JP: I graduated from Puget Sound in May of 2009 when the job market was suffering as a result of the economy. I was fortunate enough to land a job working as a teller at a local credit union. This was definitely not my first choice in terms of a career, but I treated at it as an opportunity to gain professional work experience and build my resume.
While I was able to gain some experience, the company was very small (30 employees in the whole organization) and had limited opportunities for growth. This fact, along with the organization closing 50% of its branches, led me to move on a little sooner than I had planned.
CES: Did the time in that position help you develop/plan your current career pursuits? How so?
JP: It definitely pushed me to think about and realize my long term career goals—how I wanted to achieve them—and what I wanted to gain personally from my career.
I realized that when taking a position with a company, size definitely matters!
With a small company you can gain great experience and exposure to multiple departments. However, the downside is that there are often limited promotional opportunities unless the company is experiencing a period of growth at the particular time you are ready to advance.
In turn, when working for a large company there tend to be greater opportunities for advancement, but your job functions are usually much more defined and limited to one area or department.
I also realized that I wanted to hold a position that would allow me to make a positive contribution to my community in some way and that I needed to keep an open mind in terms of industry and opportunities. These realizations helped me greatly in my search for a career.
CES: How did you make the decision to pursue your current path? Were there pivotal moments?
JP: My decision to pursue my current career path came while I was working for a retail company and I was offered a promotion to work as a Human Resources Assistant.
Working in HR was not a career path I had previously considered, but I quickly learned it was something I really enjoyed. I like interacting with people and this allowed me to do that on a daily basis without being in a typical customer service position. It also fulfilled my desire to make a positive contribution to my community since I was working with the leadership team to create job opportunities. It was at that point that I decided I wanted to focus on working in the HR field, and more specifically as a recruiter.
Since then, I have held recruiting positions with two companies—a home health care provider and currently with Bankers Life and Casualty.
CES: How did early experiences influence your career development?
JP: My early experiences were heavily influenced by my part time job off campus.
I’m from the Tacoma area, so I was able to continue working at the part time job I held during high school. I worked an average of about 30 hours a week all throughout college. While going to a university as academically demanding as Puget Sound and holding down a job can be challenging, it also pushed me to develop great organizational and time management skills. I’ve since learned that these skills are a great asset to any career and with all companies.
My life became busy as I balanced work and academics so I didn’t have much time for campus involvement. However, I did participate in the Hawaii Club’s luau three out of my four years, RDG one semester, and took a variety of activity courses.
There are so many clubs and activities to be involved in around campus, so I highly recommend finding one that fits your interests.
I found that my time spent doing activities I enjoyed was a great way to step back, take a break, and relieve some stress. Looking back, I realize that taking time away from my “career” of school to have a life outside of class helped me to develop a good work-life balance in my current position. It’s necessary to take time for yourself and not spend all your time focused on work. I’ve found that having hobbies and interests outside of my career keeps me focused on and excited about work when I’m in the office.
CES: What do you wish you had done or known during college that might have been beneficial to your career development?
JP: I spent a semester abroad in London. While there, I had the opportunity to intern with a local company, but after a small amount of consideration I decided not to. At that point in time I wanted to focus on my classes and taking advantage of everything London had to offer. While I don’t regret the choice I made, I do wish I had given the opportunity more thought because it would have been a great experience and an excellent resume builder.
JP: Have a resume that speaks to all of your accomplishments, whatever they may be. I worked with Career and Employment Services (CES) to develop my resume during college and I would urge everyone to do the same.
Your resume is often the first impression employers have of you and I can tell you first-hand that it can sometimes be an underwhelming impression.
Also, make sure your resume is no longer than one page. Recruiters and hiring managers come across many resumes on a daily basis, and don’t have time to read two or three pages per applicant. Chances are if you have a novel of a resume, it’s not going to be thoroughly reviewed and you’ll be overlooked as a candidate even though you might be the perfect fit.
And finally, be yourself! Obviously you want to put your best foot forward when interviewing, but don’t overdo it. Employers know when you are telling them what you think they want to hear versus being honest. Learn how to paint yourself in the best light possible without exaggerating or overstating your experience and skills. Again, utilize all the resources CES has to offer you--you’re paying for them as part of your tuition!
CES: How can students overcome a lack of professional experience as a recent graduate?”
JP: Lack of professional experience is an issue I had to overcome myself right after I graduated.
When you apply for an entry-level position, especially in our current economy, you are often competing against many other applicants. I learned that I beat out 300 other applicants for my first post-college job!
What I found to be most helpful in the application and interviewing process was to highlight my academic and leadership achievements. Employers don’t expect recent graduates to have much, if any, professional experience. However, they do want to know what experiences you’ve had in the classroom and in extracurricular activities that would lead you to be successful in a career. Highlight these experiences on your resume, including any notable projects you’ve worked on and any clubs you were involved in. Volunteer experience is also a great thing to include on your resume if it is relevant to the position you are applying for.