As a college student, you are already developing yourself into the ideal candidate for your future career field. But as you add the know-how and skills to your toolkit, you should start thinking about other ways to put your professionalism and readiness in the spotlight. The next step after your education is starting your career. Before you can jump into your first job, you’ll need to prepare for your interview. So let’s talk about 5 ways you can get ready for the next stage of your career!
1. Take care of the classics
First let’s cover our basics. As a Southern Miss student, you’re already earning the credentials, so don’t sell yourself short when you show up for the interview. Dress appropriately, have everything you need for the interview, be on time–scratch that, be early.
As you get ready, make sure that you have everything you need. If you have been asked to bring a portfolio, make sure you have it with you, and you have all the pieces together. Being prepared and on time is the best way to set a positive first impression for yourself. When you are preparing your resume, make sure you don’t use a template. Make it special to you, for this specific job.
2. Preparation will put you ahead
Do your homework! You’re already in that mode, so why not take advantage of it. Research the position you’re applying for. Of course, you know what you’re getting into with your education, but take this time to really look into what the position does so you’ll be prepared to answer specific questions about it. Give yourself the opportunity to think about what you’ve already done and be ready to put that experience in the context of the job you’re after.
While you’re at it, research the company you’re interviewing with. Mainly this will make you aware of the company’s views and goals and give you a chance to make sure you’re a good fit. That alone could be a determining factor for your decision to work with the company. This will also give you a mindset of what the company is looking for with their employees, and you’ll be able to highlight the aspects of your skills and personality that align with the company’s.
Next, practice your interview. The best way to be prepared is to put yourself on the spot. Have your friends ask you specific questions for the job and give real answers. Another helpful strategy is to create an elevator statement for yourself, a quick 60-second pitch for why you’re the best candidate for the job. That way when you’re asked during the interview, you’ll be ready.
3. The Interview doesn’t have to be scary
It’s the big day! If you’ve done your prep, there’s no need to be nervous. You know what to expect, you know you’re prepared, and you know you can do the job, so be confident! So let’s talk about things you can do to help you stand out during the interview.
What makes a good interview?
Think of it as a conversation (but stay professional). Use your hands, speak excitedly, show your passion for the field. Nothing is more appealing than someone excited to take the position. Don’t forget to make eye contact. If you’re interviewing virtually, look at the camera instead of the video feed when you’re speaking.
Use the knowledge you’ve earned over your time at Southern Miss. It’s important to display an understanding of the industry jargon you’ll be using and tasks you’ll be completing. Feel free to ask questions. Nothing says you have to be the only person providing answers. In fact, it’s good for you to know what you might be getting into. For example, ask what software platforms you’ll be using.
A very important question you should ask is “What will the first 6 months working with your company look like?” This will set you up with the expectation of how your training process will go. It also shows your employer that you’re thinking about the future with the company. Asking questions will also help you steer the conversation toward your strengths.
Don’t forget to close strong. Recap the interview. If you haven’t gotten a chance, feel free to work in your elevator statement to leave on a strong, positive note.
4. Use the STAR approach
Inevitably, you’ll be asked about your professional history, different challenges you’ve faced, problems you’ve solved, etc. Using the STAR method for these questions will create strong relevant answers.
Situation/Task – Describe a situation that you were in or a task that you needed to accomplish. Be as specific about the event or situation as you can, don’t generalize a description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand your background. This situation can be from a previous job, a volunteer experience or any other relevant event.
Action you took – Describe the actions you took, and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did, not the efforts of the team. You also want to avoid talking about hypotheticals; don’t say what you could’ve done, tell what you did.
Result you achieved – Finally talk about what you learned. How did the event end? What did you accomplish?
Employers ask questions about your work history to see how you might solve problems for their company. Using the STAR approach will give you a chance to show your skills while talking about detailed scenarios where you were able to utilize them.
5. Career Services is here to help you
As an online student at The University of Southern Mississippi, you have access to everything Career Services offers, including a Career Advisor! Whether you want even more tips on acing an interview or help writing a resume that grabs an interviewer’s attention, there is a way to get help. And when you’re ready you can even open a Handshake account and get in touch with employers looking to add new talent to their teams. You can find a long list of services to take advantage of from home on the Online Resources page for even more tips and tools, including a downloadable Career Guide to keep with all your other job search files. The Career Services center has a number of professionals who are ready to help you at every stage of the process and at every stage of your college career.
Bonus tip: Start early! Don’t worry yourself with taking a crash course in preparing for your interview after you graduate. Start preparing as soon as possible. Even freshmen can take advantage of the numerous professional services available from Southern Miss. Even if all you’re looking for is a part-time job to help you get through your college experience, our professional experts are here to help you! Let our Career Services Center be the guide to getting your dream job.