If you apply for a job or internship, chances are you’ll be contacted for a phone interview. Don’t be fooled, as this is an important step in obtaining a job. A solid phone interview often leads to an in-person interview, which can lead to a big opportunity. Here’s how to ace it:
1. Use a cheat sheet. When interviewing on the phone instead of in person, you have a major advantage: you can make a cheat sheet. Seize the opportunity to map out all of your talking points beforehand and lay them out in front of you to take the stress out of completely memorizing what you want to say. But have some flexibility. Just because you prepared for a certain question doesn’t mean your interviewer will ask it, so be ready for anything.
2. Find a quiet setting. Even though speaking with someone over the phone might seem casual, it’s not. Treat your phone interview like an in-person interview by avoiding distractions and finding a quiet place where there’s no background noise. Furthermore, sit in the place where you do work—it’s a small mental reminder that you’re on a work call, not a chat.
3. Use a good phone connection. If you can, use a landline to ensure clear sound and a trusty connection. If on your cell, make sure it’s completely charged, and check the quality of your service. If you can’t access a landline and if you’re uncomfortable using your personal phone then you can try using Skype, which has a reliable voice option if your internet is stable. There’s nothing worse, after all, than getting cut off mid-conversation.
4. Remember who you’re talking to. On the phone, it’s sometimes easy to forget who you’re not chatting with a friend. So keep an even pace, don’t interrupt, and stay professional. Every interview is different, but it’s wise to avoid telling jokes or using slang.
5. Practice. In the age of texting, Facebook chat, and e-mail, the art of speaking on the phone is getting tougher to master. But to do so, ask a friend or parent to pick up their phone and pretend they’re a potential employer. It might seem silly, but the lessons learned are invaluable. You’ll learn how to talk efficiently, how to think quickly, and how to handle pauses in conversation.
Say you’re required to take a science course, or a math course, or an English course, and none of these are your strong suits. Instead of freaking out about getting a lower grade on a paper than you’re happy with, or instead of banging your head against a wall while trying to figure out why you just couldn’t ace that exam despite your hours of studying, try showing your professor that you care about the class through participation. After all, most professors include participation as a substantial part of your grade for the semester. So, with that in mind, here are some helpful hints:
- Talk yourself into it. If there’s any participation grade at all, then why aren’t you doing your best to make sure you knock it out of the park? Participate in every class, whether you’re completely sure of an answer or not. After all, it’s called a “participation” grade, not a “you-have-to-get-this-question-correct-or-else” grade. Your professor won’t reprimand you for showing that you’re paying attention in class and attempting to get a grasp on the material. What they can do, though, is punish your GPA if you sit through their class in complete silence. So speak up.
- Practice makes perfect. If you’re so afraid of public speaking that even speaking from your chair in front of all your classmates is kind of crippling, then take some baby steps. Participate in a small seminar instead of a lecture at first, then work your way up. Or, start participating in classes where you’re most comfortable with the material, then move to the more challenging ones. That way, you’ll get a feel for what it’s like to share your opinion or an answer with others, out loud. Like any skill, participation is a muscle, so work it out.
- Ask a question. If you really can’t answer a question in class, or if you are already sharing your opinion on a topic, then don’t hesitate to raise your hand in order to ask a question. Often, a good question (and any question is a good question, right?) will push class discussion, and teachers love that. Plus you’ll probably be asking a question one of your classmates had, anyways, so you’ll be helping them out too. At any rate, you’re professor will see that you care enough to think and to ask, which can only give your grade a little boost.
Life in college is expensive. I mean, come on, you’ve got bills to pay: that takeout pizza, those school supplies, and not to mention that monstrous tuition bill that eats at your wallet like a crazed Pac-Man. With that in mind, whether you qualify for federal work-study or not, you should do your best to find a job on campus in order to make some easy cash—or at least some spending money. Not sure which job is the best? Here are some common campus employment opportunities that will leave you as happy as the check in your pocket:
- Library assistant. Whether you’re posted up at the reference desk or at the circulation desk, keeping track of books and library materials, this job is kind of a breeze. Of course, the school library isn’t the most hectic or stressful place around, and by virtue of what it is, it’s usually always quiet. What does that mean? Not only are you on the clock for working, but you’ll likely be able to get some reading for class done. Getting paid to do homework? Score.
- The dining hall. I know what you’re thinking: Seriously, the dining hall? Are you crazy? I definitely don’t want to work in the dining hall. True: working with food—especially leftover food—can be kind of gross. And yeah, wiping down table or cleaning dishes might not be the most glamorous job, but hey, you get to experience the customer service business, and more, you can appreciate your own dining time that much more when you can put your feet up and relax. Plus, your parents would probably like to hear that you’re putting in some blood, sweat, and tears in order to earn your keep.
- Residence Assistant. Being a residence assistant (RA) might be the most lucrative job on campus, as you get paid a ton of money, and some schools even offer perks such as free parking, free board, or a free meal plan. While the duties of a residence assistant might be demanding, and while you might not want to be responsible for keeping track of and possibly disciplining your peers, the benefits are obvious: you get to organize social events and be a major leader on campus, all for money.
- Career services. If you snag the opportunity to work in career services, say, as an office assistant, then you’ll get to see all the career opportunities as they come in, and you’ll be surrounded by those who know how to land you a future job. Hey, getting ahead is always good, right? Especially if it comes with a paycheck.
- Art gallery. Art galleries on campus need someone to check visitors in, and that person is often a student. So why not you? Be a loyal patron of the arts as well as a student worker in one fell swoop.
Can you believe it? The school year is almost over. But the key word here is almost. While it’s probably fair to say that you’ve put in a ton of blood, sweat, and tears into your work this year, there’s still just a little more to conquer: those pesky final exams. To make sure you finish strong, heed the following:
- Do sweat the small stuff. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes paying extra attention to the little things actually makes a big difference. With that in mind, don’t get worked up over the big details, like re-reading the textbook or combing meticulously through every single note you ever took for every class ever. Instead, focus your studies on the specific things you don’t understand yet.
- Don’t cram the night before. While it’s a little late to spread out your studying, don’t make the mistake of staying up late, slamming coffees, studying non-stop to morning. That’ll zap your energy, your memory, your focus, et cetera–and you’re likely to do worse on a test for it.
- Ask for help. There’s no shame in asking your professors for a little help. In fact, doing so will only get you some bonus points, as they’ll see that you’re putting the effort into their class. Put in the extra elbow grease by attending office hours once or twice, just to make sure you clear up any class material that still seems a little fuzzy. Also talk with other students in the class, or friends who’ve taken the class before. They might understand something you’re struggling with.
- Close the blinds. Spring is here, and that means beautiful weather is right outside your window. That makes it kind of hard to sit in the library. There are chirping birds, a big sun, and a score of kids lounging on the grass. To ensure a top grade, set aside just a little time each day where you’ll forget that nature even exists (say, an hour or so). Then, when that hour passes, feel free to enjoy the outdoors as much as you want.
- Get some sleep. No matter how much studying you do, you’ll sabotage yourself if you don’t get some quality shuteye before your big exam. Remember that.
So you’ve sent out all your applications, and maybe you’ve even done a phone interview or two. Still, you’re just not getting those internship or job offers you were looking for. With summer approaching quicker than an oncoming train, here are some options that will keep you out of your parents’ basement:
1. Focus on your studies. If you don’t land a summer internship, then it’s important to stay proactive. For example, you could take a summer class or two in order get ahead on your college credits. That way you could potentially graduate early and get into the job market that much quicker, thereby beating your peers to the punch.
2. Travel. When in doubt, go see a new part of the world. Well, it doesn’t have to be that drastic or that far away, but make a point to take in some new places while you’re still young.
3. Work for free. The point of an internship is to get experience, and to build your resume. If you don’t end up with a swanky internship, then you can still get some much-needed experience by offering your skills and services for free. For instance: research some local non-profits (they’re typically always in need of help here and there) and say you’re willing to do some work for free, whether that be writing, designing, stuffing envelopes, whatever gets you in the door. Plus, by putting yourself out there, you’ll show initiative, which means a great recommendation may come your way in the future.
4. Keep learning. Just because summer might imply vacation, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning. Challenge yourself by making a summer reading list, by going to cultural events such as theatre productions, or whatever you think suits your interests best.
5. Try and try again. While you might not have scored the dream internship this time, you should still do your best to keep the dream alive. You owe it to yourself, so apply again the next chance you get. In the meantime, explore volunteer opportunities or work experiences that will bolster your resume.