Resources to prepare for job applications, interviews

Rowna Heck

Ag Career Day is coming up and students are scrambling to get ready. Most are apprehensive or nervous about putting themselves out there and making a good impression on people that could be their future employers. Luckily, there are ways of preparing and extensive resources at students’ fingertips.

Michael Gaul, director of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Services, said the thing that most students need is “a little bit of initiative.”

“It’s always surprising how few students actually go to career fairs,” Gaul said. “What’s it going to take to make these students realize these are phenomenal opportunities?”

The fair can be daunting. It’s a reality check and an overwhelming opportunity all at once. Selling one’s self to a potential employer is difficult, especially for agriculture students whose culture tends to stress humility.

One of the things a person can do is to be prepared. The people at career services want to help and get to know you. Resume writing, cover letter writing, interviewing, networking opportunities, job offer analysis and career consultation are all things they will gladly help you with. Mock interviews are offered in about a month. They take an hour to do these. They spend roughly one-third of the time asking questions and then use the rest of the time offering advice on how to better answer those questions.

“There’s no right way, there’s no wrong way to do a resume,” Gaul said he often tells students. “Just use your common sense.”

Students are often overwhelmed with what their professors and others in authority tell them should be in their resume. Go through the Career Services office to iron out a good resume or look to trusted professors in your field and even industry leaders for tips. Pick what works well for you and go with it. Don’t try to make your resume everyone’s idea of the ideal resume.

Templates found on the Internet are a good start, but are ultimately boring to most recruiters. They are a starting point, not all your resume or cover letter can or should be.

Remember to update your cover letter at the very least once or twice a semester. It’s a living document.

A good resume should be well rounded. Include academics, structured work experiences like summer jobs, leadership activities and any study abroad program you were involved with. Resumes don’t get you jobs: They get you interviews.

Cover letters should be one page with five short, to-the-point paragraphs. The first one should be about why you are writing and the position you want. The second paragraph should talk about your academics, the third your work experiences and the fourth your extra curricular activities and skills you learned from them. The fifth paragraph should be the wrapup. Sell yourself. Look at the job description and include buzzwords that will catch the employer’s attention.

Of course, for the career fair you don’t really need a cover letter, though it might be nice. “You are … the walking, talking cover letter,” Gaul said jokingly.

Writing your cover letter is not the only way you need to prepare, especially if you are prone to interview anxiety, which is a type of social phobia.

“What I mean by social phobia is that you are scared or nervous about a performance aspect,” said Art Konar, licensed psychologist and senior lecturer of psychology.

A few things to help with anxiety would be getting enough sleep the night before, visualizing success, reducing unrelated stress, doing your research, recognizing that nervousness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, asking questions and taking your time.

Konar advises to make a plan and take ownership of the interview. Another tip is to match speech patterns with the other person. If they speak slowly and deliberately, try to slow down your own speech. It makes them more comfortable and gives you more control over the situation.

“Appreciate everyone’s nervous,” Konar said. Try to research the five to eight companies you want a job with and prepare yourself using that knowledge. Have a calming breathing technique that works for you. Shake hands firmly and make good eye contact. Another tip Konar shares is to visualize a good beginning, middle and end to the interview.