Job Search Advice from a Grad for a Grad


Anthony Gentry recently wrote in to share us his advice for college students when it comes to finding that first job. We liked it so much we just had to share with our audience.

I’m the Data Strategist at TechnologyAdvice, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that connects buyers and sellers of business technology through meaningful relationships. 

I applied to TechnologyAdvice (TA) on a whim after finding the job posting on the University of Tennessee – Knoxville career board during my senior year of college. The reason why I got the job at TA was because of the experience on my resume. I was very strategic throughout college: I chose a degree that I could sell to be whatever I wanted/needed it to be, worked while I was an undergrad, pulled off two internships with Fortune 50 companies (among others with not so big companies), and deliberately pushed myself out of my comfort zone by working in different functional areas (IT, Supply Chain, Accounting, Marketing, and Data Science).

By the time I graduated, I had the resume of an experienced hire but was applying for the same entry level jobs of other college students. It threw off recruiters, as they came in expecting to talk about college activities/achievements as a proxy to gauge ability in the workplace, and I came in with real work experience I could use as examples to articulate my abilities. Because I stacked the deck so much over my first few years of college, every interview I had my senior year resulted in a job offer.

So while my application to TA was submitted based on a whim, what led me to that point was most definitely not. The job hunt and application process is interesting and stressful, but it's important to stay dedicated to it and put in the legwork to give you a competitive edge.

My advice for recent grads is this;

A job is the most valuable extra-curricular activity you can have in college, particularly in a professional environment. College recruiting is risky – with no work history, recruiters have to fall back to proxies (like your GPA, on-campus activities, and such) to gauge whether you’re worth taking a risk on hiring. If you already have previous experience, you’re much less of a risk than the typical college hire and the recruiter will like you more.

Colleges have tons of jobs for students – from teaching assistants to manning a front desk or computer lab. Take advantage of these opportunities to bolster your resume, as they’re much easier to get and more flexible with scheduling than typical off-campus jobs.

If a job looks interesting, apply for it, even if you don’t think you qualify. Job descriptions are written as wish lists that describe unicorn candidates,  you never know what areas they’re willing to compromise on until you apply. I’ve beat out hundreds of candidates in a highly competitive internship in a functional area I knew next to nothing about before due to a single skill/bullet point I had, which most traditional candidates lacked. They were willing to train me on everything else.

Your resume is important. Try to customize if for your audience. An easy way I’ve found is to keep a “master” resume that’s about 5 pages long – each job I’ve had lists 10-20 bullet points of accomplishments while I was there. When I apply for a job, I look at the job description and cut down my resume to one page, leaving only the bullet points that were most relevant to the posting.

Learn to phrase things using corporate speak. You didn’t “place Staples orders for an academic department”, you “managed procurement and inventory for a 50+ person department”. Both statements are true, but the second provides better perspective on the scope of your duties.

(This is one I’ve had every interviewer comment appreciatively on): Have a three tier “Skills & Technology” section on your resume: Novice, Intermediate, and Expert. This is where you put buzzwords for technologies, software, certifications, etc that you have experience with, which may prove relevant to the job. Ordering it by tiers shows the recruiter what you’ve had exposure to and will need additional training in vs what you’ll be able to hit the ground running with. If you just throw a bunch of stuff into a generic list, the interviewer may ask you an advanced question on a topic you only know a little bit about. Not being able to answer it will cause them to doubt everything else on your resume. Setting their expectations from the start nips this in the bud.

Thanks for writing in Anthony! We appreciate the practical advice.

Here's a great site to find that first entry level job.

Here's a great site to find that first entry level job.

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