Look up “fun things to do in your spare time” in a Google search (or anywhere, frankly), and it’s unlikely you’ll come across internship/job searching as a result. Let’s face it, looking for a job can be a source of minor annoyance for some, and major stress for many others. As such, we at the Career Center root for you in your career development, application, and decision-making process as a whole!
As the title suggests, if you’ve been experiencing difficulties (or are at wits end) in your search process, read below for some pragmatic strategies, as well as broader conceptual points to keep you balanced, as you prepare to continue your professional journey.
Strategy #1: Put the “Work” In Networking
“Human beings help friends, not contacts.'”—Suzy Welch
That’s right, you may have heard the “networking” term once, twice, a quarter million times by now? Perhaps there’s a reason for that! Any way you slice it, putting in the “work” part of the word through identifying, reaching out, building, and following up with individuals you’d like to foster a relationship with, is and will only continue to be an essential part of landing internships and jobs. While that’s an important aspect in itself, it’s only the beginning—countless individuals can speak to the value of exchanging and learning from another’s experience, advice, and other bits of personal testimony to help you gain further clarity on if what you’re seeking is the direction (i.e. an industry, company, or role) you actually want to head in!
Let’s quickly put to rest a common misnomer (there are many, though) about networking: Networking is NOT just a verb, but a skill, meaning it CAN be learned and strengthened, versus just being “born with it” or not. Otherwise, we wouldn’t dedicate multiple pages of our website to the topic! Take some time to double down on how to develop this crucial skill—your future self will thank you. While you’re at it, check out these three cool ways to network with and beyond BC alumni remotely, even while you’re away on break or studying abroad. (NOTE: If you consider yourself more of a “creative” type and would like to try mapping out your network from scratch, give this article a read and see if this would work for you).
Resources to help you:
- Eagle Exchange: Eagle Exchange is a Boston College exclusive online platform that fosters connections between students and alumni around the world. The platform will provide you the opportunity to seek knowledge and advice, explore career fields of interest, and build your professional network. Read this post on how to get started on the platform, but here’s just a taste of what you can expect by using it:
- Get direct access to the global Boston College Network.
- Connect with alumni based on career interests and goals. Gain valuable industry expertise and insights. For instance, are you looking to connect with professionals of color in a specific industry and spark up a mentorship? Hoping to practice for an upcoming interview with an industry expert? Interested in setting up a job shadow experience so you can go “beyond the job description” and determine what it’s actually like at a particular company? All great ideas, and Eagle Exchange allows you to accomplish just that.
- LinkedIn: Not only does LinkedIn provide access industry-relevant articles and news that can be help for your career knowledge; it also provides a highly effective way to build an impressive digital 24/7 footprint (#personalbranding, anyone?), research companies and industries, search for and apply to jobs and internships, and build a strong professional network by connecting a “face” to a “place”. Read our insider LinkedIn guide filled with tips both for building a stellar profile, as well as gaining mastery with utilizing the platform.
- Student Internship Database: Search our Student Summer Experience Internship Database to find students who completed internships, then connect with them to gain insight and discuss their experiences. In other words, use the email addresses provided to reach out and ask questions! That’s right—these students have agreed to keep their information public to other BC students just for this reason, so take advantage. Curious what the day-to-day life is like in a role such as a Real Estate Analyst, Wealth Management Intern, or Human Resources Assistant? How about application or interview success tips at CBRE, IBM or Wayfair? Reach out, and you shall find out.
*Bonus tip: Follow up! Networking is more than just reaching out, asking for some information, and poof! Moving on (or at least, it could be). Following up, whether it be after an informational interview or an actual interview, shows appreciation, persistence, and a curiosity to invest in not only your own learning, but to build a relationship that extends beyond an initial meet & greet (i.e. that’s the relationship piece). In the simple yet powerful words of author Suzy Welch, “human beings help friends, not ‘contacts.” Not that you need to be “buddy buddy” with everyone you come into contact with—that would be impractical—but you get the point, as a little back and forth genuine investment can go a long way!
Strategy #2: Personalize Your Application Materials
“Excellence comes when we balance quality with quantity”—Amit Ray
Ah, yes. While we’ve all heard some rendition of a “quality over quality” statement, there’s something to be said about how often we ignore that wisdom in the moment (I’ve certainly been guilty of this). Truth be told, It’s less a matter of how many job applications you’re sending out, (although common intuitive sense should come into play if you’ve hit the submit button ~45 times and there’s been nothing but radio silence), rather there should be more of a focus on how much effort are you putting into these, for instance your resume and cover letters. Appropriately tailoring your materials involves far more than swapping different company names, adding a tagline from the home page of their website to your cover letter, and calling it a day. For more on this, check out a previous post of mine entitled “A Guide for Navigating Business, Consulting, and Finance Recruitment”, specifically the “I’ve been applying for some time now, but I haven’t heard back from employers/made it past first-round interviews. What’s up with that?” section.
Furthermore, here are some helpful reads on enhancing your resume bullet points, and avoiding common cover letter pitfalls. Finally, in addition to our 15-minute drop-ins where you can have your application materials reviewed without having a schedule an appointment in advance, note that our Career Coaches (including the BCF—Business, Consulting, Finance coach) hold a multitude of skills-based workshops each semester, including but not limited to resumes, cover letters, networking, interviewing, and more. Keep an eye out for these via EagleLink, as well as your cluster coach’s periodic newsletters/updates.
Strategy #3: Get More Practice Reps In
“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”—Anonymous
Similar to strategy #2, I’ve heard the “I feel pretty good about interviews” claim more times than I can count, and let me first say that there are a portion of folks in this category that can rightfully back this up, based on my first and secondhand observations. Although that still leaves…quite a large number of folks who…could use a bit more practice! Nothing wrong with that, of course—it’s just a good idea to be forthcoming on this, and sooner rather than later. A bit of extra preparation could have gone (and still can go!) a long away in securing offers, whether it’s behavioral, case, or technical-based. In addition to reading through our comprehensive interviewing guide, similar to above–it’s advised that you schedule a 30-minute appointment via EagleLink with a member of our team to have a discussion on interviewing best practices, or a full-on mock interview. As mentioned earlier, keep your eyes peeled as we lead a number of skills workshops in this regard (*CSOM students: you have the additional benefit of accessing coaching and other resources via Fulton Hall’s undergraduate or graduate services). You can never be too prepared here, and nothing beats practice for when it counts–no way around it!
*Bonus tip: I’m a big fan of Big Interview, a free online software tool for job interview preparation. Big Interview allows you to review resources, tips, and videos, practice responding to questions by industry type, skill level, and more, preview recordings of your interviews, and if desired, share with mentors or colleagues for feedback. Give it a try—can be especially helpful while you’re away from campus (e.g., vacation, study abroad).
Strategy #4: Manage Your Expectations
“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t”—Anonymous
No successful internship/job search strategy (including bouncing back from a discouraging start) is complete without some level of framing—and reframing expectations. Here are two examples of what I mean by this:
“Should” Statements: If you took just three minutes to reflect on the number of times you’ve thought or verbalized this simple “I should” phrase (and by extension, “I have to”, “I need to”), how many do you think you’d come up with? Have you considered what may lie behind these kinds of statements? That’s for you to ultimately decide, but from my experience, these statements can often instill self-doubt, fear, and a paralysis-of-analysis that get in the way of not only being efficient in the internship/job search tactics, but also in the bigger picture of managing one’s own career trajectory effectively and authentically. You may have experienced this in the form of competitive FOMO (fear of missing out) when one of your friends or roommates appears to be getting positive results by attending networking events, landing interviews, or even gaining employment offers, while you’re seemingly “standing still” in comparison. If you’ve been in this position before, you know how uncomfortable it can be, so coming up with a gameplan and feedbacking in understanding not only the “what” your goals are, but your “why” and ”how”, can make the biggest difference in ensuring you’re motivated by that “pull factor” in moving forward in the right direction for you in your pursuits, rather than being weighed down by the expectations of others or what you may have convinced yourself is the “right” way to go about things. Sometimes the gut check is the most difficult part of the journey, and therefore the most meaningful for many. If you want to read a bit more on the subject, you’ll enjoy another of our posts entitled “Reframe the Should Statements in Your Life”.
Decisions vs. Outcomes: In a different vein, I’ve worked with a plethora of students over the years, who’ve done an excellent job gaining feedback, putting in the work, and improving their application materials and processes, have a clear understanding of what and why they’re pursuing what they are, and have networked extensively, yet with no tangible internship/job offers after a period of time. While this can be discouraging, of course, it’s far from unheard of. The solution to this may not be easy to hear, but can be as simple as: it’s just a matter of time. If you’ve played competitively in sports, music, or another recreation activity, you’ve likely heard (and benefited from) that same logic. In the vein of the “S.W.O.T.” analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), the actions and decisions you take to lean into your strengths, shore up your weaknesses, and leverage your opportunities (e.g., campus resources, or your first and second-degree networks) will never be in vain, despite the “threats” (e.g., competitive/limited applicant pool, class-level or GPA benchmarks, internal candidates) that will continue to be an external reality going forward. Continue to stay committed to your game plan as you’ve been doing, review and tweak the above strategies, and it’ll only be a matter of “when”, not “if” the positive outcomes spin your way!
Strategy #5: Take One Step Backward, To Move Two Steps Forward
“When adversity strikes, that’s when you have to be the most calm. Take a step back, stay strong, stay grounded and press on”—LL Cool J
Building on strategy #4, an internship or job search can take an unpredictable amount of time, whether it be weeks, or months, even semesters (Note: click here for info on industry hiring timelines in the BCF cluster). Along the way, a frustrating level of confusion, anxiety, stress, resentment, and burnout can creep up. Whether you’re currently in the throngs of one of these stages or not, bouncing back from job search rejection or another pain point in the process is absolutely essential to physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually caring for yourself and maintaining your sanity.
Now, as counterintuitive as it may seem, taking a step back can be a saving grace at this point. Whether it’s to take a short timeout from the search process to focus on your studies, enjoying a weekend getaway with friends/family, participating in some personal gratitude exercises, or going back to the “drawing board” by doing some deeper career exploration, (e.g., completing and reviewing a career assessment aided by a member of our Career Exploration Team), or whatever re-energizes you, I can’t recommend it enough and salute your courage and maturity in doing so. Whatever you choose, know that all is temporary, and that includes the subjective remnants of both failure and success. How you respond, is what you will remember just as much, if not more than anything else, so take the time you need, then get back on it champ!
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it”—Maya Angelou