Sunday, February 27, 2011

SJSU Job/Intern Fair: Asserting MIS Broadly & Other Stuff No One Told You

So if you're an MIS student, hopefully you know by now you need to be going after every edge you can get for a good career launch (including internships now if you're not graduating yet) so you need to be at the SJSU Job and Internship Fair this Wednesday, looking sharp and with lots of well-tuned resumes in hand.

All the usual advice applies but I have my own additional suggestions you may not have heard elsewhere:

First and most importantly, there are several employers there that didn't list MIS among the majors/concentrations they are seeking but that still look like good targets to me SO give them a shot, tooSometimes they aren't aware that we have an MIS program or they don't know what it is and don't realize MIS students would have what they need. For example, there are some that list technology majors, like CS or CompEngr and other business concentrations like AIS, Finance or even MBA's but not MIS. They're looking for tech+business so most likely, MIS would be an ideal fit for them (especially if they are a tech company) but they just don't know about it so you have to make the case...convincingly. You can do that in talking to the reps but also in your cover letter - you know business+technology so you are in a unique position to bridge gaps between the two sides and that's ideal for all kinds of positions, especially in tech's, like marketing, communications, etc. And even if they only list CS and CompEngr-type majors (nothing about business), if the job position isn't limited to "engineer" only, or even if it is, you could try it anyway - they may realize they have some other position where "tech+business" fits perfectly. The point is: don't let yourself be limited by what they listed–assert MIS broadly as uniquely valuable in almost any organization in today's digital economy. It is but many people just don't know it...yet. (I'm going to the fair before they open to try to explain this to as many of those employers as I can get to but you need to cover from your end, too.)

Other advice that often surprises students:

If you're not graduating, seek internships aggressively - they're huge to future career success - but here's the piece often missed: don't feel like you don't know enough to apply. That's a common misconception and totally unnecessarily limiting. Despite whatever they describe as the position duties/requirements, the employers realize you are in the middle of your program and don't really have a lot of skills yet - they're offering to help you get some. Besides, even if you're early in the program, you already know a lot more than you realize just form the classes you've had and what you've picked up by osmosis from your friends, the club (MISA), and blogs, etc. Students almost always undersell themselves and shy away from applying - don't make that mistake. At least apply and let them decide if you know enough or not. If not, you haven't lost anything but a few minutes of time. If so, you'll get great experience and a strong line item on your resume for your graduation-time search. Do it!

Whether seeking careers or internships, don't be put off by the long list of "qualifications" that you might not completely fill. That is their ideal list but probably no one will have all of that and even if they do, they might not interview as well as you. Go ahead and apply. Let them decide whether you have enough of what they want or not. If they ask about things you're missing, tell them you're interested and motivated to learn them and explain how you've picked up and learned other things on your own before. (If you haven't, do that. Target some useful stuff, get the "Dummies" books and learn them.)

Don't be too picky about the job descriptions. If there's any slight chance at all that you could conceivably be interested, go ahead and apply. If it moves forward, you'll get the chance to learn more about what the job would really be like and if it turns out to be unattractive you can always turn down any offer you get. No problem. But often jobs are not what they seem from the description (maybe better; maybe worse) and the job titles themselves can be very misleading. And remember, with jobs it's just like with boy/girlfriends, it's way easier to get a new one when you already have one–doesn't matter if the current one isn't that great. I urge you to consider all options (...job-wise).

Lastly, write a job objective that isn't all about you - what you want them to give you. They're not about doing you favors. Not in this market. You need to be about what you can do for them. What you can contribute, what skills and energy you bring to the table to help them excel the way they want to. Your objective should strike them as "hey, here's a kid who wants to come in and do something for us...bring some energy and drive and spirit and pitch in to solve our problems and help us beat those nasty competitor people we hate."

Oh yeah, one more thing. If you really are going to search broadly, as I have urged, then you'll need different versions of your resume, each tuned to different types of employers, highlighting the things that that type would want most. Do your homework and get the right type of resume to the right potential employers.

Ok, one more thing for real this time: never overstate your abilities. If you have only introductory exposure to Linux or whatever, say so. Not knowing enough about something will only occasionally cost you a job - they'll usually be happy you know something at all about it and expect you can learn from there. Thinking or saying you know more than you do is easy to expose and will cost you the job every time. It indicates you're lying or at least that you don't know what you don't know and therefore won't be good at learning and that is all bad. Your attitude and ethic is almost always more important than the extent of your actual current knowledge.

Ok. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!

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