Alex Just, Associate Partner at Pagefield Global Counsel, helps people in litigation and crisis to manage PR and communication strategy
PULS: What skills and qualities a young person should have by the time he/she graduates from college?
AJ: One of the main things that a young person needs to know is what their passions are in life. It might be academic, but also projects, hobbies and activities. I believe that employers want to see somebody who is able to stay committed and demonstrates confidence. You should be able to deal with stressful situation and unexpected events when things don’t appear in control. Confidence makes a big impression on employers or an interview panel.
PULS: If you can’t list much of work experience on your resume, how would you suggest making it stronger?
AJ: People often underestimate the importance of volunteer work, part time jobs and student clubs that they join during the college years. Volunteering is important because it shows your commitment and being able to give your time to charity. Working for your family, church or any other group shows your engagement. Basic jobs that are not relevant to your career are still important as you receive professional skills. Sometimes employers will look at some of that experience and pick up the skills which might be interesting and useful for them. Student clubs are important too. University provides all these wonderful opportunities, such as a Model UN or a Debating Society. If there is no club, set up one yourself. It will show that you are entrepreneurial and can use your initiative, be a manager, do fundraising, find sponsorships and gather people around a common idea. Anyone who can run an event or launch a club is on the right track. Young people should not position themselves as academics only when looking full time jobs. Your other experience is as relevant as your diploma as it disciplines you and demonstrates your commitment.
PULS: How important networking is?
AJ: Networking is very important because it can provide you with opportunities that you would miss otherwise. For example, not all jobs are advertised, therefore, if there is a dream place that you would like to work for, you should try to get to know people who work for that organization and involve them into your network. Visit public events or ask for an internship. When you are a student, you need to talk to people about your career plans and usually, people are happy to help and provide opportunities to intern. It is also the right time to do so because you don’t have to worry about paying as many bills yet, so you can gain experience which can later lead to a full-time job.
PULS: Do you think that being young and talented is not enough?
AJ: You need to stand out and show that you have something unique to offer. It is vital that you do research on the organization or the company which you are applying for beforehand, i.e. before calling people to ask for the internship and before coming into an interview. If you ask unsophisticated and uninteresting questions during the meeting, people might think that you are not committed. Especially now, when there is a lot of information on the internet and through your network, you should do a good job in preparing for the important meetings. You should look into questions like what are the challenges that the organization is facing, what the biggest successes are to get a better understanding of what you can get from the meeting and the organization that you would like to join.
PULS: What can make one stand out to an employer?
AJ: People who have good ideas or different ideas. I have worked with companies on communication and the use of social media. Sometimes young people have the knowledge which the older generation doesn’t have, because they use the technology differently. It depends on the role, but you should make the employer easily tell you ‘yes’. Most of the time, employers are inclined to say ‘no’, because the recruitment process attracts so many different people. So you should try to think like the employer about what they need and what a candidate shall demonstrate to justify bringing you into the team.
PULS: How useful the employment agencies are?
AJ: Sometimes they are good. Agencies can help you do some intelligence on the industry and explain what is happening and what companies are looking for. Usually they charge a fee. So some of the cost of your labour is partially going to the agency. They often have short term jobs. Normally full-time jobs would be advertised by the companies themselves. However, there are some companies that outsource their human resources work to the employment agencies.
PULS: Does a degree from a prestigious college guarantee employment?
AJ: The success is not guaranteed for anyone. This is because when you graduate from an elite university many people then apply for elite jobs. I still think you should study as hard as you can and try to get into the best university because you get access to a great network. However, in the long run it is more about the individual.
PULS: Is this universal advice?
AJ: The type of skills and what employers look for changes depending on the industry and on the region. In some places, language would be important, especially if you work in an international company dealing with international clients. Generally, enthusiasm, eagerness to learn and commitment, is what makes you attractive for employers.