On-the-Job Training: How to Search for a Job as a Student
You’re an enthusiastic go-getter who is eager to demonstrate your talents in your chosen industry – and receiving a paycheck isn’t bad either. However, you’re also still a student, which, for many employers, raises a red flag. How can you convince hiring managers of both your ability to hold a job while pursuing a degree and your value to the workplace? It may not be easy, but with the right approach and attitude, you may be working for your dream company well before graduation day.
“When I encounter candidates who are also in school, my first concern is that taking a full-time job would potentially get in the way of their studies or their quality of life,” says Bethany Perkins, head recruiter at Software Advice. She notes, though, that it’s definitely possible to balance work and school. “You just need to be direct with the recruiter or hiring manager. Let him or her know that you understand the inherent challenges that come with working and going to school.”
Display your time-management skills by providing concrete examples. Perhaps you’ve already balanced a job and school in the past, or maybe you’ve been involved in extracurricular or community activities along with your classes. The key is to prove you have a track record of juggling multiple commitments and are capable of being successful in each arena.
Joshua Siva, co-author of “Bold: Get Noticed, Get Hired,” presents another issue. “Hiring a student who has yet to graduate is a risk for any company, and it's important for the applicant or student to understand that. The biggest concern from the employer’s perspective will be whether or not the student, if hired, will be able to not only pull his or her weight in terms of delivery, but will also not ‘jump ship’ once s/he has graduated, which is costly to the company.”
Siva suggests passionately articulating why you want to work at a specific company and how it aligns with your plans after graduation. “Research the company, research the people and make it clear that you are focusing on Company X and not casting a wide net. If a student is casting a wide net with the hope that s/he lands something, that will come across loud and clear. So for a student trying to assure Company X of his or her commitment, this will be a deal-breaker. Students need to know what they want and make that drive known to everyone at Company X they speak with.”
When it comes down to it, an applicant who is in school needs to do the same thing as one who isn’t – convince the hirer that he is the best person for the position. This persuasion starts with knowing how your skills can meet the employer’s needs.
C. Richard Weylman, author of “The Power of Why: Breaking Out in a Competitive Marketplace” and chairman of Weylman Consulting Group, advises taking an “employer-centric” approach. This mindset involves articulating what you will do for the employer, not what you want. Forget about what being hired might mean to you – a good career path, a long-term opportunity, a chance to use your education. The key to getting hired is the value you bring to the organization.
So what skills and qualities do you possess that would aid an employer? While needs vary by company, some attributes that students can generally highlight include:
- Teamwork – Give examples of working with others on school-related projects.
- Knowledge – State how learning about the industry as a whole positions you to see the big picture and solve problems.
- Adaptability – You love learning, and that means being exposed to new ideas and approaches. Saying “no” to something new isn’t what you do.
- Multitasking – Successfully juggling educational demands with other personal and professional obligations shows you can wear many hats.
- Modernity – You’re in the process of learning the newest techniques and ideas in the industry and would be glad to share and apply what you’ve learned.
Lastly, make sure to convey that you are proud of your decision to pursue an education and are excited about the opportunity to be valuable to a company both at the moment and after graduation.
“The fact that a job seeker is investing in his or her education is a wonderful thing,” notes Jean Baur, author of “The Essential Job Interview Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Every Job Seeker.” “It shows motivation and that you're willing to work.”
And when it comes down to it, aren’t those two great traits to celebrate? When you are open and direct about why you’re an asset to the company, employers will see a reason to celebrate, too.
Image Credit: Flickr/Kathryn Decker