Market yourself effectively no matter what your major

By Ariel Crawford
October 16, 2010

In one of the toughest job markets in recent history it is more important than ever for current college students and recent graduates of all majors to know how market themselves effectively in order to land their first job.

When job candidates market themselves it means they promote themselves in a way that using their education, work and life experiences makes them the employer’s first choice.

Marketing oneself is not something that everyone naturally does. It is somewhat of an art or science that must be learned and practiced in order to be perfected.

Every student is an individual. No two have taken all the same classes, worked the same jobs or held the same leadership positions. They don’t have the same past experiences or the same hopes and dreams for the future.

With this in mind every student promotes himself or herself differently depending on their own unique career goals. The senior psychology major who is applying to graduate school for family counselling will market themselves differently then the senior accounting major who wants to work at a large bank.

There are some general rules that students in all majors can use. Nancy Hutchinson, director of cooperative education and career services, and all the professors interviewed said that students should use their experiential learning and job networking starts with internships.  Professor of education Beverly Bryde said. “They are your first and biggest opportunity to make a good impression on people in your field.”

Director of Cooperative Education and Careers Services Nancy Hutchinson said that it is important students do proper research on both the company they will be interviewing with and the position for which they are interviewing.

“Whatever you do, do not ever ask such obvious questions that you make it apparent you haven’t the slightest clue about what the company does.”

Not all political science majors are destined for law school and political science professor Shelby Hockenberry wants everyone to know. She said two important parts of political science majors marketing themselves is to be knowledge in that they know what their options are and to have confidence in themselves.

She also said that being committed to ones career goals, whatever they may be, is important. Some examples include working for more than five years at a non-profit, working on a number of campaigns for the same politician or a Master’s degree in public policy.

Many political science majors eventually move to Washington D.C. to find jobs but it is not the only city where political science majors need to network themselves.

Hockenberry said students must try their hardest to have a good repertoire with everyone they meet in their field and doing that has helped many people she knows obtain their jobs.

“What got them noticed before someone looked at their resume to see their abilities and experience, however, was someone who made a phone call or wrote a letter endorsing their personal trust in a someone’s abilities.”

Hockenberry also said some of the most common sense things go the longest way in marketing yourself. “Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect.   Never let an e-mail or phone call go unreturned and always write follow-up notes and thank you letters to those who help you or offer a pathway for your career,” she said.

Professor Mary Harris said many students become business majors because they think they will automatically make a lot of money after graduating and this is simply not true.

You can make a lot of money and climb the corporate ladder, but it takes time and plenty of hard work. Nothing comes easily or quickly,” she said.

One of the best strategies for marketing yourself in business and in general is to find out very specifically what an employer needs and showing how you can fulfil those needs.

Using extracurricular activities in college is a good way to demonstrate that students have skills that can transfer over to the real world. “A good GPA coupled with different activities and sports shows that they have good time management skills, being an officer in a club shows that they have leadership skills, which is an important trait in the business world, “ Harris said.

Harris also suggested doing as much as possible as early as possible in the job search. Students should start sending out resumes early in their senior year and go on as many interviews as possible even if they are only mildly interested in the position.

Social workers sometimes have a reputation for being overworked and underappreciated but that doesn’t stop students from entering the field. Professor Valerie Daniel says social work majors must take advantage of their three field placements.

The field placements in social work are important for two reasons.  Social work is a broad field, which encompasses everything from drug and alcohol counselling to youth and protective services.

The student is placed in a number of different settings so that they can see where exactly it is they would like to work. The field placement is also important because students cannot only make professional connections but can learn through word of mouth who is and is not hiring.

Daniel said students should give a lot of consideration as to whether they will be going to graduate school or not in order to most effectively market themselves.

If one plans to work in a clinical setting they must have a Master’s degree and will market a different set of skills then the student who is content to do direct care with their Bachelor’s degree.

Daniel said the student going to graduate school will still have to work to support themselves but can gain an advantage by labelling themselves as a life long learners and talking about how they can enrich the company with what they will learn in graduate school.

Social work students can market themselves well by doing thorough research. If a student wants to work in child protective services they should become well-versed with the laws that surround child abuse and custody.

Students can also use volunteer experiences to market themselves especially in more people oriented fields like social work and education. If the volunteer work is related to a field it’s an opportunity to network and even if it is not that is still real world experience. It also shows a student is passionate and cares about the world around them.

History majors can go into a variety of fields after graduating. An important part of marketing yourself for history majors is deciding what they want to do after graduating.

If they are going to graduate school students should learn the in and outs of their different programs and schools just like you would an employer. Campus visits are like job interviews and students should be prepared with good questions.

Another part of history majors marketing themselves is zoning in on their concentration if they will be going to grad school. This shows the student is focused, has thought deeply about their decision and is not just trying to avoid working in the real world.

History graduates who are going into real world are encouraged to widen their scope beyond academia and law. They should do an internship in a field that interests them even if it is not a traditionally history related job.

Regardless of whether they are going for a Ph.D or not history students should aim to be published. Being published helps students make contacts with others in the field and demonstrates they have don professional level work during their time as an undergraduate.

Psychology majors can market themselves well regardless of whether they are entering straight into the work force or taking the more traditional route to graduate school.

Not all students know what they want to do after graduating and professor Melissa Terlecki said it is important for all students to keep their options opened and that psychology majors can go into many fields including marketing and human resources.

She also said psychology majors should be well rounded. Internships should be treated like jobs and the student’s superiors like colleagues who could help students land a job later.

Senior psychology major Arianna Bennett said all of her outside experiences have been important. “When I started my internship at Einstein hospital my professors were all very srious when they told me to be responsible. I also learned to tweak my volunteer experiences to make them more relevant to admissions because when you apply to graduate school you compete with people who already have work experience.”

Independent research is also an opportunity for students to promote themselves. Books like “The Psychology Major” say there are two sides to psychology, a scientific side and a counselling oriented side.

For students who want to work more with science their research is an important way to market themselves. Students gain real world experience and can make connections by having their work published.

Terlecki said that being a good communicator, good listener and having good time management skills are imperative to making it in the psychology field.  “Psychology isn’t just about disorders – it’s also about healthy living and understanding the diversity of thinking and behaving among human beings, “ she said about the importance of doing ones homework when it comes to understanding his or her future career.

Fast-paced networking may seem out of place in the quiet world of biological lab experiments but professor Kim Boyd said it is of the highest importance that biology majors network.

First, she said students should remember that there is high competition for jobs in the science field because many of them are lucrative. “If you look into the literature, most of the top ten fields to get jobs are in science and technology. It’s especially easy to find positions in the healthcare field,” she said.

Outside internships are a great way to network but it is easy to make connections on campus too. Boyd said students should use alumni connections to help find a job.

“We have a lot of great alumnus who let us know when jobs open up in their companies. If employers have been happy with our alumnus they are more likely to hire our new graduate because they know how well they’re trained.”

Hutchinson admitted that recent education graduates face hard times. Education majors can better prepare themselves for this by marketing themselves correctly.

Their first step is to take their field placements and student teaching seriously. Bryde said that these are not just learning experiences for students but that they should be treated as job interviews.

It is also important that education majors focus in on why they chose the field. Then selecting a career and knowing how to market oneself specifically for that position will become much easier.

“Students either become education majors because they like working with children or because they are passionate about their subject. There are so many opportunities for teachers to work with their population or subject outside the classroom.” Bryde said.

Broadening their horizons of knowledge will also help education majors. Having a background in something like psychology helps teachers have a better understanding of their students and being bilingual gives teachers an edge in the increasing number of classrooms, which either have bilingual learners or are placing foreign language as most central in the curriculum.

Teachers can also make themselves more marketable by incorporating their outside interests into their teaching. “If an employer has two qualified teachers but it also looking for someone to run the drama club and you just happened to have been in plays and are willing to run the drama club then you’re going to get that job,” Bryde said.

For education majors who have not found jobs with their student teaching substitute teaching becomes the best way to market yourself. Bryde suggests always placing yourself in a district you would eventually like to teach in and to treat your time as a substitute teacher the same way you did your student teaching.

Bryde said the most important thing for teachers was to make sure their love of learning and passion shined through. If they are flexible and organized and are in the field for the right reasons they will eventually find success.

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Ariel Crawford

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