Hi everyone! I hope you are having a fantastic morning, afternoon, or evening from wherever you are reading this blog! My name is Rizwan Tahmeed, a Grade 12 student at Woburn Collegiate Institute. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate Leadership Academy Lecturer Austin Teshuba’s presentation on career planning.
Before getting into the highlights, it was an honor to attend Austin’s lecture. The session was more of an informational and relatable presentation compared to the past speakers. This lecture focused on the overarching theme of securing a job and the process from crafting your experiences to landing the offer during the interview stage. Although Austin shared a ton of information that is vital with us, my three highlights were learning how to craft experiences, how to secure an interview and referrals, and how to prepare myself for a job interview.
One of the key takeaways from the lecture was formulating and crafting experiences in such a way that they told the interviewer what I learned, the skills I obtained, and I can recognize what I needed to work on. When analyzing my experiences, the best method is to write down all of the experiences on paper so that the minor details are able to transfer over to the short-term memory instead of staying in the long-term memory. When writing out your experiences, it is vital to write out what you are doing, three to four skills that best demonstrate how that experience helped you grow professionally and personally, and what you learned about yourself. From there, looking over at the skills, identifying gaps, and seeking experiences to fill those skill gaps is the next step. Furthermore, it is crucial to identify experiences that are duplicates and removing them from the list. By following this framework, you can create and tailor your experiences so that when someone hears it, they can learn more about your capabilities, skills, and how you developed yourself throughout the past years.
Another one of my key highlights was learning how to secure an interview and referrals. In terms of the interview, most employers don’t look at cover letters in great detail compared to resumes. Thus, resumes should be a maximum of one page, be skimmable in less than 10 seconds, and tell your story meaningfully, consistently, and uniquely. In terms of securing referrals, it is vital to avoid transitional first impressions and stay in touch with your connections. The sentence that stuck to me the most was the fact that your peers now are your connections for later and can help you when you most need it. Austin also shared with us a triangle that demonstrates how each type of referral can either increase or decrease an applicant’s chances to get chosen for an interview. The triangle is as follows:
1. Direct Referrals: At the top lies direct referrals. This is the type of referral that secures the interview and gives the highest chances of having an employer review your application or resume. At the same time, the strictness of the applicant tracking system is near or close to zero.
2. Generic Referrals: Directly below the direct referrals are the generic referrals. This is the type of referral that gives a higher chance of having an employer review your application or resume compared to the other types mentioned below. However, it is not as effective as a direct referral, and the applicant tracking system is a bit more strict on the resume or application.
3. On-Campus/Other affiliation applications: Underneath generic referrals lies on-campus/other affiliation applications. This is the type of application process where applicants apply directly through their post-secondary institution's job application portal or through companies that are affiliated with the target workplace. In essence, the applicant applies through an affiliated partner instead of directly through the job posting. This type of referral or process gives you a higher chance of getting your application or resume reviewed, but not as high when compared to the other two types mentioned above. The applicant tracking system is more strict on these types of applications.
4. General Applications: This is the type of referral that is on the bottom of the triangle. This type of referral encompasses any application that has been submitted through the job posting. As a result, there is a low chance of having your resume or application reviewed and the applicant tracking system rigorously evaluates your application or resume compared to the other types.
One final key highlight was learning how to secure a job offer by performing well at the interview. In other words, preparation and practice are essential to pass this stage with flying colors or exceptionally. The basics are to always research about the company, look presentable, make eye contact with the interviewer, and dress appropriately for the interview. In other words, make sure you look professional and don’t wear a suit to every single interview. The best practice is always to dress according to the job and one step more than what the employer wears. For instance, wearing a suit to an interview for a management position is appropriate. However, wearing it to a retail position interview would seem too much and over the top. When researching the company, always look at the current trends, what they are doing, the culture, the values, and the guiding principles.
In terms of practicing, it is always best to come prepared with answers to the interview. There are so many potential and traditional questions that you can find on the internet by simply searching up interview questions that pertain to the position you are applying for. One example is the common question of "Tell me about yourself." Your answer to this question should be a maximum of 60 seconds, what you did in the past, what you want to do, what you are passionate about, and what skills you have to offer. When it comes to behavior questions that start with a sentence along the lines of “Tell me about . . . ,” it is best to use the STAR approach, which stands for situation, task, action, and results. Through this, you provide situational background, the task at hand, the actions you took, and the results that were produced as a result of those actions.
Interviews are nerve-wracking for everyone. I have done a few interviews before, and my advice is to remove the interview element. Think of it as more of a professional conversation between you and the recruiter. Remember, the recruiter is your advocate and will always root for you. The recruiter wants to see the real you in this interview, not the fake you. Removing the interview element will help you calm your nerves down, change your mindset, feel more confident and comfortable, and the recruiter can see the real you and your personal brand. In addition, don't sound like a robot when answering the interviewer's questions and be a normal human being.
In closing, I can most definitely conclude that Austin’s presentation helped me understand how to construct convincing experiences, how to secure referrals and interviews, the applicant tracking system, how employers pick resumes to explore more deeply, and how to perform well in the interview. Austin’s lecture was informative, relatable, and one that helped me discover more about the world of job application and seeking.