Ever wonder how you can make yourself more attractive to potential employers? Well, Jennifer Nice is the person who helps you do just that! Jennifer, our new Employment Outreach Specialist for Undergraduate Business Programs, connects with businesses and students to learn what companies want in potential employees and how students can meet their expectations. Jennifer’s background is in public education, where she taught journalism, language arts, and reading. In 2011, Jennifer worked as the Dependent Learner’s Coordinator on Semester at Sea, a college study-abroad program where you travel to 13 countries in only four months! After Jennifer and her family returned from the voyage, she launched her web-writing business offering online marketing to small and mid-sized businesses in McMinnville. Although she loved working with her clients, Jennifer missed being part of a team. And when she came across the job description for the PSU Employment Outreach Specialist, she felt the position was tailor-made for her! Even though she’s only been with us three months, Jennifer has a wealth of knowledge regarding how students can better prepare for communicating with potential employers.
Tell me more about your position. What does a day in the life look like?
Every day is really different, but the whole focus of the job is facilitating outreach with businesses. For example, my second day of work was a career fair. I made contact with probably 20 different businesses that day, and then I followed up with every single one of them. Out of those, I have facilitated meetings or employers call and say, “Oh yes, we do want create an internship. How do we go about doing that?” Then I walk them through the process of the best practices for creating an internship and how to establish a profile and post it on CareerConnect. Outreach [with businesses] is one part of it. Then there’s outreach on campus, connecting with people in different departments and figuring out where the gaps are and how I can fill that in. It’s a little bit of everything!
How does building relationships with local employers help PSU students?
It helps PSU students because those employers will understand that we have high quality students, potential interns, and future employees – which helps those businesses grow and thrive. So [those employers] are going to seek out PSU undergrads and grads, which creates more opportunities for students.
How can PSU students build relationships with future employers?
[Many students] are almost in survival mode, figuring out which classes to take when and how do those classes fit into the scope of their lives. And then it comes to their senior year and they’re ready to graduate, but they may not have done a lot of preparation to make the transition from being a student to being an employee in their new career. Students need to be aware of the multiple opportunities that facilitate this transition and capitalize on them.
I’m a big advocate of informational interviews because it is a way for you to network and make contacts with people in the profession that you’re interested in. Informational interviews are low-pressure because you’re simply gathering information and figuring out if this company or position could be a good fit for you. And then you have gained a real connection because you have sat down with them face-to-face. You may discover an internship opportunity, or a future opening.
Students should do mock interviews because these help prepare you for the types of behavioral questions that employers typically ask. The interview is where you sell your soft skills. Yes, you want to earn good grades, yes you want to a have a major that will get you a job, but it are those soft skills that set you apart from other candidates. And if you can’t communicate those in your interview, you’re not going to get that hire, that chance to prove yourself.
What other advice would you offer PSU students?
Professional branding is so important. How you present yourself, from how you dress, to knowing how to write emails and speaking on the phone – just communicating professional behavior. Any potential employer is going to find you on social media and check you out, so you should have a great LinkedIn profile and be aware of your Facebook settings. Showing genuine interest in people and cultivating authentic relationships. Having a posture of open-mindedness, wanting to learn and help out, not just thinking of the job and the paycheck.
People often say that keeping or staying with a job is difficult, but finding – and getting – the right job is the hard part. And doing the prep work that Jennifer advises, such as such as landing an internship, initiating informational interviews, fine-tuning your LinkedIn profile and resume, and preparing for interviews, are efforts that pay off when you’re face-to-face with a potential employer. For me, I am always most nervous for the questions that a potential employer may ask me. What if I don’t know the answer? What if I totally blank and don’t say anything at all? Jennifer and PSU’s Internship & Career Resources are tools that are designed to help students be prepared and to alleviate pre-interview anxiety like mine. Also, check out current internships offered to PSU students on CareerConnect. If you’re interested in earning credit for your internship, fill out the intake form. And stay tuned for Fearless Friday Career Workshops taking place every Friday starting winter term and our new Nice Job! Career Column with Jennifer Nice, also starting in winter.
~Mckenzie Miller ’15, Fearless Business Student