When Job Hunting, What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

By McBride, Pamela M. | Diversity Employers, February 2001 | Go to article overview
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When Job Hunting, What You Don't Know Can Hurt You


McBride, Pamela M., Diversity Employers


Knowledge is power---that's why you opted to go to college isn't it? Financial power, professional power, and power to get the job you want. But even though you'll have a degree and the job market is in your favor, there're still some things you need to know to get a job by commencement. Despite the presumed tediousness of self-exploration it can't be worse than being in a job you don't like. So buckle down and get to know yourself before you go any further. Although it may sound simplistic, conducting a thorough self-assessment now, will pay off later.

Take a close look at your values, interests, skills, and personality. Most school career centers administer assessment instruments like Career Values Card Sorts, the Strong Interest Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and others to help you determine where to start. Next, based upon what you learn or confirm about yourself, decide, commit to and write down at least one career goal and job objective, neither of which has to be written in stone. Mary Spencer, associate director of Placement at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, suggests using the career life plan assessment tool to help develop short and long-term goals and the steps you need to take to accomplish them.

Explore the world of work by experiencing it. "This can be accomplished through internships, doing volunteer work and getting involved in student chapters of professional organizations," notes Spencer. The results? You can learn first-hand whether the field is right for you and gain networking contacts. Furthermore, whether you decide to stick with or make adjustments in your career goals and job objectives, you will still have valuable work experience for your resume. Remember, it's as important to decide what you don't want to do, as it is to decide what you do want to do. But, it all begins with getting to know yourself.

Know Your Market

In addition to knowing what you want, it is critical to understand different aspects of the job market and how its conditions will affect your job search. Effective research will help you uncover what employers really want, and thus enable you to market yourself more effectively. Ultimately, you will be in the position to make satisfying career decisions, if you know what you're up against. For example, today's dynamic work force presents challenges as well as opportunities for the well informed. In general, current reports show an abundance of job openings and a low unemployment rate. Specifically for 2001 African-American college graduates, the market is excellent, yet extremely competitive.

"Employers are aggressively seeking to develop a diverse work force. Many are concerned about not being able to meet their hiring needs with enough qualified minority candidates, therefore multiple offers are possible," predicts Spencer. "But, remember graduates, no matter how good the job market is or how great the employer need, they are still being selective in who they hire," she warns. So, how will you know what specific employers are looking for? Again, research is the key. Employer Web sites have annual reports, press releases, job descriptions and salary ranges, which can give you insight on how to market yourself for that particular work place. Then, tailor your resume to demonstrate how well you fit their needs.

Jovon Smith, a June 2000 graduate of Santa Clara University, relocated to Los Angeles from Pennsylvania because her market research uncovered a multitude of job opportunities for marketing majors there. The tons of job listings on the Internet indicated which skills to highlight on her resume and how much employers were willing to pay for them. Based on those criteria and the cost of living in LA, (which she also learned about through market research) she applied only for those jobs that would compensate her fairly.

Efficiency Doesn't Happen by Accident

Just like professors write out syllabi and students outline research papers, job hunters must have a plan.

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