Make 2017 your best career year yet!

Networking events are a great opportunity to discuss how your career acheivements can benefit others. (Photo courtesy ASU Alumni Association)

 

As another semester comes to an end at ASU, another graduating class enters the “real world.” While many recent graduates are brimming with excitement over the chapter ahead, there can often be a sense of uncertainty and overwhelming feelings regarding finding that first job or beginning a career.

One tool new or seasoned Sun Devil alumni can use to boost their professional acumen is the ASU Alumni Career Services program, which last year served more than 1,500 graduates through a mix of in-person and virtual/online services, including networking mixers, alumni webinars, virtual career fairs, online career coaching chats and a career newsletter.

I recently chatted with Katherine Perez, a program coordinator for ASU Alumni Career Services, to discuss the importance of understanding career management and job hunting as a new graduate, how to be successful when a job opportunity arises, and what ASU Alumni Career Services offers to alumni to help with their success.

Do you think alumni often underestimate the importance of their accomplishments on the job? What sorts of achievements should alumni be taking note of?

Yes, this lack of understanding is often demonstrated in their resumes. Alumni often list task or job duties on their resume, instead of thinking about transferrable skills. Instead, they should focus on emphasizing skills they learned in a current position that can be transferred to a new one and on what they have learned that can be applied to a future position.

What are some ways that alumni can keep track of and showcase the professional accomplishments they’ve achieved in 2016?

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for this goal. Alumni can showcase their professional accomplishments from 2016 by constantly building their LinkedIn profile. They can also be active on LinkedIn by joining relevant groups, posting updates about their work, and chiming in on discussions.

Another way to keep current on your professional accomplishments is to make sure your resume always reflects new transferable skills you have attained, and by staying in touch with the resume trends. It’s also important to share your new accomplishments with the world by attending networking events, both in-person and online, and connecting with people to demonstrate what achievements you’ve have attained and how that can benefit others.

How can alums take their career “wins” from 2016 and work them into responses during job interviews in 2017?

The best way to demonstrate “wins” from 2016 during an interview would be to figure out how they provide satisfying answers to behavior-based questions, which often fall under the categories of leadership, teamwork, conflict, perseverance, time management, goal setting, problem solving, organization, changing direction, and success.

Once you’ve identified which categories your “wins” story might fall into, you can work on telling an interviewer about it using the STAR formula, which can be broken down like this: 

  • Situation – Provide enough background information so the interviewer can understand what is taking place and what category you are answering.
  • Task – Identify the task assigned that took place.
  • Action – Describe your actions and why you chose them.
  • Result – Tell the interviewer how the situation was resolved.

 Many alums spend too much time on the situation and not enough on the result. Make sure you focus on your actions and how they influenced the ultimate result!

Why do interviewers often ask so much about professional accomplishments, and less about education or training?  

Because the best predictor of the future is the past. Interviewers ask about past experiences to make an educated judgment about how successful you will be in the new position. Sun Devils want to clearly articulate their accomplishments during interviews using the STAR method so employers can understand how their past experience will help them on the job.

How can readers prepare for 2017 as far as career development is concerned? Do you have any advice for being proactive in terms of tracking career accomplishments?

So many alumni don’t stay on top of their resumes. They only touch them when they find themselves applying for a new job. Touching up your resume should be habit. Take time to look at it once in a while and add items so when you do need it you aren’t overwhelmed with editing and keeping up with the recent resume trends.

Becoming an active LinkedIn participant also helps immensely. You can start by constantly posting updates to the platform and adding information to your profile related to projects and accomplishments. You can also use LinkedIn to keep current in your field and stay informed on other fields of interest.

Creating an e-portfolio is another proactive way to showcase your expertise. Employers are finding more and more candidates through “social search” (searching on Google and in social media to find qualified leads), so why not have some control over what comes up when your name is typed into Google? E-portfolios demonstrate creativity and initiative, which are traits than nearly all companies cherish.

LinkedIn is a great platform from which to proactively manage your career. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

 

What are some common missteps that you see among alumni that you work with at Career Services? How can these mistakes be avoided?

One of the most common missteps is having a blanket resume for all job applications, versus customizing one’s resume for each position applied for. It is a full-time job applying for full-time positions! You want to find those jobs and companies that you are really interested and can see yourself working for and dedicate time to that application process. It is exhausting, but it pays off. You want to demonstrate your interest and dedication to a company and that’s how you do it!

Another misstep we see is an alumni job-seeker not thoroughly researching the organization before they submit their application, or going into an interview knowing next to nothing about the company. You want to know who you will be working for, what it takes to work for that company, and if the position aligns with your values. You aren’t only applying to see if you fit with them, but also if they fit with you. Another bonus for doing your research on the company is that it can give you great confidence, because you understand both what the company’s needs are and what parts of your work experience can meet those needs.

The ASU Interview Stream application is a high-tech way to practice your job interview skills and receive expert feedback!

 

What is a positive step that alumni could take between now and the end of 2016 that could improve their performance in job interviews?

Practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing! Alums should focus on understanding and successfully answering the types of questions that are asked during interviews.

A good way to do this is by utilizing Interview Stream, an online resource provided by University Career Resources to help Sun Devils nail their interview skills. You can choose from one of our three pre-made interviews to receive feedback from one of our professional career advisors, or select a pre-defined question set designed for you. There’s even a mobile app if you want to practice on the go!

You can access Interview Stream at https://asu.interviewstream.com. Be sure to sign up using your asu.edu email address!

 

~ Katie Woo, communications assistant, ASU Alumni Association

 

  P.S. For more information on ASU Alumni Career Services, visit their website.