Developing the right career

Justin Runquist

“Don’t look back; somebody might be gaining on you,” legendary baseball player Satchel Paige often said.

Advice like this never goes out of style. Villanova students put so much time into academics and activities that they deserve to win in the job market. Hopefully career development is a central motive behind your efforts. Take it from people who’ve been there before: if you want to get ahead, you need to create a unique identity that will set you apart from others.

Have an open mind: take these ideas into serious consideration as you prepare for life beyond college. These suggestions are nothing new: rather, they are the synthesis of the experiences of most successful individuals.

1. You are only a few phone calls away from the job of your dreams.

Networking is infinitely powerful. Believe in the “six degrees of separation” concept, where you are only six people short of knowing anyone else in the world. Every person you know has a network of friends, and the best job openings can arise from people you interact with often: a professor, an administrator, a current employer or even a clergy member. If you desire to learn the nuts and bolts of networking, Harvey Mackay’s “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty” is a book that’s worth its weight in gold.

2. Prepare your resumé and business cards early.

Whether you’re a freshman or senior, it’s always the right time to update your resumé and have the Career Services staff review it. Remember, however, that everyone uses resumés. An easy way to stand out is to create personal business cards for yourself. This sign of professionalism can go a long way, especially considering college students rarely use business cards. The Bartley Print Center can create 500 cards for only $52.

3. Get creative, especially in front of the right people.

Get out of your box. Would you like to meet the author of a book you read? Find his e-mail address and invite him to breakfast! Are you interested in chatting with a professor at Wharton? Find out her research interests, send her an e-mail and ask questions regarding a recent publication she wrote. You are almost guaranteed to get instant responses from initiatives such as these. Just make sure to include your business card when you meet the people.

4. If you’re a round peg, don’t try to fit in a square hole.

Know thyself! Take time to go through the Myers-Briggs personality test or the Strong Interest Inventory at some point. This can give you an opportunity to make an honest assessment about yourself. Check these tests out yourself online at

5. Make the most of Career Services. They want to help you!

Can you meet at least three people in this office before graduation? If not, you may be missing the boat. Through their own contacts and Internet databases alone, their network easily extends to virtually any company, industry and country. This office also helps students with interviewing, job fairs, internships, etc.

6. Get to know Brenda Stover if you are a C&F student.

Find out the essential role that she plays for aspiring C&F interns.

7. Contact authors, managers and leaders that inspire you.

Go ahead and make these calls. You have nothing to lose. People will be honored that you are genuinely interested in their work.

8. Know the right procedure for leaving messages.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people sound far from professional here. Clearly, calmly and slowly leave your name, purpose of contact and phone number. Be sure to repeat your phone number. Nothing is more annoying to someone receiving 25 voicemails per day than having to play and replay your message to get your digits! Also, if your message is longer than 14 seconds, your chances of annoying your contact increase dramatically. Respect their time.

9. Utilize the remarkable power and effectiveness of handwritten thank you cards.

When was the last time you wrote one? My point exactly, Watson! And how many do you think Johnny in Finance 101 has written this week? Refer to previous sections on differentiating yourself. (Special note: e-mail thank yous don’t count. They are too easy to delete and much to easy for potential employers to forget about.)

10. Take time to devour “Major in Success” by Patrick Combs.

One can only let this book speak for itself. So that you have no excuse for not finding it, the ISBN number is 1-58008-20902.

11. Follow the words of Patrick Combs and seek out informal informational interviews with people you want to meet.

Interested in a certain profession? Call up a local firm that excites you and ask for a 10-15 minute informational interview. You can get ideas and make contacts this way, pressure-free and with little time invested. Quite often the company representative will talk to you longer than expected and if all goes well, quality jobs often arise from initiatives such as these!