Getting from College to the Real World- The Basics

Presentation I Gave to a Senior Arts Class 
Dream Job Exit Sign

As many of you know graduation is right around the corner! The next chapter of your life is beginning and it’s exciting and scary all rolled into one.  Do you feel ready? What are your goals? What type of jobs are you looking for?

One of the best ways to find a job depends upon your ability to network.  Networking accounts for 70-80% of jobs today. So start talking! It’s not just about talking; it’s about what you say.

Do you have a 30 seconds about me prepared? How do you introduce yourself? How you present yourself is HUGE and first impressions count!

If you are able to know and understand your audience, then you can successfully market yourself. In the book, BRAG, The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, Peggy Klaus discusses brag bites and bragologues. The purpose of them is for you to be able to discuss your goals, interests, and accomplishments in a story like manner. It’s important that you are always ready to brag. Brooks Harper, author and speaker says that every day is an interview and it’s true because you never know who you are going to meet.

Another way to network is to utilize LinkedIn!  It’s a wonderful tool that helps you find jobs, connect to other people in your field, and stay informed about your career field of interest. One of my coworkers got her job because of her Linkedin profile.  It’s a very professional website.  It’s easy to set up and easy to use- it’s a great way to communicate with others in your field in your city and state.

Volunteering can be another way to meet others and connect with them. Employers love to see that potential candidates have consistent volunteer experience. Make sure to volunteer in an area of your interest and to add it to your resume. You never know where or what volunteering can lead to especially in the arts field where so many opportunities are volunteer-based.

These are all general job search strategies; let’s get more specific to the arts.  For those interested in non-profit go to You can join for free and post a bio about yourself related to your work. You can find internships and volunteer experiences.  Americans for the Arts is another non-profit organization that lists available jobs. They also have an organization entitled, Young Arts Professionals- it does cost to join both organizations. Searching for jobs and posting your resume is free! Creative Hotlist is another website to search for jobs and post your resume. USAJOBS is where you can search for jobs by state or occupation. These are just a few.

Once you’ve found a job that you are interested in, you have to have an all impressive resume.  Resumes are not a one size fits all. There are basic elements needed in a resume.   Use keywords from the job description in your resume. Many companies use an Applicant Tracking System to weed out resumes that do not have enough keywords before an actual person sees them. The format needs to be clean and easy to read. There needs to be white space and 1 inch margins all around. For each heading, you don’t need more than 6 bullets to talk about the experience. All the important information needs to be at the top 1/3 of the page. This is the portion that gets scanned by the reader. Use quantifiers in your descriptions, people pay attention to numbers. Use a profile summary, not an objective. You need a separate reference page. Be consistent throughout your resume as far as font, size, and bullets. Tailor your resume to the position. Lead with results, include your LinkedIn profile link if you have one, and don’t use repetition on your resume, get a thesaurus. Your resume needs to tell a story about who you are professionally.  Another piece to the puzzle of obtaining a job is the cover letter.  The truth is, no one enjoys writing a cover letter, and it’s the wicked stepmother or odd relative to the resume. No one understands them. The most important element of a cover letter is to explain that you know about the company- what they do, what they stand for, and how you are a good fit for them.  You are selling yourself, but in a way that shows that you care about the organization, not just about yourself. You do want to share your experiences, but always connect it to how it will help the organization.

Resumes get you an interview, but an interview can get you a job.  Peggy Klaus says that an interview is one of the best times to brag about yourself, it’s where you bring your resume to life.  You need to have concrete, specific examples and stories to share. Brooks Harper who wrote “Why Should We Hire You said “That’s all interviewing is: Telling your story in a manner that persuades someone to hire you.”   Practice for your interview with your career coach or a trusted friend.  Video yourself practicing, from experience I can tell you that you will notice things you don’t notice when practicing in the mirror.    During an interview, you are being looked at from the minute you walk in until you exit the parking lot. Be sure to make a good positive impression by dressing properly, arriving at least 15 minutes earlier and being confident and kind.  Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Pay attention the way people are dressed at your interview, always ere on the more conservative side even if it’s a more casual place.  Stick to neutral tones such as black, navy, gray, white, and khaki, bright colors can be distracting.   There are 4 types of questions that interviewers typically ask:  straightforward, behavioral type questions, situational, and brainteasers.  If you understand what the questions are really asking, you will be better prepared to answer. Many people make the mistake of not answering the question that was asked or being vague in their answers.  Remember to use the STAR method when answering questions, describe the situation, the task, the action taken, and the results.  Employers want to see that you can get results and solve problems.  Be sure that you have at least 2-3 questions to ask the employer that are about the job- what are the immediate goals for someone in this position, what is the typical day like in this position, ask questions that show you are interested in the position and the company.  At the end of the interview be gracious, say thank you and within 24-48 hours send a snail mail thank you letter.

Graduation is an exciting time and the next chapter in your story is about to begin. As you prepare, be sure you are networking with people in your industry, volunteering, and doing all you can to find a job that you want and will be excited about. You are on your way!


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