By Erik Kjer, News Editor Originally published in Issue 7, Volume 33 of The University Register on February 12, 2021
February brings with it many things: the Super Bowl, Valentines Day, National Frozen Yogurt Day (it was on the sixth this year), and students across the nation ripping their hair out trying to get hired. February is a popular month for application deadlines and the University Register spoke with Cindy Boe, Associate Director of Career Services at Morris.
“A lot of employers do have a lot of deadlines around this time of the semester,” Boe said. “Most employers are posting their positions in January in February and then they are interviewing in March and April and making those offers at the end of the semester.”
Finding employment opportunities that fit your skillset and interests are difficult, so we asked about useful strategies for finding positions.
“The best way to find internship opportunities that fit you is to first do what what I personally call double-sided research,” Boe said. “What I mean by that is doing some research on yourself and being able to say, ‘this is my goal.’ The first answer that comes to your mind might be, ‘I have no idea,’ but resist that urge and say what is it that you really want to ultimately learn. Think about the thing that you really want to learn and then brainstorm what companies might align with that goal.”
Career Services offers Goldpass: a website designed to connect students and recent graduates with employment opportunities. Keywords are typically a good place to start. For example, one student Boe helped was interested in using multilingual skills and liked working with children.
“We started searching keywords like ‘education,’ ‘teaching,’ things that were pulling jobs related to kids, so we started looking at the word development,” she said. This search produced a list of positions, but these can be expanded upon. “We were pulling words from these job descriptions and looking those up in Goldpass, but then you can take that list of keywords and you can go to larger job search engines like Indeed, or LinkedIn,” said Boe.
For those who are still having trouble finding positions to apply for, or want to interact more directly with employers, the University of Minnesota’s primary Job and Internship Fair is coming up soon, on February 25, and it’s particularly accessible this year.
“Normally we take some buses to the Twin Cities and we’re at the Minneapolis convention center and there’s hundreds and hundreds of people, but this year the event is virtual and so there’s no travel, there’s no out-of-pocket cost, you can still interact with employers directly, and you don’t even have to wait in line,” Boe said.
Those who are interested in attending the fair and seeing personalized internships and job offers can visit goldpass.umn.edu. Once you’ve found positions that you’re interested in, Boe offers some tips to put together a decent application.
“The benefit of writing a cover letter is that the employer gets to see your communication skills in another setting in addition to the resume,” she said. “The resume is a list of facts, it’s bullet points, it’s snapshots of your experience. The cover letter is full sentences you have the opportunity to tell a story behind your experience and to give them a little bit more context or information about who you are as a whole. If a position requires communication skills and you have a lot of experience and communication skills in several different contexts, you want to make sure that you’re using those same keywords. If they’re talking about communication, use that, if they’re talking about listening use that word. Think about how you can use communication words similar to communication on your resume just by changing keywords here and there in your resume. The first person to see your resume is actually a robot and the way that application tracking systems work is when that applicant tracking system sees or reads your resume, the input they’re given is that job description and the more you’re using those keywords in your resume the better. There’s this old-school [idea] and it still circulates on the internet about how you can copy and paste the entire job description into your resume in a text box and then put it in white font behind your resume. but the applicant tracking system can see through those little tricks.”
The interview ended with an interesting and important anecdote.
“A number of years ago I met with a student who popped by the career services office and was telling me how they were frustrated about their job search and they had applied to 300 positions and had not received an interview or a phone call or an email anything and I said, ‘Please come into my office; I want to find out what this is what’s going on,’ and so we had a conversation and found out that um they had never tailored their resume at all. They had sent a generic cover letter that did not refer to the specific company, that did not refer to their mission or values. Employers think you just want a job [but] you don’t want this job, and that can be off-putting for employers. So we had a conversation in my office - we talked about tailoring and we went over some of that, and I think they learned from that experience that it’s not always about quantity of applications, but it’s really about the effort that you put in. There is going to be rejection as part of this. You’re not going to get offered every job you apply for and the number can really vary.”
Photo on top courtesy of Tammy Roth