The goal of a college education is ultimately to get a job, so naturally your parents, grandparents, professors and anyone else who has had a part in your academic career are inclined to give you job-hunting tips. Though your elders clearly have great intentions in trying to help you out, you may want to be wary of the advice they give. Because of the age gap between our generation and theirs, the tips that worked for them years ago don’t necessarily apply anymore. Here are some the outdated pieces of advice you may hear from those a bit older than you, and what you should do instead to get ahead on those job and internship applications.
1. Go door-to-door looking for a position
When Northwestern University graduate Zara Wright was looking for summer jobs, adults gave her this tip. “Although it seemed outdated to me, I originally did take this advice because I was a job-hunting novice at the time,” she says. “It turned out that this process was not at all productive. Most businesses weren’t hiring (surprise, surprise), but asked me to fill out an application for their records anyway. I spent countless hours each day filling out applications that were never going to be seen.”
Instead of hitting the town to look for jobs, take your search online and save the time you’d otherwise spend visiting businesses without any available positions. “In today's world, where the Internet is such a useful resource, it makes far more sense to do the research from home to see what jobs are out there and apply to positions you know are open,” Zara says. Vicki Salemi, author of Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York City and founder of the Boot Camp for College Grads, says you can look at sites such as CareerBuilder, Monster and Indeed to find jobs. She recommends Indeed in particular because it aggregates job postings from a bunch of different sites. In a process that’s already daunting and tedious, you don’t want to waste any precious time!
2. State your intention to get a position on your resume
Your elders may advise you to start your resume off with an objective stating something like, "My goal is to obtain a position in such-and-such field." But Salemi doesn’t recommend this because the fact that you're applying for the position already implies that you'd like to obtain it.
Instead, at the top of the page, provide a summary of your knowledge and skills relevant to the job, Salemi says. In other words, don’t just say you want a position; tell the employer why you’d be good for it! For example, your objective can give a broad overview of your experience in the field and touch on the personal attributes you possess that would make you a great candidate, such as a strong work ethic, organizational skills or the ability to multitask.
“Tell me something as a recruiter that I need to know, says Alice Harra, the former interim director of University Career Services at Northwestern University and a former corporate recruiter. She suggests you write something like: "Five years experience in award-winning customer service, and looking forward to making all your customers smile as a Customer Service rep for XYZ. Happy to relocate." These general tidbits will serve as a nice lead into the more specific skills you highlight further down the page, making for a fluid resume that's sure to impress.
3. Put everything you’ve ever done on your resume to highlight every accomplishment
Instead of listing every one of your life accomplishments on your resume, Salemi says to keep it down to one page. But with all of your academic awards, extracurricular activities and community service projects, how can you manage this?
Cut out anything that you weren't involved with for a significant amount of time, as short stints in organizations display a lack of commitment. Highlight organizations where you held a leadership position. Also, nix anything you've taken part in that didn't involve skills relevant to the job you're seeking.
Cutting down your resume is important in helping you get to the next round of the application process. With an increasingly competitive job market and so many applications to read, recruiters are not going to sift through a 10-page document. In fact, Harra says recruiters don’t even spend much time looking at resumes, and eliminate those that are too long right away.
“As a former corporate recruiter, I looked at a resume for 10 to 20 seconds, rarely more,” Harra says. “I have checked this with every corporate recruiter and have never met one who reads a resume for more than 30 seconds. In fact, we don't read resumes; we scan them. A long one is immediately discarded. It means you don't know what you want to say, so you said everything. “
Harra says that ultimately, your resume isn’t supposed to be your life story. “Think of your resume as an invitation to call you, not your biography, she says. “Say just enough about the who, what, when, where and why in your experience so that the recruiter can make a match with the position they are recruiting for and be curious enough to ask you for a phone screen or interview.”
The phone call or in-person interview is when a recruiter will really get to know you, so you’ll have an opportunity to share more about your experiences during that part of the application process. If you take these considerations to heart and be selective with what you include on your resume, you'll be sure to keep it short, sweet and easy to read (or scan!).
4. Include your address and home phone number on your resume and cover letter
This may have been appropriate for the days when snail mail was the main mode of communication and cell phones didn't exist. In this day and age, however, calling your home phone and mailing a letter to your home address are probably not the quickest or easiest ways to reach you, especially when you're not likely to be home much anymore!
"Include your contact information that's easily accessible," Salemi says. "The address certainly isn't necessary nor relevant; if you're looking for an out-of-state job, you don't want to be immediately dismissed by the recruiter in case they think, 'Oh, they'll never move.' They should be thinking about whether or not you're qualified for the job, but sometimes other factors come into play that could potentially dismiss you as a candidate, so you're better off leaving it off."
In today's job search process, you should typically include your cell phone number and email address on your resume and cover letter to ensure you're as reachable as possible. Do make sure your email address sounds professional, though; “email@example.com” just won’t cut it, Harra says. Also, if you have a personal website showcasing your work, provide a link to that on your resume as well so employers can easily see firsthand what you’ve accomplished. Harra also says to provide links to your LinkedIn and Twitter pages if your posts are relevant to your professional life.
You’re growing up and entering the real world, so you shouldn't have Mom and Dad be fielding your calls and mail!
5. Don’t experiment with design on your resume and cover letter
Many of your elders may be apt to tell you to always keep your resume black and white. Aubrey Nagle, a Drexel University senior and the Campus Correspondent for Drexel’s chapter of Her Campus, heard that advice during a career class she took in preparation for her co-op. “Such a variety of students and majors, both traditional and creative, go to Drexel that I was shocked we were told to keep our resumes plain when looking for co-ops,” Nagle says.
Instead of immediately opting for black and white, you should tailor your resume and cover letter to the jobs for which you’re applying. If you’re looking to land a position that doesn’t entail any sort of web or graphic design, then feel free to keep a black-and-white look with standard fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial. Salemi says there’s nothing wrong with giving your resume a basic appearance.
But if you’re looking to snag a creative gig, Salemi says you can definitely add in some pizzazz. This will help showcase your skills in the application itself. And even if you’re looking for a different type of position, it still doesn’t hurt to spice up your application to make it pop! Nagle did just that, and she says it helped her obtain a number of positions. “In a sea of same-old, same-old, nothing stands out like a punch of color!” she says.
If you do decide to spruce up your app.ication, make sure you choose colors, fonts and spacing settings that won’t reduce readability. And if you’re submitting your documents to an online application system, save them as PDF files in order to preserve their presentation. To mock up fabulous resumes and cover letters, Adobe’s InDesign is a fantastic resource if you have it on hand or can access it at your school.
But regardless of whether you choose to keep a traditional resume format or go for something bolder, Harra says to remember that the content you include is still more important than presentation. “What is special about you? What can you deliver to your future employer and the world? That is what should pop on your resume, not your font, color choice or layout,” she says.
6. Mail in your application
You may hear from parents, grandparents and professors that employers love hard copies of applications, and for some, this may be true. But at many companies, you’ll have to apply online anyway—Harra says potential employees had to submit their applications to a digital system even when they mailed them or dropped them off—so make sure you get that done. Online submissions allow companies to keep applications organized and easily maintain digital copies of your materials in case anything gets lost. Plus, it’s also easy for you to confirm that all of your documents were properly submitted. After all, there’s nothing worse than finding out your application was lost in the mail or a pile of papers!
7. Don't put your personal information online
Many members of older generations consider the Internet a vast abyss of information that could potentially get you in trouble. While this certainly could happen, you shouldn’t avoid it entirely—but you should still make every effort to keep up a professional social media presence.
Maintain an updated profile on LinkedIn to make your accomplishments more visible to potential employers. Harra also suggests perusing LinkedIn groups in your field to look for job opportunities that appeal to you. “Go to where the people who are doing the job that you want to be doing are and interact with them,” she says. Social media makes this incredibly easy to do!
You can also constructively increase your online presence by creating a personal website. Your website should include a brief summary about yourself, samples of any work you’ve done in your chosen field, a downloadable resume and your contact information. You can create a site for free with WordPress or Wix. If you need help laying out your personal site, take a web design class, ask for help from a web-savvy friend, chat with your school’s career center or check out Her Campus’s tips for making one!
But even with these professional kinds of online visibility, you obviously still have a personal life that’s likely to be at least partly documented on the Internet. Your elders are right in telling you that the wrong information could get you in trouble (regardless of how private you think it is), so be wary of what you post, the photos you’re tagged in, the pages you like and the people you interact with. Polish your online profiles by nixing photos containing alcohol or where you show too much skin, and refrain from writing obscenities in your posts. You can also use a website like SimpleWash to find and delete unprofessional content on your social media profiles. If you don’t want your parents to see it, then it probably shouldn’t be online.
8. If you’re patient enough, the right position will come along
Wouldn’t it be nice if your parents’ belief in you was enough to get you what you wanted? In a competitive job market like that of today, you’ll never find a position you love if you wait around. “Initiative is a key skill for lifelong success,” Harra says. While you don’t want to badger a recruiter, she says, you should still get in touch periodically and ask for pointers for the future if you didn’t receive the position. Harra says to be sure to also keep the recruiter updated on any more experience you’ve gained and obtain information on networking events and opportunities.
If you don’t get the job of your dreams right off the bat, don’t give up! Show off your tenacity and enthusiasm about a company by maintaining contact and emphasizing your new skills. If you don’t take the initiative to make this information known, you’ll never stand out to a recruiter.
An increasingly competitive job market has made for a different job application process that older generations may just not understand. But if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be able to steer clear of outdated advice and make your job search as easy, efficient and successful as possible. Happy hunting!