Even before you graduate, there’s lots you can do to market yourself and let employers know that you’ll be a great fit for their company. Start working on these areas during your senior years.
Work on your “elevator speech”
Your elevator speech is a quick and compelling explanation of who you are and what you do. At this point, it will probably include what you’re studying in school, any major volunteer or club positions you have and where you want to be after graduation and beyond. People normally give their elevator speech when meeting new people at a networking event but it can also make a great summary for your interview question.
Know your transferable skills
You’ve learned a lot in your time at U of T, though you may not realize how all of the skills you’ve picked up in classes and by getting involved will translate to your first job. Trust us, though, you have a lot to bring to the table!
Did you write essays for your courses? That takes written communication skills. Did a group project? Teamwork and leadership skills. Prepared for an exam? Time management. Read through this list of skills employers look for and think about which ones you have learned while at U of T.
You’ve also gained skills by getting involved outside of class. Your Co-Curricular Record (CCR) is a great tool to use while thinking about transferable skills. Each opportunity on your CCR has competencies that you’ve gained by participating in the role or event, and you can include those on a resume or talk about them in an interview.
For example, if an opportunity you were involved with has the “Project Management” competency, you can use the framework to remind yourself that you have experience “developing and implementing strategies and programs in alignment with organizational goals and values” and “developing and implementing strategies for managing finances, human resources, scope, schedule, quality and outcomes.” If an interviewer asked you about your experience managing finances or outcomes, definitely tell them about that opportunity!
If you want more advice, Career Exploration & Education runs a workshop on identifying and talking about transferable skills.
Build a portfolio
A portfolio is made up of examples of your past work. This is common in creative fields (like journalism or graphic design) or technical fields (like computer science or architecture), but everyone can benefit from a professional portfolio to impress people in their industry.
For industries that require a portfolio
Some industries will ask for work samples or a portfolio as a requirement for getting the job. If you’re in a field like this, save copies of your work as you make it — it’s way easier to build a portfolio as you go than to put it all together the night before an interview! Make sure to include a variety of examples, including your strongest work, and target your portfolio towards the specific job you’re applying to. If you’ve done similar work to what you would be doing on the job, including it shows them you’re a pro at it!
Even if you don’t have to submit a portfolio with your application, it’s a good idea to collect evidence of your past work performance. This could be copies of performance evaluations, reports you’ve written, letters of recommendation you’ve received or anything else that shows what you’ve worked on and how you’ve excelled at it. You can bring these documents to an interview or use them while writing your cover letter and resumé to remember how awesome you are.
Use social media
There’s more to social media than making yourself look bad to potential employers. You can also use platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram to network, build a portfolio and establish a personal brand.
On LinkedIn, take a professional looking headshot for your profile picture and fill out your profile with details from your resume. Add people you know from classes, clubs or part-time jobs as connections. Join groups or follow companies in the industry/field you’re interested in working in. LinkedIn is useful when you’re actively looking for a job: it will show you job postings and tell you if any of your connections know someone at a company you’re interested in working at. For more information on how to make the most of LinkedIn, attend a Career Exploration & Education workshop on the subject.
Twitter (or Instagram for more visual industries) is a great tool for staying up to date with your industry. Follow professionals you admire, post links to interesting articles and participate in relevant chats. Depending on your field, you can also tweet links to your work.