Posted May 7th, 2012
Wrapping up final projects, prepping for exams, how to celebrate graduation — these are thoughts occupying most students as the school year draws to a close. A summer internship? The first job after college or graduate school? There’s time enough after classes to make the necessary calls to HR departments and recruiting offices.
But think again. The New York metro area houses more than 240 colleges and universities, so each spring the job market floods with students and recent graduates freed from their studies. And, while the labor market has been showing steady improvement in recent months, the state of the economy hasn’t quelled unease among the unemployed. The job market still favors bosses, so thinks Mamadou Dianko, a junior studying electrical engineering at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly). “The competition is very fierce,” he says. “For a single internship or job, there are over fifteen qualified students with the same grades fighting for it.”
How, then, might a jobseeker get ahead of the pack? Consider the five tips below. They could be the difference between a job search that lasts five days to one that lasts five months.
It’s smart to start pounding the pavement now not just because the field is less crowded with other applicants, but also because the hiring process can take time, especially for firms that work in highly classified areas or in industries that require security clearances, which can sometimes take months to obtain.
Keep in mind, too, that recruiters and hiring managers may not be able to be more detailed about the positions at their companies because the nature of the work there is top secret. “The standard line I have is ‘We’re looking for engineers to work on interesting, technical challenges,’” says NYU-Poly alumnus Mitchell Shinbrot, an engineering supervisor at General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB).
Because the company designs and builds nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy among its other services, it’s “usually all we can say until we give someone clearance,” explains Shinbrot.
A business rep might not be able to share specific details about products or projects, but that doesn’t mean a jobseeker can’t showcase her knowledge about the company. It’s impressive when a candidate demonstrates she’s done research about the business, says Shinbrot.
At the same time, jobseekers should understand that their desired employer is as much on trial as they are and that it’s appropriate to ask questions about the culture there. Shinbrot recommends inquiring about the work environment, for example, and not just whether the firm has open positions. Such questions suggest the jobseeker is less interested in the company and more invested in simply finding a job.
The kinds of personal interactions that take place at career fairs with recruiters and other staff are valuable, but digital contact is just as critical and, in some cases, required. Anyone interested in working at GDEB, for instance — from those at the start of their career to seasoned veterans — must submit an online application, says Shinbrot.
That requirement shouldn’t lull applicants into believing that the company and others like it have robust digital profiles. Because the work conducted by such businesses can be highly classified, their cyber security is necessarily tight, and employees’ access to social networking sites like LinkedIn can be restricted or nonexistent due to the security threats those sites pose. In other words, jobseekers shouldn’t assume that the Facebook pages or LinkedIn groups of such companies are official. It’s best to reach out to the company through its own site.
Indeed, it’s important to nurture a relationship with a business and to develop ties there. “It really comes down to how well you are linked to the company, how connected you are,” Dianko says. The numbers support his perception: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80 percent of available positions aren’t advertised, and more than 50 percent of employees owe their jobs to networking.
That fact has driven NYU-Poly graduate student Daniella Patrick to regularly attend the Institute’s career fairs, which are held once each semester. “You never know if you’ll get lucky enough to meet someone that will have an offer for you or direct you to someone else who can recruit you,” she wrote in an email. “It’s always good to get your name out there and try to be memorable for the next time something might be relevant to your set of skills.”
Repeat attendance at NYU-Poly’s career fairs is one way Patrick is taking advantage of existing resources; Shinbrot encourages students to explore others at the school. A glance at its events calendar, for instance, turns up almost daily career development opportunities, which only expand when the menu of offerings at NYU-Wasserman is added. Working with universities’ career management centers like the one at NYU-Poly, companies like GDEB will sometimes coordinate informational sessions separate from their participation at the career fairs and so provide students more opportunities to connect with recruiters and hiring managers.
NYU-Poly graduates and students tend to garner high praise, too, which is why GDEB has been a consistent participant of its career fairs over the years. “They usually do fairly well here,” says Shinbrot.