Clark graduate students benefit from an active, engaged alumni community, whose members are eager to be a resource and pass their own experience on to current students. School of Professional Studies alumni from across the globe gathered virtually recently to discuss the challenges of navigating a digital job market during a global pandemic.
As they shared the perspectives of both job seeker and employer, the overarching theme — along with hope and encouragement — was that although the job search may look different in these uncertain times, tried and true strategies still yield success.
“You need to do your homework and research the types of jobs that are available for your degree before and during your degree work,” says Bolu Ajayi, MSC ‘20, content editor at Wayfair. “Also, build relationships with advisers and instructors who can provide recommendations about your strengths and abilities.”
Along with creating effective resumes tailored to each prospective position, Ajayi noted the importance of extending your reach through social media. Having an updated LinkedIn presence is a crucial way to highlight job experience, courses taken, and interests and activities. “Network with as many people as possible and create your own website to showcase your abilities and accomplishments,” she says.
Panelists also stressed the need to communicate effectively, particularly for international students whose first language may not be English. “To help increase your command of the English language, it can be helpful to watch American television shows or movies or to read one English newspaper daily,” says Adit Joshi, MSIT ’20, senior business analyst at Deloitte.
Joshi also advised students to be fully prepared for their interviews, which includes researching the company and coming prepared with questions demonstrating knowledge of, and interest in, the potential employer. “It’s very important that you research the job description properly and try to frame your answers to the interviewer’s questions in a way that that makes you look qualified for that job description,” says Joshi.
Terri Simoneau-Berquez, MSC ‘19, who runs a consulting company in France, noted that many companies today are purpose driven organizations, so during the interview they will be asking about how your values and vision aligns with those of the employer. This also means knowing your niche and being able to articulate your specific values to see how you fit into the evolving job market.
“You have to showcase yourself and your skills and demonstrate how they can add value to the prospective employer,” she says. “Look at change and opportunity — how do your values and vision align?”
One of the most basic questions interviewers ask — “Tell me about yourself and what makes you qualified for this job?” — can often be a make or break moment. Simoneau-Berquez urges students to have their answer ready. “Know what you want to say in your head and use the right words to express yourself clearly and meaningfully to the interviewer.”
“Prepare to discuss your internships, experience, and what you learned in classes as key strengths, and also have your own questions. Answer questions, but lead the conversation as well,” says Melissa Richardson, MPA ’19. “It shows you took the time.” Richardson is integrated care partnership director at LUK, Inc., and specializes in nonprofit management, with a focus on effective client-centric service delivery and fiscal sustainability.
Tanya Gupta, MSIT ’19, a business analyst at Barclays, noted the importance of the multiple internships she completed while a Clark student. “Companies want to see U.S. experience, and with an internship you have three months to show what you can do,” she says.
Worcester City Clerk Nikolin Vangjeli, MPA ’19, described how those internships can be key to finding a long-term position. “An internship in your field of interest lets you see an organization’s culture and how you fit,” he says.
Vangjeli is passionate about local government and enjoys assisting the public with customer service and explaining the city council process. He also recommends using social media and getting involved in school and city/community activities, which makes you more visible to those looking for employees.
Perseverance is key — as is not getting discouraged by rejections. “Keep in mind, you’re not the only one getting rejected. And don’t restrict yourself — try to explore internships that may not be in your field because they can give you a start,” says Gupta.
Richardson also offered the employer’s perspective to give students a sense of what matters in the hiring process. “When interviewing prospective employees, I look for someone who has the ability to communicate as well as the ability to solve interpersonal issues and navigate conflict,” she says.
She also emphasized taking advantage of the hands-on, experiential curriculum SPS offers, which can help refine and redefine career goals, and which led her to realize her interests were in problem solving to drive outcomes — making her a better leader. “Clark has helped me take the next steps forward in my career through its classes and leadership training so I could answer the question ‘What kind of leader do I want to be?’”
The alumni stressed that there are plenty of opportunities available — the outlook is improving — and if you keep learning and moving forward, you’ll find success.
“Above all, it’s important not to jump to negative conclusions,” says Simoneau-Berquez. “Stay confident, work on developing yourself professionally, and go for it!”