Graduates give tips for surviving in a new career

By Marie Veillette

Making the shift from high school to college can be difficult and scary. Even more intimidating is the leap from college to the working world.

Meredith Wathne and Krista Boehm, both less than six months into their careers, offered their advice on how to make a smooth adjustment from classes and homework to bosses and full-time work.

Wathne works at IRONCLAD Marketing as an online marketing strategist. She manages all the social media accounts of clients and writes blogs, video scripts and byline articles. While at MSUM, Wathne majored in integrated advertising and public relations and multimedia journalism.

Boehm is the weekend anchor, reporter and producer at Valley News Live in Fargo. She is in charge of building, writing and editing three 30-minute newscasts on weekends and goes out in the field to report during the week. Boehm majored in mass communications, with an emphasis in broadcast journalism while at MSUM.

Though both are new professionals, they had a great deal of information and tips to share at the graduation survival panel held Friday as part of communications week. The topics ranged from how to interview well to how to gain previous experience to what it is like to work full time.

Being able to interview well is an important skill to getting a job, but applicants must first have experience to be considered for a position.

Both Wathne and Boehm held internships that made them standout candidates. Wathne completed two internships on campus and two off. Her most recent, at Sundog as the social media intern, spanned last summer. She was also involved with many organizations at MSUM.

Boehm started as a production assistant at FOX news in Fargo and was promoted to weekend reporter. She held the position for two years while in college.

Both said students who are having trouble getting internship experience should not get discouraged.

“Internships are harder to get than jobs,” Wathne said, explaining single positions can draw hundreds of applicants.

“Don’t wait for that internship,” Boehm said. She advised practicing skills outside of class could be just as helpful as holding an internship.

“If you don’t have an internship, start blogging,” Wathne said. “Do things on your own.”

Even taking a semester to study abroad can supplement the experience section of a resume. Both said their experiences in other countries gave them a new perspective as well as independence and confidence.

Wathne and Boehm stressed the best thing interviewees can do to make a memorable impression is to show their personalities and be themselves.

“Don’t be afraid to show who you are,” Wathne said.

Boehm agreed. “There is nothing wrong with that at all because that’s what they want to see.”

In the digital age, interviewees have another factor playing into their first impression: social media accounts.

Wathne said she puts links to all her accounts on her resume, besides her Facebook, which she keeps private.

“It’s easier than trying to hide it,” she said.

Even though she does not readily share her Facebook, she still monitors what she posts.

“If you ever need someone who will keep you in line, friend your mom,” Wathne advised. “She’ll let you know if anything crosses the line.”

Though it is important to monitor accounts, Wathne said it is still acceptable to show personality on social media.

“I don’t want to look at someone’s Twitter account who’s a robot who tweets nothing but articles about marketing,” she said. “Show your personality, just don’t be crass about it.”

It is always difficult to admit to not being skilled in an area, and that can be even more uncomfortable to articulate in an interview with a potential employer.

“I had to accept the fact that it wasn’t embarrassing,” Boehm said, adding a genuine desire to learn in areas that are still cloudy is better than pretending to have a skill.

“Every interview is an experience,”Wathne said. “It just gets easier to say ‘yeah, I’m not good at that.’”

It’s important to ask questions about the position and company at the end of an interview, as it shows interest in the position. Boehm said asking specific questions about the job such as what software the company uses and where to learn more about the skills needed to succeed are important.

Wathne said asking about the cultural aspects of the company can help to determine if the job is a good fit. Inquiring about why the interviewer enjoys working for the company can open the conversation to more details about the everyday workings.

How does someone know if the job is right for him or her? Wathne said to follow what “feels right.”

“It was the first interview where I didn’t feel like I was on trial,” she said of her initial meeting with IRONCLAD. “You kind of just know when you meet the right people.”

Despite being free from homework, Wathne and Boehm both said adjusting to a new schedule and lifestyle has taken some time.

The number one issue both struggled with was finding a balance between life and work.

“You have to take time for yourself,” Boehm said.

Wathne added turning down friends to opt for a night in is difficult, but “It’s OK to say no.”

Boehm and Wathne stressed the importance of building solid connections with other professionals, even after being hired.

“I think I’ve learned now, it’s not always necessarily just networking, but making connections and being connected,” Boehm said.

Wathne gave an example. “You could be in a room of 100 people and network with them all, but who’s actually going to do you a favor if you need it?”

Overall, both graduates said showing a genuine passion for a job, giving an honest assessment of skills in an interview and making connections even before graduating will lead to great opportunities.

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