Students wary about getting a job after graduation learned of a five-step plan to help them at a School of Law event Tuesday.
Jack Bobo, senior adviser for biotechnology in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, discussed his personal experience applying for government positions to help students looking for a job in the government. Bobo gave a wide array of advice, noting that students should embrace networking, be clear when stating their qualifications, play up their strengths and follow up with potential connections.
Making connections should not be seen solely as a job searching technique but as a way of interacting with other people, he said.
“Just by working and talking with them, people will want to help you.” Bobo said. “It’s about how we treat people on an everyday basis, not about trying to get ahead.”
To illustrate this point, Bobo referenced his own experience as a project manager selecting employees. After looking at a candidate’s qualifications, it is helpful if an outside source provides information about the person, which can in the end determine if a person is hired or not.
“It’s not nepotism because the applicant is qualified, and I know that,” he said. “At the end of the day, how do you pick between qualified people? We look for someone who is a wonderful person to work with.”
Because recruiters have a checklist of qualifications in their mind, students should “regurgitate” the experience and skills that they needed to apply for the job in the first place.
When applying to any organization, a student should show that they offer unique strengths to the group, Bobo added. For applicants to impress recruiters, they should talk about skills they possess that other applicants would not have. “If everyone in the building is an expert in international affairs, then nobody is,” he said. “If you know something others do not, you become their expert, and it makes you respected.”
When it comes to working for the government, students cannot expect to get their dream job without first “getting in the door,” he said. Even though a student may prefer to work in a specific department, taking a job in another area can get them to that department eventually. Navigating through government jobs is much easier from the inside than from the outside.
Bobo was also quick to acknowledge his own struggles when he first started looking for work. When he graduated college, he began applying for government jobs even though he did not have enough experience, leading to a string of rejections year after year. He advised current students to look into applying for internships and career entry programs early when they are still in school.
“A lot of my presentation on how to get a job is about all the things I didn’t do,” Bobo said. “You have to start planning far in advance and not miss those deadlines.”
Nate Yang, a first-year law student, said that he thought the career advice Bobo offered would be helpful in any field, not just government-related jobs.
“I really appreciate someone who would put so much time in helping students navigate their skills in a social aspect,” said Matthew Lowe, first-year law student. “It was interesting to see just how natural networking can be—he presented it in an approachable way.”