To provide guidance to female college/university students on their early career journey, we asked eight professionals, including a Career Counselor and a VP of Growth, for their best advice. From marketing your skills and achievements to embracing self-confidence and advocacy, these experts share invaluable tips for securing internships, landing that first job after graduation, and other early career opportunities.
Market Your Skills and Achievements
As a career counselor, I coach all students—females and males. Everyone is unique. My tip is to position your skills, passions, grit, abilities, achievements, work ethic, and experience—not characteristics.
You compete for a job and earn a salary through merit. Sell and market your skills as a solution to an organization’s problems. Research the company, prepare, sharpen your skills, network, compete, follow up, and land a job and pay it forward.
As a career counselor, former executive, leader, team builder, hiring manager, and job seeker several times during my career, and as a father of three successful professional daughters, focus on your skills and keep building your network.
Salvatore Tofano, Career Counselor, Pace University
Choose a Supportive Boss
Choose your boss carefully. Interviews are a two-way street. Look for the ones who pride themselves on assisting in developing others and who understand the benefit of internal sponsorship. They will tell you that mistakes are for learning. This person will know how to be recognized in the organization, and they will display patience but firmness in their approach.
Communicate clearly about your experience, goals, and interests. Give examples of learning agility, self-awareness, and success stories. If you are unsure of the work you want, try new avenues that align with your competencies and passions, and you will probably acquire more skills. Keep the negative talk out of your head and focus on personal accomplishments. Watch your social media posts; the controversial, political, and avant-garde can be dangerous.
Karen Russo, Search Consultant and International Expansion Specialist Mexico and Latin America, IIPE, Investigaciones Internacionales de Personal Ejecutivo S de RL de CV
Join Women’s Professional Networks
If you’re a college or university student looking for your first opportunities, seek out women’s professional networks in your area(s) of interest. Joining some groups, introducing yourself, and sharing your career goals can be a great way to gain some visibility and make connections.
Joining specifically female-centric groups can provide valuable learning or mentorship opportunities from others who have first-hand experience in your target role or industry. It might surprise you how willing other female professionals are to share their time, insights, or resources with you.
For example, if you want to work in the climate space, joining a group like Women and Climate is an effective way to learn about opportunities, open professional doors, and grow your network. If you’re pursuing a career in social impact, try subscribing to the feminist-forward social impact careers newsletter “The Bloom,” and joining their membership network.
Eva Chan, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Senior Content Specialist, Resume Genius
Network Proactively and Seek Mentorship
Female college/university students pursuing internships or early-career opportunities are advised to network proactively and seek mentorship. Developing relationships with professionals in your desired industry can lead to valuable insights, guidance, and potential connections.
Attend industry events, seminars, and online forums to network with seasoned professionals who can offer guidance and discuss their career paths. Seeking out mentors, both inside and outside of your academic institution, can provide personalized guidance and support as you navigate your early-career path.
By establishing a strong network and mentorship relationships, you will not only receive valuable insights but also increase your visibility and access to internships and job opportunities that align with your career goals.
Jessica Shee, Senior Tech Editor and Marketing Content Manager, iBoysoft
Prepare Effectively for Interviews
I believe that successful interviews can make or break your job hunt. Understand the mission, values, and industry trends of the company and position through extensive research. Practice answering common interview questions and developing insightful responses that reflect your abilities and experiences.
During interviews, emphasize your adaptability, learning, and collaboration skills. Employers place great importance on soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Use concrete examples from your academic and extracurricular activities to show your skills and prospective contributions to the firm.
Tiffany Hafler, Marketing Coordinator, Blockchain Lawyer
Value Internships for Experience
I believe internships are indispensable for obtaining practical experience and constructing a resume. Find internships that will help you advance in the direction you want to go, whether they pay you or not at first.
These experiences give you hands-on experience, assist in skill development, and expose you to workplace dynamics. When applying for internships, prioritize learning opportunities over monetary incentives. A productive internship might lead to future work opportunities and expand your industry knowledge.
Consider applying for internships at both large corporations and startups to broaden your experience.
Cindi Keller, Communications Coordinator, The Criminal Defense Firm
Align with Your Industry Passion
In your career, focus on finding mentors and opportunities that align with your passion for the industry. Seek professionals who truly inspire you and will guide you on your journey. So, don’t be afraid to express your genuine passion for the field during interviews and interactions.
Diane Howard, RN and Founder, Esthetic Finesse
Embrace Self-Confidence and Advocacy
One crucial tip I’d offer to female college students is to embrace self-confidence and advocate for yourself. Don’t shy away from negotiating your salary or expressing your achievements. Network actively and seek mentorship from successful women in your field.
Remember, you bring unique perspectives and talents to the table. Trust in your abilities, and don’t hesitate to showcase your skills and accomplishments during interviews and throughout your career journey.
Ranee Zhang, VP of Growth, Airgram