Working in career services on our employer relations team, I have become much more aware of the corporate work environment and its related ceremonies, if you will, during the job search process. For the business students on my campus, career fairs are the norm. In fact, three of our four career fairs every year are geared towards our business majors. Even here on the Student Branding Blog, there tends to be more of a corporate/business focus.
What about professionalism for those of you not going into a business field? For the third year now, my university has hosted a Community & Human Services Fair targeting students majoring in the social sciences – psychology, sociology, social work. The only problem is that career fairs aren’t the norm for our social sciences students and there isn’t as much professional preparation in their curriculum.
After observing the students at our fair last week, here are some thoughts I have to prepare future human services professionals for the hiring process.
I have found that many students with an interest in human services already have a variety of relevant experiences in their background, many of those being volunteer roles. However, when it comes to developing a resume, too many students relegate these volunteer experiences to the bottom of the page and dedicate the bulk of their resume real estate to less relevant paid jobs.
When it comes to crafting your resume, remember that keeping it relevant is key. Want to be a social worker? The long-term volunteering you did with a senior center or your experience as a camp counselor is going to grab the attention of a potential employer more than your fast-food gig. Your relevant experiences might look different than those of a business major, but that is to be expected when you’re taking a different path.
Dress for Success
I’ll let you in on a little secret – I am not a suit person. While I know that there is a need for formal business attire, it’s not really me. I’m fortunate to work in an environment where I can get away without wearing a suit, yet I find other ways to look just as professional. This would be my recommendation for those of you networking, interviewing, or interning in the human services area.
Err on the side of business casual. It keeps you professional without being overdressed. Wearing a suit to an interview with an organization where no one ever wears a suit could be a bit much. Keep comfort in mind as well. In some instances, a job in human services might require a lot of time on your feet. If you attend a career fair in 3″ heels, an employer could easily question your judgment. When it comes to your business casual attire, dress up while still portraying an understanding of your future work environment.
Just remember, your image is important no matter what field you’re going into. While the topic might not be addressed as often or in as straightforward a manner as it is in some fields, aspiring human services professionals need to give just as much care to their personal presentation. While the image you present might differ depending on your career goal, a good one is still a must.
Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development. In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships. She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media. Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater. To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.