In the Career Development Center, we can help groom your resume, sharpen your cover letter, inform you of trends in hiring, connect you to people and organizations that matter in your field, and can even set you up with a suit and tie for the gig.
What we can’t do is make you LOVE THE DETAILS.
I graduated college with a degree in English. I took classes like Women’s Literature before 1800 and studied the valuation of the Oxford Comma. I don’t know the details of the 2008 recession, although I did watch The Big Short. I don’t know what all the coding languages mean, although I do understand that JAVA is not just a type of coffee. Loving the details of your career and showing up for each opportunity informed and present is all on you.
This last semester I found myself shaking hands with the CFO of United Midwest Bank in Kansas City. They employ nearly 4,000 people and hold over 19 billion dollars in total assets. While listening to Ram Sankar and his team share with Park Students about the financial collapse, financial analysis, risk management, and the future of UMB there was no doubt that he loves the details of his career– as a good exec should. His content knowledge fueled him and the others sitting around the table. You know what else I noticed about Mr. Sankar? His tone of voice, his body language, his finely pressed shirt, his posture and his presence all indicated that he was still loving the details of what it means to be a CFO in banking and fully show up for even a ragtag group of college kids.
Great leaders often inspire us to show up for our season of life and encourage us to keep working toward our goals.
If you are a nursing student I don’t think you have to “love” cleaning up after patients. I.T. gurus probably don’t always love cranking out five hundred lines of code in a one day. I am talking about the details of what it takes to BE IN BAKING, to BE IN NURSING, to BE IN TEACHING, or to BE IN GRAPHIC DESIGN. Mr. Shankar shared with us that attitude and passion are apparent in your interactions with others and will get you through in the long haul of your career.
So you want an internship, a job, a career? You want to nail the interview and bag the gig and come to me asking for advice? I say, like Ram, you’ve got to love the details.
What does it actually look like to “love the details”?
1. Knowing your content knowledge
For heaven’s sake, know your content. Don’t blame your school, your professors, or even your mama for a knowledge gap. There is absolutely no reason you should enter an interview or introduction without knowing what recruiters are looking for in a candidate in your field. You can do this easily by using your education to the fullest. Take notes, look up in class, research topics that don’t come easily, and most importantly practice conversing with peers about what you are learning. We always suggest that students follow influencers, organizations, and people in their field of study on social media, and seek out publications and blogs that introduce them to the relevant conversations. Lastly, speak to professionals about the issues that matter to them. Reach out to an employee of a company you want to work for to ask about trends and topics, or going over the company’s mission will season you as an individual and as a candidate. Put that snazzy Linkedin profile to work.
2. Showing up for the part
You may not be ramping up to be a CFO anytime soon, but Ram didn’t get his job as CFO just because he understands banking, he landed the job because he’s consistently shown up for his part. Whether that’s an introductory meeting with a school’s career counselor (personal plug here), a site visit, a first internship, or an interview for the corner office upgrade. Cultivating a spirit of energy, engagement, and professionalism within even the minutest opportunity sets you up for the kind of wins that can’t be quantified. Your career is a marathon, so if you keep showing up each day dressed for the job you want, ready to listen to others, asking questions, participating, and treating each professional interaction as an opportunity for future advancement you will eventually find it! This sounds so simple, but we still see students show up with the kind of lack of preparedness and professionalism that gives any serious professional a stomach ache.
3. Cultivating the skills
We’ve heard over and over again from talent acquisition at UMB, Cerner, VML, and the like – that soft skills are your greatest asset. An employer can train you to run a program, but it’s much harder to teach natural curiosity, knowability, emotional intelligence, discipline, or assertiveness. These skills take self-assessment and a dedication to retrain and work out our own issues. Recruiters tell us that a candidate who has some degree of emotional intelligence and experience working successfully in teams will stand out from other candidates. You can’t simply list “teamwork” on your resume, you have to SHOW where and how you gained this experience and be ready to talk about the journey. There are amazing resources out there to help you develop better soft skills, but you have to show up and be ready to get your hands dirty, ask hard questions about yourself, and put in the work. Start by talking to a mentor or professor about how they see your soft skills, take a personality test like the Enneagram, and find opportunities to grow.
4. Finding your differentiator
Once you know a thing or two about your content, have some skills you can show for, and are repeatedly showing up for your part, you are ready to set yourself apart from the pack of candidates by finding your differentiator. What makes you different? What brought you to this subject matter or career path and how can your story contribute to the story of the company you want to work for? Your dream job will be hard to get, so creating a personal brand and crafting a statement about yourself that personifies what you “love about the details” of this career will add to your energy and confidence when it’s time to market yourself and interact with others outside the classroom. Still don’t know what you love, or what sets your apart? Imagine yourself thriving in that dream job. How are you killing it? What landed you the position and not someone else?
A former colleague of Mr. Sankar describes him as being able to “bring an unparalleled level of integrity and thoughtfulness to his position. He is able to traffic between departments and builds goodwill quickly. His sincerity and ability to engender trust are key to his success.”
It’s clear that loving the details is a mixture of a passion for your content and an aptitude for what it looks like to BE in your field day in and day out.