Putting Your Best Foot Forward
College is the perfect time to explore your career options. Whether it’s applying for a summer internship, or crafting the perfect resume, there are plenty of opportunities to get your foot in the door. We sat down with Will Smiley (’97, Psychology)—Director of Talent Acquisition at Genentech, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company—for some tips on how students can maximize their career success.
"One of best things you can do is get experience," says Smiley. Which is why he encourages students to spend at least two out of their three summers interning—in a variety of industries. "If you're a scientist you might want to intern at a pharmaceutical or biotech company one summer and at a hospital or non-profit the next," Smiley says. "The important thing is to try both," he says. "That way you can find out what you really like."
Genentech also offers a competitive, paid summer internship program for undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of majors. Smiley encourages anyone interested to personal message him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/willsmiley.
Network, Network, Network
If you haven’t yet, Smiley recommends creating a profile on LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking site. It’s quick, free and particularly useful for college students looking to enter the workforce, he says.
After signing up, Smiley suggests searching the site for HSU alums by industry and location of choice. Whether it’s graphic design in Portland or grassroots organizing in Washington, D.C., the goal is to make a connection. From there, Smiley says, send a personal message saying you’re interested in their field of work. Tell them you’re available to meet and interested in getting general career advice. Networking can lead to unexpected opportunities that you wouldn’t have uncovered otherwise.
The resume is your opportunity to shine, Smiley says. For certain positions—especially those that require a particular academic background—resumes begin to look the same to hiring managers, Smiley says. “If you’re applying to a job where 30 people have the same coursework, major and G.P.A. as you, including something at the end of your resume about your personal interests can make you stand out,” he says. In fact, a short line noting your marathon running obsession or community volunteer work could mean the difference between your resume being tossed aside and moved to the top of the pile, Smiley says.
A word of caution: he recommends exercising some discretion when it comes to which hobbies you list. If you’re an avid Halo gamer, for example, you might be better off leaving that out, he says, as many students have this interest in common. Focus on differentiating yourself and your personal brand.
So you’ve caught the eye of a hiring manager and now it’s time for the interview. What to do? Practice, practice, practice, Smiley says.
Behavioral based interviewing—where job seekers are asked to describe situations in which they displayed certain skills and attributes—is becoming more and more common. And it can be difficult, Smiley says, because it requires interviewees to recall past experiences on the spot, which can be nerve-wracking during an already-stressful job interview.
To prepare, Smiley suggests doing a quick Google search of behavioral based interview questions, and answering each question one-by-one. “You may want to write out the answers, think them through or answer them verbally,” Smiley says. Practice for 3-4 hours, using whatever learning style is best for you. “You’ll be happy you did.”
Will Smiley (’97, Psychology) is Director of Talent Acquisition at Genentech, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company with 13,800 employees. Smiley manages a team of 30 people responsible for finding and staffing 3,600 new hires—about 400 of them interns—a year. Find him online at linkedin.com/in/willsmiley. Listen to him share interview advice during his Backpacks to Briefcases webinar, hosted by Humboldt State.