Letter to the Editor: I didn’t find a job at the career fair

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In fact, I didn’t even attend the Career fair. I never had an interview on campus either. Here’s how I figured out those job search steps weren’t for me and made a new career plan. And because of that, not despite it, I found a job (and you can too).

My academic major didn’t spell out my career path

Many of the degree programs at Lehigh can feel daunting because the career path isn’t crystal clear. In truth, I was faced with many career options to choose from instead of pursuing a single job that was spelled out in my academic program. However, my job search was successful because I explored my job and internships options then I learned what was expected during an application process. I used job boards and referrals to discover openings. I applied directly on company websites and leveraged LinkedIn contacts. I pitched myself to companies, even when a job opening wasn’t posted. I attended career workshops and met with a career coach that specifically served my academic major. I asked questions of professionals already in the field and asked to shadow them. Most importantly, I used what I learned to shape my job search.

My timeline wasn’t shared by every academic major on campus

Bottom line, I could not compare my timeline to students who didn’t share my career interests. Spring applications, interviews late in the semester, and offers that came close to summer break did not indicate I was an inferior applicant, but instead revealed common timelines for my industry. Part of what simplified my job/internship search was learning that application processes moved faster and closer to the position start date. I found it helpful to talk to professors or alum to ask for advice regarding the best times to apply and the most useful advice I received was to apply two-to-three months before the semester ended.

My resume wasn’t enough

My resume was only one of the materials that were required for applications. I developed cover letters, collected referral letters, and provided writing and media samples of my work in a digital portfolio. During an interview, I was asked to take an editing/writing test, complete an assignment, and/or give a presentation. With each piece of the application and interview process, it was important for me to be prepared to demonstrate my related skills.

I couldn’t do it alone

My network came from all different walks of life: Lehigh professors, Lehigh alumni, friends, relatives, classmates, neighbors, coworkers and all their contacts. I took every opportunity to tell people I was job searching — I could be on the train, in class, or chatting at the gym and I would strike up a conversation with someone next to me, and suddenly have a lead. As a student who studied the humanities, this is where my “people” skills were able to shine. But it also meant I needed to put myself out there, through in person interactions and online tools like LinkedIn.

In the end, it made a world of a difference when I got to personally network with someone at the company I was applying to. Networking, in person or online, really does work!

– One of my internships came from simply picking up the phone and calling my neighbor down the street. They were impressed with the initiative I took, having the courage to speak on the phone instead of an email.
– I landed an internship through an employee referral via LinkedIn, I looked for connections at a company I was applying to and reached out to them directly.
-I got my first job out of college thanks to a classmate connection after I shared my job search goals with them.

I didn’t interview on campus

Online questionnaires, video interviews, phone interviews and on-site interviews were all part of my experience. I’ve done it all, including a video interview over shaky WiFi when I was studying abroad. My interviews started with a phone or video interview, then included an on-site interview with the people I’d potentially work with. I practiced my pitch before the interview and brought several questions to ask my interviewers based on my company research. My attitude reflected a willingness to go the extra mile and I never expected to be catered to or sought after. It was me that wanted the job, and I had to work for it.

I heard no often

I got used to the idea that I may never get a response from some applications, and finding the right position included plenty of rejection. There wasn’t a specific number of applications I completed that landed me a job; I kept applying, kept networking until I received an offer. Ultimately, I did have a successful internship and job search because of my prep and networking. Even better, I will be ready to do it all again in the future when I make my next career move.

-Andrea Skimbo, Center for Career & Professional Development

Article developed based on interviews on Lehigh Connects (go.lehigh.edu/lehighconnects)
Katherine Hommes, ‘14: Producer for The New York Post
Lauren (Cuoco) Mastbaum, ‘08, ‘09G: Senior Editor at Imagination
Katherine Howley, ‘14: Senior Social Media Analyst for T-Mobile

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