Some things, like wine and Betty White, get better with age, but in today’s job market, students cannot expect their worth to increase simply with time.
With a 7.4% unemployment rate, competition for jobs is fierce and that means students need to up their game. If you’re looking for a job, you need to stand out from the crowd.
If you’re lucky enough to have a job, you need to prove that you deserve to keep it.
But as a new employee (or a prospective hire), how do you increase your value to employers?
Christine Lucy, a director with Robert Half staffing services, says there are a number of ways that students can shine both in the hiring process and once they’ve got the job. As a hiring manager, she says she always looks for “the person that goes above and beyond.”
Getting the job
In the school yard, when captains choose teams for baseball, the superstars are always the ones who get picked first. When applying to jobs, take a lesson from schoolyard picks and make yourself an all-star applicant.
Everyone submits a resume and cover letter, but according to Lucy, things like careful editing, tailored cover letters and demonstrating knowledge of the company you’re applying to can get your application to the top of the stack.
Student hires also need to make sure they look good online, not just on paper, she says. While a lot of press focuses on how your online presence can hurt your job prospects, Lucy says having a strong, professional online presence can really help “highlight you.” Starting a blog to discussing issues pertinent to your industry and creating a professional profile or personal website can all help make your Google results a hit with employers.
Keeping the job
Once you’ve made the team, it’s time to prove that you’re the MVP – most valuable professional.
Dress the part and be professional. You may be like, the youngest, like, person in the office, but polishing your communications skills can like, go a long way. Dropping “like,” “y’know” and other slang from your vocabulary will help you seem more professional and make sure employers take you seriously.
If there is an opportunity for you to get in the game, take it. Offer suggestions, participate in group meetings and volunteer for assignments. “Keep your eyes and ears open so you can get increased exposure to different duties so you can be more valuable to your employer,” says Lucy.
Be respectful of your employer and get to know the company culture. Do people listen to their iPods in the office or is that considered rude? Do people take long lunch breaks or do they eat at their desks? “Networking with other employees will help you get a big picture view of the corporate culture which also helps to make you a valuable employee,” says Lucy. “You’re not as likely to make missteps if you have an understanding of how things work in the company.”
Finally, as my hippie kindergarten teacher once told me, “never stop growing and improving.” Ask your employers for feedback on your performance. Not only will it show that you’re dedicated to doing your job well, but it will demonstrate that you can take constructive criticism.
“You want to be the person that’s positioned to take that next career step” says Lucy, “all those things, right out of the gate, can go a long way to making a lasting good impression.”
Photo credit: Superman frente al espejo by Greenog