9/11/17

Relevant Experience Required: How To Overcome That Dreaded Barrier To Getting Your First Job Or Internship



You've probably heard and said this a hundred times in the last few days, but I'm going to throw it out there one more time just for good measure. I cannot believe it's already September! That thought was growing stronger and stronger in my mind with every passing minute as Amanda and I spent last weekend in Chicago wearing jackets on Saturday night and scouring The Magnificent Mile for upgrades to our fall wardrobes.

Fall brings with it a mixed bag of emotion, and thrown right into the middle of that bag are college students. The beginning of the school year for college students is jam packed with both good (reuniting with friends, Saturday morning tailgating) and bad (class, exams, colder weather). If any of you can hop off that beginning of the school year roller coaster of emotions, we'd love to have just a few minutes of your attention.

We hope that your ultimate goal at the end of your educational path is to get a job. If it's not, then you may want to reevaluate your priorities and start working now on your apology letter to your parents for wasting their time and money. In order to convince a company to take a chance on you, you'll need to flat out impress the shit out of them. According to Small Business Trends, the cost of hiring a new employee can be upwards of $150k depending on the type of degree. Good employees will pay the organization back in a big way through their output, but recruiters cannot assume that you're going to be a good employee. You have to convince them that passing on you would be a terrible mistake.

What Will You Do To Stand Out?

We've already talked to you about career fairs and interviews, but knowing how to succeed in those situations won't do you any good if your resume doesn't blow the recruiter away. When I'm looking at a resume, I look for two things: GPA (because Marathon requires a minimum 3.0) and relevant experience. Our conversation is going to be so much more meaningful to both of us if we can talk about your supply chain experience than it would if all I have to ask you is where you're from and why you want to work at Marathon.

I know what you're thinking. You've been in this situation a hundred times before where you want an entry level job or internship but one of the requirements on the job application is relevant experience. The easy excuse you can use with yourself and your friends and family is that you can't possibly have relevant experience before getting your first job in your field. And when you look at it on the surface, that excuse checks out pretty well. You'll have to just keep applying and keep banging your head against the wall until you can convince a recruiter to blindly take a chance on you because your haircut looked nicer than everyone else's or your GPA was a couple points higher.

How Can I Have Relevant Experience Before My First Job?

Let's examine that term relevant experience at its core. If you're studying chemical engineering, you probably won't be able to work as a chemical engineer before your first internship. But what can you do to get relevant experience before applying to that internship? Relevant experience isn't about putting round pegs in round holes. It's about cramming square and triangular pegs in round holes and pretending like you know what you're doing. My brother, Max, is an outstanding example of this concept.

Max worked tirelessly to get an internship over the past year or so. He applied to and was rejected by over 100 companies! As a chemical engineering student at Ohio State with a pretty solid GPA, something just didn't seem to add up. Max was a cheerleader which brought with it not only the campus involvement but many volunteer opportunities as well. He was also involved in Sport & Wellness Scholars which was my biggest campus involvement during my time at OSU.

Finally, after a few summers at Home City Ice and a summer filled with odd jobs, Max was able to, through the help of one of Dad's friends, secure an office job working as a project manager for a small business. The work had absolutely nothing to do with chemical engineering. But it gave him office experience and an invaluable opportunity to prove himself in that environment. The job wasn't necessarily directly considered to be relevant experience, but it did have more in common with an office job as a chemical engineer than delivering ice had. That job seemed to be the final piece on his resume that helped get him hired as an chemical engineering intern this fall with Hexion.

During my freshman year, I had an internship with Barbara Sears of the Ohio House of Representatives in downtown Columbus. My duties included mostly sorting mail, writing letters, and answering emails-- not exactly value added work. I always included that internship on my resume but never valued it much. Looking back with now having an employer's point of view, I realize that almost every recruiter I talked to had asked about that internship. I never considered it to be relevant experience and probably downplayed the internship in my conversations with recruiters more than I should have. I will never know for sure, but now I think that experience may have had something to do with my ability to get an internship with Marathon.

Find A Relevant Student Organization

Another great practice to gain relevant experience is taking on a leadership role with a student organization related to your major. When recruiting for Marathon, we focus our outreach efforts on the students involved in The Logistics Association and Buckeye Operations Management Society which are, believe it or not, mostly filled with logistics and operations majors. Not only are the executive officers of those organizations getting some extra face time with the other recruiters and me, but they are getting a great amount of exposure to topics directly related to their field which I know as a recruiter based on their position.

Any involvement with student organizations is beneficial for your resume, but those leadership positions in organizations related to your field will truly set you apart from your competition. Whenever I see a student organization that stands out to me on someone's resume, I ask them questions about their involvement to make sure they're not just bullshitting with a resume filler.

When I was in college, I joined The Logistics Association although I was never very serious about going to meetings. I would mostly go when my fridge was getting empty and I needed the free pizza. I could tell even at that time that the officers were much more knowledgeable about logistics and supply chain. I ended up getting an internship with Marathon in procurement although I had never heard that term before which I'm sure wasn't the case with the officers of The Logistics Association.

Taking on a leadership role and adding responsibility with all the uncertainty that goes along with the beginning of a school year is a difficult mental hurdle to overcome. I hope this serves as a good reminder that your ultimate goal is to get a job, and even if your time available to dedicate to studying suffers a bit, serving in a leadership position of a relevant student organization is way more impressive to prospective employers than that extra bit of studying to get your B+ up to an A-. Plus, we all know the lie you're telling yourself that it might take away study time is bull shit and you'll actually just miss out on valuable video game playing, Twitter scrolling, or beer crushing time.

 
What Ideas Do You Have?

We know a lot of you have either gone to college or are currently college students. What extra efforts did you make or are you making to add that important but elusive relevant experience to your resume before nailing down that first job in your field? We'd love to hear from you, and we know the rest of the Smart Money Squad would benefit from your advice as well!

1 comment:

  1. This can be beyond frustrating for all kinds of students having trouble differentiating themselves from the crowd. These are really great tips that many people start to understand later than they should, so I think it's great you're talking about it.
    It's all about making opportunities work for you. The same internship that got me to an opportunity working in environmental safety will hopefully someday land my good friend a position in media in Hollywood. You have to take every single scrap that you're offered and make it look the way you want it to. Shoving square pegs in round holes is a perfect analogy.

    ReplyDelete