As you work on advancing your education, it’s possible to concurrently work toward that new career you had in mind when you started your degree program. It’s just important to consider a few things about the way potential employers look at an in-progress education.
Recognize the benefits to potential employers
Start your career search off on the right foot with the attitude that being in school has benefits for both you and your employer. Many employers are glad to have employees who are also students. Lou Adler, author of “The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired,” says, “It’s a positive; it’s not going to hurt.” Hank Boyer, author and developer of the Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment, explains, “The student recognizes the value of doing something positive to improve his or her skills and education.” Once you share this optimistic view, it’s time to get started with the process of applying for positions.
Place your education information lower on your resume
Employers receive many resumes and have only a few seconds to skim each one, so the most relevant information should be what catches their eye first. According to David Bakke, financial columnist for Money Crashers, that includes “any certifications [you] may have received, relevant organizations [you] belong to and any work experience that’s appropriate for the position.” Although your current schooling is of high priority to you right now, it doesn’t merit top billing on your resume, so include that lower on the page. Under the “Education” heading, Dr. Michael Provitera, management consultant and author of “Mastering Self-Motivation: Preparing Yourself for Personal Excellence,” encourages students, “List courses taken that apply to the job and the ones that you are looking forward to taking.” As for communicating to the potential employer when you’ll be finished with school, Boyer recommends using the wording “Anticipated Graduation Date.”
Plan for the interview
Once you land an interview, get ready to articulate why you’re a great fit for the position, even though you’re in school. Bakke tells students, “Plan on addressing any questions about [your] education head on and explain the valid reasons why the education is in-progress.” Employers may have concerns about your commitment and availability for the job while you’re in school, so be prepared to explain how your schedule can accommodate both your career and your education. For example, Provitera suggests, “Going to college in the evening, weekend or online will free-up time for a nine-to-five job.” Above all, present yourself as the best candidate for the position, regardless of your current educational aspirations, because, as Boyer emphasizes, “How well the candidate shows me he or she fits all of the job requirements is far more important than anything else.”
Know some companies will not be willing to hire students
Unfortunately, not every work opportunity is available to people in the process of acquiring degrees; as Adler says, “It depends on the job.” Bakke elaborates, “There are many cases where a candidate will be simply disqualified from job consideration if they do not meet the educational requirements for the position.” For example, Joel Gross, CEO of Coalition Technologies, explains that his company’s policy is not to hire students: “The work we do is very detail-oriented and mind-intensive, and any student committing to our workplace standards would have to compromise their schoolwork. Education is the basis of a successful career, and we wouldn’t want to jeopardize that for a student.”
Don’t get discouraged
Just because the door to some job opportunities may still be closed to you, don’t rule out searching for a career entirely. Many companies are eager to hire a “green and growing” student, as Boyer puts it. Provitera encourages, “Potential employers love students that are pursuing their degree. One reason is that what students are learning can be applied to their daily work environment.”
As the applicant, it is your responsibility to be honest and up front about your educational progress, ready to present your qualifications for the position and prepared to explain how your schooling is of great benefit to both you and your potential employer. Although you may not be holding your diploma quite yet, your successful job hunt can begin today.
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