Career Launch Project
(This is the general assignment. Each semester the instructor may make some adjustments to this assignment)
In Three Parts
This project in your Senior Seminar is designed to help you prepare for your first career/job. It requires you to research position postings in your field, prepare application materials (including your completed portfolio), then explore and experience the interview process.
Part 1: Research position postings in your field
Using popular job search engines, compile a dossier of at least 10 job postings in your field. The job titles need not be exactly the same but limit yourself to a relatively narrow field. In most semesters, your instructor will invite a representative from the PSU Career Development Office to provide a presentation on job searching, networking, resumes, cover letters, and job interviewing. This usually occurs in 2 or 3 visits to class. Here is the link to the Career Development Office. There are many additional resources for you that go beyond what you need for this assignment.
Important: Cut and paste the job postings (and their URLs) into a word processing file. You’ll want to have copies that you can annotate the list and remember that the job postings may be taken down before you can conclude this project.
Now, write one three-section report that identifies the common themes in the job postings. Organize your report in this way:
Section 1(one paragraph) Give an overview of the dossier that describes the sorts of jobs you were interested in, why you chose these particular jobs (one paragraph)
Section 2 (two-three paragraphs)
- What are the personal qualities they are most interested in?
- What are the skills they are most interested in?
- What are the job responsibilities that crop up most often?
- What are the job requirements (experience, education-level, certifications, knowledge of particular software, etc.) that crop up most often?
- Do any positions stand out because they are asking for unique skills or qualities, or because they are written in a different tone, etc.?
Section 3 (three paragraphs)
- How do your academic experiences at PSU help you to meet these criteria?
- How do your internship experiences help you to meet these criteria?
- How do your extra-curricular experiences help you to meet these criteria?
- How do experiences from other jobs you have had help you to meet these criteria?
- Conclude with an overall assessment of how you match up to the overall criteria established in your dossier.
Part 2: Design Application Materials
Choose one of the job postings from your dossier and prepare an application package for that job. Using the experiences you described in part 3 of the report above, you will create a custom résumé and cover letter for that job.
Assume there will be hundreds of candidates for this position. You do not want to be disqualified without an interview. Therefore, be creative, be appropriate, and be careful!
- Letter of Application (Cover Letter) – A one-page letter to the contact person listed in the advertisement (or to the appropriate hiring authority). While introducing yourself and announcing your interest in the position, this letter should also demonstrate of your knowledge of the organization you are applying to, highlight your special qualifications and try to relate those to the qualifications/requirements listed in the advertisement. Remember to use specific anecdotes/stories to show your qualifications/experience–people remember and respond to stories! If you can discuss specific projects you’ve done as a student (describing them in a detailed manner, explaining their significance, pointing out what you accomplished and learned by them), so much the better. With this said, you are limited to one page so use language carefully, concisely, and parsimoniously.
- Résumé – Your résumé should be easy to scan (as many larger companies do this), but should also be thorough and draw attention to the strengths you feel best qualify you for this position.
Note that there may be overlap between the three parts of your application package. Part of your reflection in one of your portfolio entries may, for instance, appear in your cover letter.
Part 3: Mock Interview and Actual Interview
The first part of the project prepares you for being interviewed. The first part requires you to partner with another student in class and work together to develop questions a potential employer might ask you. Then practice interviewing each other, conducting a mock interview, adapting questions appropriate to each job interest.
The second part requires you to identify a professional who interviews and hires applicants on a regular basis. Prepare interview questions for that individual, make contact, and schedule an interview. This is called an informational interview. You will learn what employers look for in prospective applicants. You will work in class to develop questions for this interview.
Prepare a list of questions for a 30-minute interview with your partner.
- As your instincts would probably tell you, most interviews open with questions designed to make everyone comfortable, then get down to the business of asking questions that determine which of their qualified candidates is the best fit for the job and the organization. Your list of 12 questions should therefore open with a question designed to get to know a little about the personality of the applicant (you), then move immediately to questions that determine if the applicant (you) has the skills and qualities the organization is seeking. Don’t ask easy questions–you won’t encounter any easy questions in a real interview.
- Your list of questions should include at least one STAR* question (we’ll discuss STAR in class but it is introduced in Appendix A too) and should conclude with the question “Do you have any questions for us?” Watch this video for more on the STAR Interview Technique.
- *STAR = situation, task, action, results
- Conduct the interview via Zoom and record the interview. This is so that you can watch the interview later and write a reflection on how you performed in the interview. This will give you ideas for improvement and let you observe how you interact when you interview.
- Your partner will play the role of the interviewer. Your partner will ask the questions you have written and may prompt you to say more (“That’s interesting, can you say more about that.”) but they are also responsible for keeping you on schedule by telling you, prior to each question, how much time is left). They may change the order of questions as they see fit.
- Dress for the interview. You may have notes present
- Remember to prepare for your STAR question(s) and to come prepared for that all-important last question (“Do you have any questions for us?”).
Watch your own interview and write a reflection that assesses your performance. You will include this reflection in your final reflection from this Part 3 of the Career Launch Project along with your reflection after the informational interview.
- How would you assess your overall performance during the interview? What would you hope to do differently in a real interview?
- What was your strongest response in the interview? Why? What would you hope to do differently in a real interview?
- What was your weakest response in the interview? Why? What would you hope to do differently in a real interview?
- How would you assess your non-verbal communication during the interview? What would you hope to do differently in a real interview?
Next: Informational Interview
- Select individual for your actual interview.
- Prepare interview questions for that individual. Turn them in to me for review.
- Make contact and schedule an interview.
- Conduct the interview.
- Write a reflection on what you learned from this process and include your mock interview experience.
This is called an Informational Interview. Here is a video that can help you understand more about informational interviews. You will learn what employers look for in prospective applicants. You will develop your questions in class and in consultation with your professor.