I hope this title caught your attention. You might think there is not much that you can do right now to help yourself in the search for a position upon which to build your career once your degree is conferred; or is there?
During my graduate education I thought that my major adviser was the one who also trained me on the nuances of navigating the maze to obtain that perfect position. While my adviser was helpful, in reflection, I used what I call the “brute force method.” In other words, I found my way to a career by learning all the job-seeking strategies myself, which was a lot of trial and error and not an effective use of my time.
When I was a graduate student, there were Career Service centers on my campus. However, being the mighty graduate student, I thought that was just for undergraduate students. I never thought that Career Services had anything to offer graduate students. Part of this is the notion among many students that Career Services only exist to link up potential graduates with those firms or entities hiring at that time for a particular occupation or skill set. This is only one aspect of Career Services. As Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, I have urged graduate students to use our Career Services center; but my wisdom has not had a far-reaching impact based on data collected by Career Services here at UMKC.
Why visit UMKC Career Services? The first and most important reason in my opinion is the development of a compelling resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Many students produce a resume, with good intentions, that is based on self-taught strategies or from examples of others. While this is not a complete waste of time, there are professionals in Career Services who can give you that extra edge. I recently learned that the first half of the resume is an important part that can be adapted for each application—feature your background and skills that match the positon to which you are applying. Gone are the days where a resume started with a general “career goal” statement. Bring in a draft resume to the Career Services center and have them review it for you. You will be surprised at how this will help your job search.
Another aspect is knowing what strengths you have to promote in your application. Don’t know your strengths? Then take the StrengthsQuest test for a nominal fee ranging from $12.50 to $20.00. This will list your top 5 talents, enabling you to play upon these strengths. Graduate students also can take the free Sigi3 or Journey online career assessments. Knowing your strengths is much more important and productive than spending time trying to change your weaknesses.
Learn how to write a compelling application letter. Don’t rehash what is in your resume. Emphasize transferable skills or those top skills from your StrengthsQuest results and tell your prospective employer how you can help their organization rather than how they can help you! Click here and scroll to the “Job Search Process” section on the Career Services website to see two sample CVs that include transferable skills.
Once you get your foot in the door, the journey to that first position is just the start. What about the interview? In my own experience of hiring people, I find the interview the critical aspect of success. Stated another way, some who do not have an offer or a second interview may have made critical errors in the interview process. Career Services offers mock interviews that all graduate students should experience BEFORE setting out on your own. Setting up an appointment with Career Services to practice interviewing helps you develop professional skills, soft skills, better communication, and most of all, develops your confidence in convincing a prospective employer that you are a good match.
Career Services is located on the second level of the Atterbury Student Success Center; phone number 816-235-1636. Looking back during my graduate student days, I wish I had known to use my own Career Services center. I encourage you to schedule an appointment to prepare now for your future career.