This blog post and interview was done by Ashley Moncrieffe, our alumni campus ambassador from the University of South Florida. You can follow Ashley on twitter @AshFMoncrieffe.
Vicky Oliver is the author of five best selling career development books. She shares some useful tips for college students, graduates and young professionals on navigating life after graduation.
What is the best and worst thing a college student can do before they graduate college?
I think it is dangerous if all you do is study, if you really want a job after graduation. You are only demonstrating that you know how to study. I presume if you want to go to grad school after, that would be an ok strategy. Generally it is better to do something else, like working on your school paper, get involve in school politics, and it shows a level of business expertise. There are tons of things you can do such as joining different committees. You want to join with an eye to see how you can position it later for your benefit. You can’t be everything to everyone. Follow your passions and your strengths to direct you to what you are going to do. You don’t want to be ok at everything you want to be spectacular at a couple of things.
Is it best for graduates to get into their career or go back to school?
If you know absolutely that you will get a graduate degree, I think that is a good path to take. But if you are unsure it is ok to take a few years off. In some cases, if there are several career paths that you are thinking about and some require a graduate degree first, you may want to get your feet wet working for a couple of years. It really is an individual decision. Do not let the economy dictate your career path; you need to dictate your career path via the economy.
We hear regularly the market is bad and it is competitive and student loans are knocking at graduate’s doors. Is there hope for recent college graduates in finding a job?
Yes. You also really have to believe you are that exceptional person, be optimistic. Optimists are hired more often than pessimist and their sunny personalities can help them get the job. You have to operate from a place of hope and not fear. You may need to make a few lateral steps to get where you need to be in your career. If you stay positive you will get there faster.
Are employers really looking at online profiles?
They do look at online profiles. I think it is more of a potential stumbling block. Your online profile may not get you hired, but if it’s not properly done it could knock you out of the running. I think if falls under dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s. You should make sure your online profile is very professional. You should assume that somebody will look it up. Remember once something is out there, it is out there, you want to be really careful about what you put out there.
What steps can be taken to have a clean online presence during and after the job hunt?
If you are interviewing you should never put that out there, it alerts your competition. Never tweet or post about your job search especially while it’s in process. Your online profile is an online version of your resume.
How important is a LinkedIn profile in the job search?
I think it is important. It is one tool in your box of tools that you should have. If you are open with your profile you can tell when someone looks you up. Once a hiring manager looks you up, it’s too late to make the perfect profile, so do it in advance. Also, if you have previous work experience ask your former bosses and colleagues to give you a recommendation on LinkedIn. Those recommendations almost function as the same recommendations a hiring manager would be getting. It is additional ammunition for you to get a job. If you are in the job market, you want to have your profile up to date as much as you can.
For college graduates and young professionals what should the ideal resume look like? Should it be limited to one page?
As a general rule of thumb, if you have been in a field for less than 10 years your resume should be a one page resume. If you have been in a field for over 10 years then it is a two page resume. Very rarely is there a reason for a college graduate to have a two page resume. If you have all of these experiences, tone them down to make sure your resume tells a strong story. Sometimes less is more. That goes to what I call the white space in a resume. You want your eye to rest when reading a resume. Do not cover it with words. Typically hiring managers review 20 to 30 resumes for every job. Try to make your resume verb heavy and adjective light.
We know having internship experience is vital while in college. How much internship should one have before they graduate?
I think you should always try to get as much real live work experience as you can before you graduate. If you can be in the field of your choice as an intern, paid or not paid, you should try to grab that experience. There is no set number because you are balancing that experience with keeping your grades up because your cumulative GPA can be helpful post grad. Try to get great summer internships or internships during winter break. It’s always helpful if you know what you want to do and what you are strong at from early on.
Should students go for big or small companies to intern for?
If you have a choice, I prefer large companies. Sometimes they may have more internship experiences available. Also, it can give you a brand name that you can carry with you. Every experience is great, smaller companies may give you more leeway and you may be able to do more. For example, if you intern with a large magazine, chances are you may not be able to write anything but if you interned at a start up, you could have a column.
Post interview strategy?
Send a thank you email to the person within 24 hours. The tone and flavor of the email should be as if you were sending them a letter in the mail. I prefer email because it is more immediate and if you are lucky they will open it and write you back. If you drop it in the mail, there is no indication if they ever receive it.
Learn more about Vicky Oliver at www.vickyoliver.com.