Published on November 10, 2017, at 12:38 p.m.
by Kirby Tifverman.
For many college students and recent graduates, the job search, application and interview process can seem daunting. Whether overwhelmed by choice or fear of the unknown, finding a full-time position can, at times, feel like an impossible task. However, job hunting can be a rewarding, learning experience if approached systematically and confidently.
Do the research
Like in any project, thorough research yields quality results. Make a few key decisions prior to job searching that will narrow the vast possibilities to a manageable list.
According to Paige Miller, program coordinator for The University of Alabama Women and Gender Resource Center , geographic location is a primary deciding factor when planning for postgraduate life. Personal preferences differ; some are drawn to a bustling metropolis like New York, but others choose smaller cities with growing job markets. Know yourself and your financial qualifications for a livable environment.
Miller facilitates the American Association of University Women Start Smart Workshops, designed to educate college women on the salary negotiation process. She says cost of living expenses vary greatly by location and should be considered before making a move or accepting a job.
“Do the research in the geographical area that you’re going to move to,” said Miller. “What you need to make in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to live is different than what you would need to make in New York City.”
After deciding on a location, public relations students then must select which sector of the industry piques their interest and best suits their skill sets. Three large umbrellas to consider are the agency, corporate and nonprofit career paths, which represent a variety of industries. Big or small, boutique firm or multimillion-dollar company, choose a work environment and sector that coincide with your personality yet encourage personal and professional growth.
Ultimately, a dream job looks different to everyone, and an entry-level position is the starting point for any career. If a position fits an individual’s location, sector and industry of choice, then it is a solid career baseline.
Know the realities
“In 2016, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid,” as reported by the AAUW. The difference in pay between American men and women is called the gender pay gap.
Elizabeth Bennett is a master’s student in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at The University of Alabama, a graduate teaching assistant and a former “People Leader” for Apple Inc.
In her position at Apple, Bennett “was responsible for hiring, staffing, building teams, training and development.” She believes the pay gap issue does not begin at the entry-level point but happens throughout a career. However, she found young women were the least likely to negotiate for salary or benefits when hired for a position with the company.
“People over the age of 30 with 10 years of work experience were the most likely to negotiate,” she said. “Women under the age of 27, or even 30, rarely ever tried to.”
Bennett stresses that a pay raise is not the only thing worth negotiating for in any role.
“At Apple, more than salary, stock options are a big negotiating piece,” Bennett said.
In an entry-level position, salary is often standard across the board. However, benefits — like vacation days, stock options and titles — could be fair game, especially if an employer is insistent on hiring you.
Miller urges applicants to wait to make their demands until there is a concrete job offer on the table. In the AAUW Start Smart workshops, participants are taught to negotiate only at the end of the interviewing process.
“When you have an offer is usually when you negotiate,” said Miller. “Sometimes employers may ask what you expect, but the best thing to do is wait until you have an offer.”
Determine your worth
Although Apple is a technology company, Bennett chose not to zero in on applicants with technology backgrounds exclusively. Instead, she focused on hiring individuals who possessed qualities which aligned with Apple’s corporate identity.
“I always wanted someone that wanted to help other people, that liked problem solving, that was adaptable to new environments and liked a fast pace,” Bennett said. “I liked a broad background of experience in applicants.”
Distinguish yourself as an applicant who aligns with both the culture and needs of a company. Know the unique skills and experiences that make you a marketable candidate. Be confident in your abilities and eloquent in your description of them. The best way to leave a positive impression with a potential employer is simply to “interview with confidence.”
Miller said, of the job application process, “You’re promoting yourself. So, what do you have to bring to the table, to this company, and to this job? Know your value.”