Some arrived in starched shirts and dress-for-success business suits. Others wore T-shirts and sneakers, schlepping their bulky backpacks. No matter how crisp or crumpled their attire, the students lining up at UCD’s main gym last week shared a common ambition: To up their chances of landing that first college internship or post-college job.
More than 160 UCD students showed up as LinkedIn, the online professional networking and résumé site, brought its first-ever campus outreach event to Davis. The company sent 20 employees from its Mountain View headquarters to host a free evening session that included mock interviews with hiring managers and recruiters from companies such as Sutter Health and Chevron; tips and “makeovers” of students’ LinkedIn profiles, and professional headshot photos useable for online résumés.
Aaron Zheng, a 19-year-old freshman majoring in managerial economics, came partly for the free suit-and-tie profile photo. But the San Jose resident said his LinkedIn profile had already come in handy, when interviewing for a summer internship in banking. Several hiring managers, he said, “stressed my LinkedIn résumé even more than my (paper) résumé.” And more encouraging, several days after the interview, he noticed that several “HR (human resources) people had viewed my profile.”
As colleges and universities get ready to launch their 2015 class of graduates into the working world, many students are seeking any advantage they can find to land that first job or internship.
Leonela Carriedo, a graduate student who will earn her Ph.D. in plant biology in December, said she wanted a one-on-one assessment of her profile. The Tennessee resident said between classes and schoolwork, there’s little time to devote to her online presence.
She picked up several tips during her profile makeover. Among them: To use the same keywords in her personal statement as are found in job applications, so that employers and recruiters might find her online profile more easily. (In her case, as someone who wants a job as a business liaison, that would be “project manager” and “team building.”)
At these makeover sessions, students were advised to: Flesh out their personal profiles with blog postings and videos. Use work experience – even a Starbucks-type customer service job – to list skills that can translate to a workplace: time management, meeting deadlines, handling difficult customers and peers. Add specific courses, class projects and videos that show a personal side and deeper interests.
“Your profile should be about your professional goals but also be about what you do day to day, to add the color to who you are as a professional,” said Julie Inouye, a LinkedIn corporate communications director. She recommended, for instance, that students mention “their passion projects, like hackathons.”
Many in the class of 2015 are already ahead of their peers from just a few years ago, when the recession dimmed prospects for many graduates.
With the economy perking up, employers plan to hire 9.6 percent more 2015 graduates compared with last year’s graduating class, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Local campuses such as UCD and California State University, Sacramento, are already seeing the difference.
“It’s like night and day,” said Marcie Kirk Holland, director of UCD’s internship and career center. “It feels like we really have turned the corner.” The number of job and internship postings has gone up 20 percent from this time last year, she said. Overall, UCD will likely have more than 15,000 postings by year’s end, she said.
Earlier this month, UCD’s most recent campus career fair broke a record, Kirk Holland said, for the largest turnout: 2,000 students and 155 employers, including firms in financial services, solar, agriculture, technology, insurance and state agencies. And far from offering summer-camp positions or merely showing up to save a spot on campus, Kirk Holland said, this year’s crop of employers is actively recruiting.
Similarly, CSUS interim career center director Brigitte Clark said she had to cut off the number of participating employers at a February career fair at115 because of space limitations. “In 2008-09, we were lucky if we could get maybe 60 or 70 employers. But this year, we had a waiting list.”
LinkedIn officials say they chose UC Davis for their first large university outreach event because of its diverse mix of majors, from agriculture to sciences, liberal arts to business and marketing.
“Students are one of our fastest-growing demographics,” said Crystal Braswell, LinkedIn’s manager of corporate communications. Of the company’s 347 million users in 200 countries, she said, about 40 million are students. LinkedIn, which recently lowered its minimum age to 14, has been placing more emphasis on making its site more welcoming to students.
The company has added features like University Finder, where you can type in a desired job to find the best universities to prepare you for it, and Alumni Pages, where graduates can network with alums in the working world.
Last week, LinkedIn also sent employees to CSUS, where they did a scaled-back version of the UCD event.
Do campus officials have any concerns about leaning too much into LinkedIn’s services? Not at all.
“We want students to look at their professional fingerprint online, and that’s what LinkedIn does. It helps them move from Facebook to something that’s a more professional form of social media,“ said UCD’s Kirk Holland.
Noting LinkedIn’s pervasive presence, “We’d be doing our students a disservice if we didn’t teach them as much as possible to use all the resources available.”
Carriedo, the sixth-year graduate student, said she figures her LinkedIn profile is like having “a master résumé of everything you’ve done all in one place.”
A paper résumé? “I don’t know who would do that anymore,” she said. “It’s really old-school.”
Don’t be unprepared
Whether it’s a job interview or a career fair, go in prepared.
“The more they know about a company, the better questions they can ask,” said CSUS’s Clark.
For instance, she said, look at the list of employers coming to a career fair. Pick 10 or 12 you want to target. Google the company’s name to do a little advance research on its new programs, initiatives or newsworthy mentions.
“Come in and say ‘I noticed this on your website. I saw the campaign you’re working on. Tell me more about it.’ It’s instant rapport and lets the recruiter know you’re genuinely interested,” she said.
And it’s far better than “walking up to the employer’s table and saying ‘What jobs do you have?’ ” she said. “Employers hate that.”
On Friday, CSUS is hosting its second annual summer internship fair with about 25 companies, including health care, insurance, county governments, nonprofits and the Sacramento Kings.
“Internships are a high-impact practice,” said Clark, citing studies about the connection between internships and careers. “Students who engage (in internships) are more likely to connect with their major, more likely to persist on to graduate and ... more likely to get the edge to land a great job.”
Networking, no matter where it occurs, helps, too. Over half the jobs aren’t found through an online posting, but from word of mouth, Clark noted. Students should be in a professional association related to their major, so they can attend events and get to know people in their field. Going to mixers for young professionals, like the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce Metro EDGE, also can be helpful, she said.
Above all, it’s a process, Clark said. “There isn’t a (handout) at the end of graduation on how to get a job. It’s networking, knowing who you are, (identifying) your strengths, talents, abilities, values. If you do those, you will find and land a job.”
Call The Bee’s Claudia Buck at (916) 321-1968 or read her Personal Finance columns at sacbee.com/claudiabuck.
Some resources recommended by college career offices:
GlassDoor.com – Lists company profiles, salaries, interview questions and reviews by applicants for thousands of companies.
ONETOnline.org – Created by the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s a deep database of occupations and career search tools.
YouTube – Search for “Day in the Life”-type videos of varied professions, everything from nurse practitioners to marketing managers.
BLS.gov – Under its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has details on median pay, job requirements, hiring outlooks and informational videos on jobs by industry.
Job Hunting Do’s & Don’ts
1. Do leverage your campus career center for interviewing tips, job openings, résumé help.
2. Don’t rely solely on the Internet. Build a network of contacts with alumni and contacts at companies where you’d like to work.
3. Do reach out to friends and family; let them know you’re job hunting. Ask for references or informational interviews at their companies.
4. Don’t show up late or dress too casually for first interviews. Generally, dress a notch or two above what the job requires.
5. Do follow up an interview with a personal thank-you note or email.
6. Don’t leave embarrassing footprints on social media. Google yourself to see what pops up. Clear out offending posts and photos.
7. Do be visible; use sites like LinkedIn to add videos and blog posts that highlight your interests, personally and professionally.
Sources: Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com