The smartest thing I ever did in college was immediately befriend three classmates whose passion for learning was as strong as mine.
All three of us were transfer students and we became instant best friends the moment we met.
Each quarter we coordinated class schedules, proofread each other’s essays and short stories, met up at the on-campus Starbucks 30 minutes before an exam to whip through flash cards, and had group “support” message chains on Facebook until three in the morning—arguing over Modernism icon Virginia Woolf’s stance on convention, or the meaning of the repeated circles in Homer’s Illiad—whenever a gnarly essay was due the next day. Our collaboration worked flawlessly. Each one of us landed an A (an A- worst case scenario) every time we worked together.
After college, our perfect foursome altered slightly. While Diala went on to law school and Mollie remained in Europe after completing her last quarter of college abroad, Becky and I bought leather-bound portfolios and skirt-suits to dress for success as we entered into the after college job market.
We found the job market to be more intimidating than one of Dr. Silver’s at home essays (and that’s saying a lot. That course cost students their romantic relationships, perfect GPAs, and clean hair.) Becky and I both graduated at the top of our class and we both had a ton of work experience in addition to our degrees. We were still intimidated. We were competing for jobs with 83 percent of other recent college graduates. That’s intimating!
Naturally, we did the only thing we knew would work for certain: we collaborated.
Without knowing it at the time, Becky and I did three things for each other that transformed our relationship from study-buddy to career coach.
1. We talked about our dream jobs
Hitting the job market immediately following graduation can be overwhelming. Ever submit a resume and never hear back from the employer? Your resume likely got filtered out by resume screening software, a system designed to weed out resumes that don’t match the job description (based on key words). How demoralizing. At this point, even a rejection letter can uplift your spirits: “Someone actually saw my application!”
Additionally, without the help of a good internship, you’ll likely have a very difficult time landing your dream job immediately following graduation.
With the job market as competitive as it is today, it can be easy to lose sight of your dreams and settle for second, even third best.
Enter your career coach. Talking to your career go-to person is more important during this time than ever. Becky and I talked constantly during this time about our dream industry and what our ideal career looked like. Our goals evolve and our career plans become more developed overtime, but we’re constantly discussing our dreams so that they remain on the forefront of our minds. If we lose sight of our goals, we’ll never achieve them.
2. We mock-interviewed each other the right way
Mock interviews are super important. They’re one of the best ways to prepare for an interview. Get the jitters out of the way with your friend, not with a potential employer during an interview. But to get the most out of the mock interview, really pay attention to your friend’s responses. Don’t just go through the motions.
During mock interviews, Becky and I deconstructed responses as if we were critiquing a college essay for one another. We went beyond surface level feedback—you said “um” a lot, you didn’t make eye contact, etc.—and closely analyzed each other’s responses.
The biggest mistake we made during the first mock interview was not giving examples that connected to the job.
During an interview, your responses to questions should be positive, concise, and should include examples. The examples, however, should relate to the job position you’re interviewing for. If you’re applying for a marketing position, don’t choose an example from an accounting position you held. Rather, give an example from a creative position or achievement, one that correlates to the job description.
3. We continue to talk-shop even after landing great jobs
My bachelor’s degree hadn’t even arrived in the mail before my current employer invited me to put my English degree to good use as their new marketing manager. Um, yes please! Getting a job offer in my dream field for an amazing company was exactly what I was gunning for. As for Becky, after gaining a year of administrative experience post-graduation, she’s killing it in her ideal position within the creative industry, receiving a pretty impressive promotion within six months of working for her current employer, an employer she hopes to retire from. I know this because we always make it a point to check in on each other’s career paths. We do this to continue to inspire and drive each other to reach our ultimate career goals. Talking about our careers, where we are now, where we want to be in five years, how we plan on getting there helps us stay on track. It helps us avoid complacency. If we stopped coaching each other once we received a job offer, what kind of career coach would we be?
Need a study-buddy? It’s easier than you think. Scan the room during class to determine who you think would be up for it. It’s usually the person sitting in the first or second row, the person who asks and answers questions on a regular—but not annoying—basis.
Don’t wait until graduation to turn your study-buddy into your career coach. Do it now! Make it a priority to complete these three steps while you’re still in school. Schedule time during the week (Thursdays after the last class of the week works best) and time between quarters to prepare for your career with your new-found career coach.
written by Cari Stark
Cari Stark graduated from University of California, Irvine in 2013 as an English major. She is now the Marketing Manager for College Works Painting, a college internship designed to give students the opportunity to build a competitive resume to help them land their dream job when they graduate. College Works Painting offers a free career success toolkit for advice from recent grads who landed jobs at Google, ESPN, Amazon and many other great companies.