Tips for Career Readiness

This past week, recent REL grad, Khara Cole (who works for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama), returned to Manly Hall to offer a workshop on careers, resumes, and interview tips. Khara, having graduated from UA in 2013 with a degree in Public Relations and Religious Studies, had a lot to say on the skills she acquired while getting those degrees, and how one can effectively discuss and employ those skills when preparing for a career outside the study of religion. Additionally, Khara gave great advice on how to stand out to employers before, during, and after the interview process.

Here are some of the main take-aways from her REL Careers Workshop…

1. Make use of LinkedIn

Although this website may not be considered the most relevant by students who are not out in the “real world” yet, Khara swears by this site as an amazing tool for job hunting, professional development, and career networking. Creating a profile and updating it regularly can be incredibly beneficial for future job opportunities and professional connections. As she phrased it, “recruiters use this site.”

2. Show up with a hard copy in hand

Even in this digital age, there is value in bringing a hard copy of your resume to a job interview. Perhaps the very reason you’re at the interview is through LinkedIn or another online portal where the interviewer has likely already seen and reviewed your resume. Regardless, Khara advises that you bring a hard copy to leave in the hands of the interviewer, as this not only shows preparation, but it gives them something to remember you by. As your resume sits on their desk, it may remind them that you are the right one for the job!

3. Do your homework

There is a very good chance that, prior to meeting for a job interview, your potential employer has already googled you, looking for any green or red flags that may be on the web. In the interview, they will likely ask you questions which they already know the answer to, all from searching you beforehand. You should show up equally prepared with knowledge of them and the company/organization! What does this company really do, who are the bosses, what is their mission statement? If these topics come up during the interview, you can show initiative and interest by having some background knowledge on the organization and the people you may be working with.

4. Personalize your resume

While HR departments and employers may look through dozens (or maybe hundreds!) of resume’s per opening, they may all start to run together. To set yourself apart, Khara suggests personalizing your resume with unique touches, such as a subtle addition of color that fits with the company’s main logo/identity, or using a professional template that doesn’t look like the traditional resume (just don’t go too crazy!) If dropping off a hard copy resume in person, consider using classy resume paper. You’re trying to convey that you pay attention to the details and go the extra mile.

5. Come prepared

If in a job interview (or even after getting a job, and are in a meeting) where you are giving a presentation, always bring backup hard copies of everything you may need! Technology can be finicky and if, for instance, you’re preparing a Power Point presentation, never leave home without paper copies of the slides to read from. If you’re planning on distributing handouts to those in the meeting, make sure to bring plenty of copies. You never know what may go wrong at the worst possible moment, but being extra prepared will save you in dire situations. (Plus, showing up prepared for the worst will demonstrate that you’re someone who thinks ahead and is dependable — and that you’re ready to put out fires.)

6. Ask questions

In every interview that I have ever been in, I have been asked by the interviewer at the end, “What questions do you have for me?” I am always at a loss and taken off guard, so I usually ask nothing; Khara suggests silence at a time like this isn’t a good idea, and so she offered many great ideas, such as…

– “What do you every day?” or “What would a normal day look like for me in this position?”
– “What time do you usually get here in the morning and leave in the evening?”
– “Are there opportunities for me to move up in the company?”
– “What type of person (or personality) best fits this role?”

Asking questions such as these shows interest in the job and willingness to voice your thoughts or concerns — it demonstrates how you work in groups and makes clear that you’re not just passive or on the receiving end of queries but are prepared to take the lead when necessary.

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