As my peers and I search for jobs and summer internships, a few sticky topics have come up—how do I dress for my interview? Write a follow-up email? Tell an employer about my weaknesses? How can I balance career dreams and community engagement? After researching these questions, I’ve come up with several answers.
Dear friends—I hope this helps!
- What is business casual?
For starters, DON’T break out the flip-flops. Most of you already pass this rule. But how do I look sharp? What does this label even mean? Should I wear khakis or Suit pants? Truth is, for most jobs, this will be your wardrobe. Only a select few dress in business attire every day. Here’s a handy list for dressing up, compiled from our career website.
DO remember that business casual is more business than casual.
DON’T look sloppy. Dining hall breakfast garb like sweatpants and t-shirts is, of course, never acceptable. Also, make sure that your “nice” clothes are all neat and well tailored. Nothing too tight or revealing!
For ladies, DO wear skirts and nice dresses. Make sure they’re not too short.
Also for ladies, DO try any of the following combinations: dress + cardigan or blazer, or skirt + sweater set, knit top, blouse, button-down, V-neck, centerpiece shirt, or turtleneck.
For men, DO wear pressed pants with a belt.
For men, DO wear business formal minus the tie and the jacket. Often, a polo shirt can be appropriate, too.
If this is for the interview, DO research the company you’re interviewing with beforehand. Often you’ll be free to express more personality in an interview with Google, Facebook, and other computer software companies as well as in the film and fashion industries.
Bottom line, DO research before getting dressed. If you have questions, contact your interviewer for more information.
- How do I write a follow-up email?
If you’ve seriously applied for jobs and internships, the follow-up stage (or, more accurately, the do-I-follow-up? stage) is fully stocked with opportunities! Check out Alison Green’s short, snappy follow-up email for a good model: http://bit.ly/r60Zrt.
- Tackling the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question.
Kryptonite? Narcissism? Well, to be honest, nothing!
Needless to say, these answers won’t fly in the job interview. This is a tricky question, and when an interviewer asks many of these questions, it’s to your advantage to think creatively and show that you are a thoughtful, self-reflective human being. You’re not Superman, and even wearing a Super-suit and cape to your interview won’t prove that. (Note: do not test this theory. See section on Business Casual above.)
DON’T spin a weakness into a strength. “I don’t have any weaknesses,” “None that I know of,” “I frequently work overtime at the expense of my social life,” “I’m so efficient that I don’t have to delegate” are all great weaknesses to have. But for the interview, you can do better.
DO use this model. Wetfeet identifies a three-part system to answering this question. First, identify a real weakness. Next, show how you’ve improved upon that weakness. Third, celebrate your improvement. That way you’ll come across as human and fallible but still determined and adept at problem solving.
- As a senior, do I “give back” or pursue a life-long dream?
In a perfect world, you’ll be doing both next year—painting, dancing, writing, breaking into fashion or film, trying your hand as an actor. Why not? You’re young and there’s no (or, well, few) strings attached!
Yet, you’ve had an uncommon opportunity in education…you feel like you should give back right away. What do you do?
Often, you can do both. Rana Campbell, a senior and Sociology major, plans to pursue her dream job in the media industry while also giving back where and when she can—through a local afterschool program or as a volunteer for a program like Peety Greene Prisoner Assistance Program, where she has volunteered weekly for all four years of her undergraduate career.
For others, it’s a service job and a dream on the side. Landed a job in consulting? You can still take dance class at night. What about travel? Are you taking a job abroad and itching to write a novel? No time like the present!
Look to the Alumni Careers Network to find previous Princeton grads that are currently carving the path you desire. You’ll find that a career might take you on paths you never even imagined!
- How do I find jobs if I want to work in a particular city in the U.S.?
Oh, so you want to work in New York? Easy. We’ve got that one in the bag.
Other cities aren’t so easy to scope out. As an east coast school in New Jersey, we might be a bit partial to our neighboring cities when it comes to jobs. That being said, there are some easy steps to take to find a job—wherever you may wish to be next year.
First, on TigerTracks and UCAN, the search feature allows you to list postings by location as well as by keyword. Bam. Done.
Second, check out GoingGlobal.com. Even though you’re not technically going abroad, the website has a wealth of organizations listed for major U.S. cities. You can browse their lists by city, and then more closely by industry.