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Undecided about career?

Many recent alumni are unsure of what they are able to do with their degree once they have graduated. There are a few important things to remember as you begin to explore your opportunities in employment

  1. Your degree is not a permanent stamp: you need to consider the skills you have rather than what program you pursued in school.
  2. Take the time to research your options.
  3. Schedule informational interviews. They are one of the best ways to gain first-hand, tangible information on how those with careers you admire got to where they are.
  4. Don't apply for jobs you don't want If you know you would be unhappy in that position or moving to a town that doesn't suit you - don't apply. While your dream job might not open up right now, a job you can tolerate certainly will.

Job search strategies

Stop looking for a job! I know, it seems like odd advice, but you need the right perspective for this job market. Above all else, you need to wrap your mind around the techniques and tools to find that job that is right for you.

As hard as it is to believe, the majority of available jobs are not posted online. While several databases may be helpful in discovering options and examining general opportunities, it likely won't lead you to your dream job. There are several other ways to discover job openings


  1. Attend Events Focused on Your Career: Industry events are a great way to meet and mingle with new professionals in your field. It may seem counter-intuitive to network with people new in your field, but they can often be your greatest resource for new postings and references.
  2. Find a Networking Group in Your Area: These are often relatively easy to find and join - many simply ask that you show up and enjoy the events. These are great ways to socialize and expand your network to all corners of the professional world (they can also be a lot of fun!) Try searching through MSU's regional alumni groups to get you started searching for the right people in the right places!
  3. Perfect that elevator speech! Perfect and practice your introduction.

Career Fairs

Career fairs can be a great way to discover resources for employment and introduce yourself to several major employers in a short period of time.

Attend a Career Fair Prep Session To ease your nerves and allow for a bit of practice, Prep Sessions are available for: strategic preparation, self marketing, 2-minute commercial ("elevator speech"), setting yourself apart from the crowds, and proper follow up strategies.

Educate yourself on what recruiters are looking for!

Update your Resume and Bring Several Copies Your resume is the potential outline of an interview. Ensure it is accurate, updated, and highlights your abilities and achievements. (Click here for more on resumes)

Relax and SMILE Don't be afraid to walk up to potential employers and start a simple conversation. Saying hello, introducing yourself, and providing a few of your qualifications can open the door for deeper conversation. One thing is certain: not talking to employers guarantees you will not receive an interview.

Practice (Mock) Interview. Visit and search "mock" (under the jobs tab) for upcoming mock interview opportunities

Dress as you would for an interview Always dress to impress at the fair - a suit or your nicest professional attire is the way to go!

Using Social media to Your Advantage

"Whatever you post online is who you become to others"

Your brand, or "meta-message," is the overall impression you send out in conjunction with your resume and professional materials, website, social networking, and personality. Branding yourself is a fantastic way to put your best face consistently forward and market yourself toward potential employers.

I highly recommend perusing for advice and tips on building and improving your personal brand.

Clear, helpful post on branding yourself online:

Resume development

Resumes provide the employer with quick, easily scanned information as to who you are and what you can do for the company.

This is often your first opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd. Resumes must be concise, to-the-point, and complete (all within two pages of text, at most!)

Luckily, resume content is relatively standardized. While it is important to develop and format your own to best shape your career ambitions and competencies, make sure your resume provides the reader with a sense of who you are, what you've done, and what you can do for the company.

It's not about what you write; it's about how you deliver the information.

Review other resume templates and examples before you write your own. You want to become familiar with what solid, effective resumes look like. You could ask

  • Former advisors or department heads at MSU
  • Professionals in the career you are interested in (can be found online, through informational interviews, or from peers and fellow alumni)
  • Resources targeted to your field

Review the basics of format, style, and arrangement. We suggest reading one of the resume resources below or reviewing Work Tree and reminding yourself of the basic resume rules

Ideal References for Writing Knock-'em-Out Resumes

Competency-Based Resumes by Robin Kessler

Resume Magic: Trade Secrets of a Professional Resume Writer by Susan Britton Whitcomb

The Princeton Review's Trashproof Resumes

Each professional category has its own expectations for resumes, so it is important to have someone in the field you're interested in examine your resume. They will ultimately be your best resource.

Don't forget - every resume that goes out must have a cover letter attached to it! Whether or not the job post asks for one, it is a crucial component. One thing to keep in mind as you compose your cover letter is that this is the one place where you are able to tell them why you want to work there and what you know about the company. Check out a few resources

A general overview on navigating through the composition of the "dreaded" cover letter

Tips and basics on the cover letter format and contents

"Ask a Manager: What does a good cover letter look like?"


You made it to the interview stage - congratulations! Taking the time to prepare properly and thoroughly can provide you with a serious leg-up on your competition.

Remember: The interview is about them. Be prepared to verbally focus on what you can do for them. Use your time afterward to think about what they can do for you.

Scott's All Star Interview post Tips and insight to nailing the interview.

How to prepare

Preparation for an interview is as crucial as the interview itself. Ensure you're prepared for the interview by taking the following steps

Research the company you're interviewing with: It seems like a no-brainer, but too often interview candidates enter an interview having little to no true knowledge about the company. Scour the websites, search for news releases and articles, and become familiar with any current public activity surrounding the company. Knowledge about the company and industry shows interest and excitement, two crucial qualities in a potential employee.

This list is modified from Michael Schell's Human Resource Approved Job Interviews and Resumes

  • How many locations do they have, and is this the head office?
  • Is the company private or public? Is there a parent company?
  • Have they or are they acquiring new companies or being acquired by a larger company?
  • Have they recently been in the news, or had major publicity?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • Who are their major or target customers?
  • What is their annual revenue?
  • What are their major product/service lines?
  • What are their major challenges?

Certainly you are not expected to spend weeks researching and documenting information about the company, but a good few hours of preparation is vital to actively participating in the interview. Additionally, it helps you realize what type of company they are, so you have the chance to determine and articulate why you are a good fit as an employee.

Tips for a Successful Interview Quick cut-and-dried explanations for the whats and whys of basic interviews

Body Language Do's and Don'ts A list of the 23 most common, generic interview questions - many of these questions (or variations on these questions) will likely cross your path during the process of interviewing A powerhouse resource covering every imaginable interview scenario, concern, or question you may have.

A note about phone interviews Phone interviews are a common method of preliminary screening and often occur when interviewer and interviewee are separated by a long distance. Just because you aren't facing the interviewer doesn't mean there aren't several points of etiquette and behavior you should be aware of

  • Clear a section of time (15 minutes or so) before and after the scheduled interview. You want to be prepared in case they are early or the interview goes longer than scheduled.
  • If possible, be alone in the room or location from which you choose to conduct the interview. Background noise or additional conversation can be extremely distracting for both you and the interviewer. All distractions need to be eliminated.
  • Create a preparative checklist of the job description and how your skills lend to the requirements. This will be extremely useful if, by chance, you lose your train of thought or find yourself getting off track.

Great articles on phone interviews

Do's and Don'ts of phone interviews

Common phone interview questions

At the end of the interview, you will likely be asked "do you have any questions for us?" ALWAYS ask a question. The worst possible response here is, "no." Ask about specific job tasks or their expectations of an ideal employee. You could also ask about the culture and dynamic of the office or work place. Whatever questions you may have, be certain of one thing: to ask them! (And no, this is not a time to inquire about vacation time or bonus packages.)

How to follow up

ALWAYS send a thank you: Immediately following the interview, take 15 minutes to type (or write) a simple thank you letter, making sure to address the interviewer by their name. Take the opportunity to remind the interviewer of your qualifications and ability to serve the position well.

When to call? If the interviewer provides you with a time frame, wait the entirety of that guideline plus one full week before contacting them. Calling beforehand could be perceived as eager or desperate.

Work Samples

"What work samples?" Deciding what to send to potential employers

  • Work samples should be brief, clear, and comprehensive material to prove you possess the major skills required for the position.
  • They should be self-explanatory, but also annotated when possible (you will likely not be present to answer questions about your work when employers review)
  • Select pieces you already have (unless the job requests fresh or new pieces) that suit the position. If it is for PR, submit a press release. The more applicable a sample is to the specific job, the better.
  • Often, employers are simply searching for proof of your ability to write well.
  • Before you begin the job search process, you should be prepared to provide at least three samples. Keep a collection on hard, in universal (pdf, rtf) format or hard copy (when submitting material by mail)

Online Portfolio

During a time of personal branding and persistent social media, there has been a growing prevalence of the personal professional website (also known as the online portfolio). It allows employers to quickly and easily view a showcase of your work, your ability, and your potential.

With social networking redefining the ways employers learn more about who you are and what you can do, it's also important to remember that your online activity shapes your portfolio as well. Make sure you're using it to your advantage and sending the right messages through your Linkedin and other professional social networking tools.

Smashing magazine and their universal tips for building an online portfolio

Online portfolios are available in a multitude of providers and communities. Take the time to examine some of the following, considering where your personality and job ambitions may fit, before starting the work on your own

The Behance Network (great for graphic designers, artists, and creative ad)

Coroflot (for all things visual)

CarbonMade (universal for all professions; works well if you are less experienced in web design or would like to stay away from more specific communities) For those who do not have a great deal of web design experience, Weebly provides a free hosting and clear instruction for the creation of up to two personal web pages (you can pay additional fees to license custom web addresses)

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