Career building 101: Introduction

(Ron Borresen / Tribune News Service)
(Ron Borresen / Tribune News Service)

Competition is an activity normally reserved for sports and contests, but with how competitive the job market is these days for recent college graduates, securing an entry level job can be a sport or contest in itself. While college prepares graduates with important knowledge in their desired field and offers them an opportunity to network with professors and other professionals, landing the dream job can come down to more than just qualifications.

Personal branding is an important skill for not only college graduates to master, but for anyone seeking professional growth. Knowing your strengths, skills and work ethic and how to eloquently describe them is something that every college student and graduate should have the ability to do.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many of those entering the job force restrict themselves from opportunities presented to them by lacking an understanding of how to navigate the intricacies of career building. This three part series is meant to highlight basic ways in which young professionals can improve their resumes, cover letters and interview skills in the hopes that the job and internship process will be a little less daunting for those who are unfamiliar with the unwritten rules.

Even if you feel comfortable with all three areas of career building, there is always room for improvement in personal branding. Personal branding can be a useful metaphor in thinking about career building because essentially when searching for a job you are looking to sell your skill set to an employer. Some might say to this that we are more than cogs in a machine, but this metaphor isn’t meant to suggest that you should sell your soul away to a company. It illuminates how important it is to hone your personal skill set and represent yourself in a professional manner that is accurate to your unique personality. This is easier said than done.

If you’ve never tackled building a resume or outlining a cover letter, thinking about what your brand is will be a helpful place to begin. What does your brand represent? What are the strengths of your brand? How can your brand’s weaknesses be improved upon? When did your brand begin?

Hunting for a job doesn’t have to turn into a scene out of “The Hunger Games,” although it may seem that the odds are constantly out of your favor. Setting yourself up for success comes from distinguishing yourself from the highly competitive pact of applicants. While the summer months are certainly a time to relax and give studying a break, taking a moment to focus on career building can be extremely beneficial in the long run. Like many things in life, preparation is the key to success. Are you prepared?

Career Building 101: 

Part 1: Resumes

Part 2: Cover letters

Part 3: Interviews