find your passion within such a broad field?
I was intentional about identifying the times in my early career in which I felt inspired and passionate with the work I was doing, then I ultimately created my own job based upon what I loved.
- What are your best tips for being more confident and effective with networking?
Networking simply takes patience and practice; consistently seek out networking opportunities and throw yourself into the mix and you’ll find that you get better and better.
- What was the hardest part of transitioning from college to the professional world?
You’re still young, but you’re expected to be a mature adult and by that I mean there are rarely any excusable reasons to call off work, show up late, or turn in something after deadline.
- How can you advance yourself in your career field?
It’s simply putting in the hard work, the extra effort and the long hours, especially in those first 5 years of proving yourself in your career.
- How do you sell yourself for an internship that isn’t aligned with your major?
You have to have a strategy; be prepared to explain why and then how you plan to use this internship experience.
- Moving forward into the digital age, what is a key component or skill of a potential employee that sets them apart from other candidates?
Use youth to your advantage by showing a potential employer that you can master the use of new technologies; this is a huge opportunity to compensate for a lack of experience with fresh knowledge.
15. How has Penn State served you well post-graduation?
Penn State is competitive; having this competitive edge ingrained in me from a very early stage in my education and career, that I had to work for everything and that nothing would be given to me, pretty much laid the foundation for my success.
- What is one thing all Penn State students should do before leaving the University?
Eat a chocolate chip cookie from West Halls when they are still warm from the oven.
- How do I take the connections I’ve gathered at an east coast school and translate them into finding a job back on the west coast?
Add three hours.
But seriously, don’t rely upon just your personal connections; seek out all the alumni resources available to you that span the nation, if not the world.
- Did you feel you had to lower your standards in order to land your first job?
My idea of an ideal salary, yes, but not my standards; if you can be open minded on salary you can find jobs that offer a ton of cool experiences and valuable connections that can pay off big in the future.
- How do you effectively follow up with recruiters after a career fair?
Foremost, follow through with what they tell you to do like connect on social media or send them an email – consider this your first interview test!
- What are the pros and cons of taking a paid internship after graduating, especially if it will not lead to a FT position?
The experience and connections are pros, but the fact it’s an internship with no future for FT employment means you may be spinning your wheels.
- What are the best ways to stay connected with Penn State alumni after graduation?
Start by making sure your profile is filled out and up to date on Lion Link, then follow your college and the university on social media for the best, real-time updates.
- What is the one thing you wish you knew about the “real world” before you graduated?
It’s a marathon not a sprint.
- What are some ways you keep expanding your network after leaving PSU?
You have to be intentional about networking opportunities both within the college and out in your community, as there are so many things offered but you can’t expect them to find you.
- How do you make sure you continue to grow within a company over the long term?
Take vitamins and eat your fruits and veggies.
But seriously, be the squeaky wheel and be confident to speak up and request a meeting with your boss, or your boss’s boss if you feel like you deserve a new opportunity or raise for the good work you’ve put in.
- What is the best way to be marketable to recruiters when looking for a full-time job?
Have a stellar digital foot print, and by that I mean your social media accounts are professional, and your Google search results highlight your best accomplishments.
- What is the best advice for someone trying who is about to start their first internship (mistakes to avoid, lessons to take away)?
In a list: show up every single day, be on time, demonstrate commitment and ambition, suggest new opportunities you can take on, and be helpful even if no one specifically assigns you that task.
- What experiences in college best prepared you for your professional life after college?
Group projects and peer reviews because those are some of the most challenging situations in the real-world where you have to work together, rely upon one another, and also give a critical review of the team’s work.
- How can I best use my connections to begin my career?
Be sure to let them know what you’re up to and how they might be able to help you out; there’s no benefit to being shy about this, and quality communication is always appreciated.
- Did you experience any difficulties working your way up in the workforce?
My biggest difficulty was not speaking up and assuming my superiors would recognize my good work; what I realized, at least in my line of work, was that the squeaky wheel gets the oil (or raise) and I needed to be direct in what I wanted.
- Pros/cons you have experienced from your first job vs. your current job?
My first job out of college was underpaid but a whirlwind of excitement, while my current job is well compensated, yet stressful at times.
- How can I land my first job?
Make yourself easy and attractive to find by applying for jobs, taking internships, attending networking functions, reaching out to your contacts, and having a professional social media presence.
- What is the best way to maintain relationships with recruiters?
Beyond the initial follow-up, reach out to them periodically by sharing something new going on in your life or asking them a job-related question that builds your professionalism and dedication.
- What advice would you give an upcoming graduate without a position, be it full time or an internship, lined up after college?
It’s better to wait (a reasonable amount of time) for the right opportunity than it is to rush into something that is simply not a good fit and then having to find your way out of it later.
- What are the factors that make for an outstanding interview?
In a list: being authentic and creative with your answers, asking intelligent questions that show you did your research and can think at a high level, and coming across confident, but eager for the opportunity.
- How to properly follow up after an interview
Don’t rush to send out a note of thanks just to get it done; take a little more time and put some heart and creativity into your follow-up note.
- What’s the biggest challenge you faced after college?
It was overwhelming to find my focus amidst the endless paths I could take, and to feel confident I was choosing the right one.
- What kind of employees do companies want?
It’s as simple as this: organizations want employees who are reliable, responsive and passionate with everything they do – from work tasks through relationships.
Do you have yet a different question you’d like answered? Go ahead and ask it in the comment section below and I’ll personally give you my answer!