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It all leads up to the job interview

KELLI NICHOLAS

By KELLI K. NICHOLAS
Marketing Coordinator — Michigan Works!

College is a time where you learn lifelong skills on group process, which you can use with your families, friends and organizations later in life. College is a place that provides you with opportunities to be successful and to demonstrate these leadership skills. College allows you to learn about yourself, discover career options, make good decisions and learn from your mistakes.

As some point in time, either during your college experience or after graduation, you will interview for a job. Interviewing is all about relationships. Employers are looking for people who can make good decisions, can work cooperatively in groups, can build teams, can handle diversity issues effectively, are responsible and reliable, and can take different points of view.  These are all leadership skills.

In order to engage and retain the interviewer’s interest, you must address how your skills are a match for their needs and how you will bring a Return On Investment (ROI). A good place to start researching what the employer’s needs are is to read everything you can about that business: their web site, social media sites, and business news segments in the local newspaper and other such places. Look in industry related magazines to discover trends. All of these information can be discussed during the interview and will help set you apart from other candidates.

It is time to develop your network. It’s about staying in touch with training facilities, fellow students and people you know. Network and talk to everyone you know about what type of position you are looking for and what skills you have to offer. These conversations are normally a wealth of information that should be written down in a journal to keep for reference. When you are talking to your network circle, you are asking for advice on your job search and not asking for job offers. It is important that during these conversations and in the thank you letters you send out afterwards, that you are able to articulate a clear roadmap that includes short and long term goals and strategies of where you see your future. If you have no idea where you want to go, then how is your network circle supposed to be able to help you in your quest?

Internships are hands-on business and life skills training programs that have the potential to advance your future economic opportunity. These experiences, both paid and non-paid, help develop your road map. These experiences also help you understand if what you learned in class is actually what you want to do in life. Internships allow you an opportunity to develop a portfolio to show what you have done and how these tasks are related to the prospective employer. Seek out an internship with an employer you have always wanted to work for. Nonprofits are excellent place to ask if they could use an extra set of hands. You may work for free but the experiences and knowledge you gain is priceless.

Time and time again, I hear stories about how difficult it is to find employment and how employers have their pick of who that want to hire. As a job seeker, you need to understand that the job market isn’t the same as it was a few years ago. If you adjust your thinking and be prepared to work a little harder, you’ll be in a position to really capitalize on that in a better economy.

Coming into an interview prepped and ready to give examples of your skills will give you an edge. You have been told over and over again to practice common questions and answers before an interview. Yet, many managers shake their heads at how ill prepared people are to interview. First impression of your dress, body language, body hygiene, smile, and handshake can set the tone of the interview. It does not matter the position you are interviewing for, make sure you wear the best clothes you have: clean, pressed and without offensive writing. Sit down when invited and begin to explain how your skills will add value to their company. The more you practice with sample questions ahead of time, the less nervous you will be. If asked a question you cannot answer, it is ok to ask if the question can be re-phased or be skipped. Add in some of the company or industry research you compiled during a few of your answers to help you stand out in a positive manner.

At the end of the interview, thank them for their time and request business cards. Remember a written thank you letter is required for each person you interviewed with. Mailed or emailed letters are acceptable.  Remember in a first interview; do not ask questions about salary, benefits or time off until you are certain there is interest in making you an offer. Following these simple reminders, will help in your quest for employment.

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