Q&A with Patrick Zajac on how to secure your dream role

By Farah Bassyouni Apr 14, 2023

This year, the ‘Staff Member of the Year’ was awarded to the 2018 alum Patrick Zajac whose official role at IWU is Assistant Director for Career Engagement. Zajac has been a staff member since 2018 and is known to give his all and help students in whatever way possible. 

With the end of the school year approaching, most students are on the hunt for a job to fill the summer. Searching for internships and full-time positions can be overwhelming and difficult. Here are some questions and answers to help students secure the role they want. 

Question: What is the most common issue you see with students’ resumes?

Answer: Students leave out experiences that are important and where they have done strong work. Even if an experience may not seem relevant on the surface to the field they are interested in, it is important for students to still list it on their resumes. That is the value of coming to a liberal arts institution like IWU where students can pursue multiple areas of interest. Don’t hesitate to list an experience that was important to you. Employers value diversity of experiences and the skills learned from those roles. There are two parts to a resume, formatting and content. Formatting errors are common on resumes. You can have wonderful content but it is best to have it listed in a clear, easy to read format. Our office can assist with this. Sample resume templates are available in the Handshake resource library. 

Question: How should students fill their resumes if they have a small amount of experience?

Answer: I am confident that all IWU students have experiences that they can list on their resume, where they have demonstrated and developed strong skills. Resumes are building blocks and a snapshot of a student at a given point in time. A resume today will be different than next year as students add additional experiences. Students may not have much experience yet related to their career of interest, but they can also list other experiences. For example, class projects where students worked on a team, past campus or other part-time jobs, RSOs, leadership positions on campus and in other areas, community involvement, etc. It is also okay to list high school involvement. We typically recommend starting to remove high school items after the second year in college due to spacing (it is best if resumes are one page as undergraduates for most fields) but students are always welcome to list a high school experience after this time if this experience was important to them. Think about experiences in the realm of transferable skills. Regardless of the relevancy of the experience to a student’s field of interest, students may have learned skills, such as communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, problem solving, etc. that can transfer over and be applied in any role.

Question: Which platform, like LinkedIn or Handshake, do you think is the most student-friendly to find a job or internship?

Answer: Handshake is our system specifically for IWU students to use and explore their career goals. It is used by 1400 + schools and over 750,000 employers. Each school’s page is unique and tailored to their students. All IWU students have accounts. To log in, students need to enter their IWU net-id and password using the link below to activate their accounts. Handshake’s jobs and other content are tailored to college students. Students can also schedule an appointment with members of the Hart Career Center team through Handshake. With that being said, LinkedIn is an important site for students to also utilize. LinkedIn is not specific to just undergraduates as many professionals in all different industries use the site but it is still a fantastic way to connect with alumni and research companies along with helping students showcase their personal brand. They also have a job board (it is best to sort by entry level or internship roles). I recommend students to start with Handshake. From there, I encourage them to make a LinkedIn account as well. It is important to utilize all available tools in a student’s career toolbox. 

Question: How necessary do you think optional cover letters are?

Answer: I think it is important to submit a cover letter even if it is not required. The “dreaded” cover letter sounds scarier than it actually is. It is a document that can help your chances at securing an interview. You can have a core of your letter finished and then make some minor modifications to it for each role you are applying to. Sometimes, an organization will not give you an option to submit the letter so no problem at all to not submit one in that case. In the letter, I recommend highlighting specific reasons on why you are interested in the position and how your past experiences and/or coursework have prepared you for the role. Sample cover letter templates are available in the Handshake resource library.

Question: How do interviews for full-time positions differ from internship interviews?

Answer: For most interviews, Interviews for full-time roles and internships are not drastically different. Preparation is key. Practice, practice, practice. Start to tell your story of why you are interested in the role and share specific examples from your past experiences where you demonstrated the skills required in the position.

 

Finding a job is always the hardest part of college. Simplify the search even just a little bit with help from The Hart Career Center. 

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