How to lay the foundation for your career while you are a student

Volunteer—Volunteering can increase your chances of being hired if you’re strategic about it.  It allows you to practically apply what you are learning in seminary and minister to others while you are learning God’s Word.  Volunteering builds experience, helps you network with people in ministry, provides opportunities for others to recommend you within your field, and allows you to learn the lingo.

Register at your seminary’s Career Development Center. Build a relationship long before you are about to graduate. Gain their assistance as you plan for internships, summer jobs, community volunteering, etc.

Befriend your professors—You’ll learn more, have a greater appreciation of your academic experience and have more ways to find mentors, professional and academic references, and employers.

Assess yourself. Seek understanding of your characteristics, motivators, skills, competencies, values and interests. Take the Self Directed Search assessment at ($4.95) or the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS), at ($18.25). Both measure self-reported vocational interests and skills and match your score to possible careers.  A great book and excellent resource in this area is—48 Days to the work you love by Dan Miller and forward by Dave Ramsey.

Create your position objective statement concise in one paragraph.   Pray and seek God’s face.  Decide what you want to do next. Create a paragraph of only two or three sentences that you can use in emails, conversations and interviews. That’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention – about 20 seconds! Begin with, “I’m seeking a position as a …”
Include the function you are seeking (e.g. administrator) and the industry you are targeting (e.g. missions organizations & churches).

Connect With a Mentor: Mentors come in all stages of life. Utilize social media to network with someone who is a few years older than you and established in the ministry you are pursuing.

Fill your resume with “RATS”—Results/Actions/Task or Situations. On your résumé, start with a past tense action verb. Quantify the results, and then give the detail. If you can’t be there in person to tell how you’ve helped previous employers, then your résumé is a good substitute. Good layout is the key to a positive first impression.

Create a blog—Write informative posts about your area of career interests. Promote your blog as you are promoting your expertise and what you are learning.  See yourself as the expert in your field and you are writing as a consultant to an
audience. Provide samples of papers, commentary, journal articles, etc.  Write as if you are on staff and have an audience.

Grow and evolve in the process: The job search is continuously changing. What tools and processes work now, might not work in 6 months. Research continuously, utilize different job search tools, and improve yourself after interviews.

Set a Professional Voicemail on Your Phone: Standard voicemail is fine where you state your name and ask the caller to leave their name and number. Nothing crazy.

Request informational interviews—reach out to professionals in your desired field and request 10-15 minutes to ask their advice. Not asking for a job but strictly information.

Fill your job search with “hippos.” “Hippos” are “high payoff” activities. The length and quality of your search is greatly affected by how well you plan and manage your time. Networking is the number one way people find new jobs.

Build a presence on LinkedIn: Spend serious time on LinkedIn. Build connections, join groups related to your industry, and apply for jobs through LinkedIn. Why use LinkedIn? 85% of recruiters go to LinkedIn before anywhere else to find talent.  Build, organize, and manage your online recommendations from folks you’ve had professional relationships. Easily connect with industry professionals that have careers of interest to you or goals similar to yours. Find decision-makers at those companies and follow them as well.

Work with a Career Coach: It’s never a bad idea to work with a professional. A career coach will help you focus and refine your skills. They can also help you with your job search.

Freelance/Be creative in serving/Internships–Freelancing is a great way to boost your skills, resume, portfolio, professional network, income, and confidence. Work on contract as an interim staff member, seek internships, work summers, or ask for a title and pay be $1 a year.

Practice Interviewing with Friends: Get a group of 2-3 friends together and meet once a week to practice interview questions. Critique each other and offer feedback.

Buy Your Interview Clothes Before Graduating: You might already have nice clothes for an interview, but it’s always a nice feeling to buy a new suit and feel mentally prepared for something great to happen.
Follow me on Twitter: @jaroland74

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as
well.”  – Jesus, in Matthew 6:33


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