How College Students Can Use AI to Help Them Find a Job

College students looking for summer or full-time jobs now have a new and powerful tool to use in their search. Grown and Flown sat down with Christine Cruzvergara of Handshake to learn how they can make the most of AI when seeking a job.

Here are ways students and young adults can use Generative AI to help them find jobs. (Shutterstock ZoFot)

G&F: Generative AI is already changing many things about the college experience, from how students conduct research to how they search online. Should students modify their courses or how they prepare for the job market because of this new tool? What must they do to be AI-ready when speaking to potential employers? 

CC: The biggest thing you can do as a student right now is to expose yourself to Generative AI: use it, try it, experiment with it, test it out. Giving yourself exposure is really important because employers will expect you to have some knowledge of basic Gen AI. So if you don’t know about it, learn about it, research it, then use Chat GPT or several other Gen AI tools out there and get familiar with it. That’s probably the most important thing. 

You don’t have to change your major or the classes that you’re taking. It’s more a matter of exposing yourself to the new technology and continuing to study your interests. Once you do that, you can start to look for the intersection.

How can Generative AI (Gen AI) actually teach you or give you even more guidance around some of the things that you’re really interested in? I was listening to a super interesting podcast between Adam Grant and the CEO and co-founder of Khan Academy on how, this March, they just started a new beta experiment with Khanmigo, their online tutor AI tool. What that tutor can do is amazing in helping to take a student’s interest and then apply it to all the different subjects they might be learning. 

G&F: How can AI help in a job search?

CC: One of the easiest ways to use Gen AI is to pop in an interesting job description. Then put in your resume and have Gen AI do a quick scan across the two to tell you if it looks like you’re a good fit or if there are certain skills that you’re still missing and that you might still need, or need to highlight, for an employer to be an even stronger candidate. 

You may have that skill that an employer is looking for and have forgotten to put it on your resume, and AI can help you notice that. Or maybe you don’t have that skill yet. And now you know what else you might need to go work on. 

You can also use Gen AI to help do some of your research. Students often don’t do enough research in their job search. What they’ll do is they go to a job board and start applying for a bunch of jobs, and then they’ll wonder why they’re not getting interviews, or they’re not getting calls back. And often, it’s because they haven’t tailored their materials in a way that speaks the industry’s language or the roles they want to go into.

So once you decide, okay, I’m really interested in going into finance, or I’m interested in going into management consulting, or I’m interested in being a product manager for a small startup. You need to learn to speak the language of that industry. 

One of my favorite things to ask Gen AI is, “I’m interested in being a sales engineer. What is some of the jargon and language that sales engineers use that I need to know?” AI will give you a glossary of some of the terminology you need. Once you know the appropriate language and jargon, you can figure out how to translate your skills in the way they can best be used and talked about in that profession.

G&F: That’s brilliant. I love the idea of using AI to look at your resume and look at a job and see where it matches up and where it doesn’t. How early in college experience should students begin to explore internships and career options? Parents always want their kids to start early, is this a good idea? 

CC: So honestly, I’m with the parents. The earlier you start, the better. And the reason for this is that the biggest part of your job search process is self-awareness. If you think about it, like a business, you are the product and trying to market yourself. You’re trying to market yourself as the product. You can only do that if you actually know yourself because you have to know the product thoroughly. 

So your early college years should be spent doing a lot of self-awareness-type exercises, which sounds really fluffy to many people but actually is not fluffy. You could consider it a product-market fit if you wanted to use more business terms. 

Part of what you can do as a freshman or a first-year student is take a lot of classes, see what you’re interested in, join a lot of clubs, see what you’re interested in, actually pay attention to what are the activities or the subject areas or the topics where you seem to be most engaged? Your curiosity is piqued, and you want to ask more questions. That signals you that there is something there, and you need to note it.

Over time, you will notice what you most like to do

What you’ll begin to notice over time are trends like, it seems like I really love trying to solve hard problems, or it seems like I’m really analytical in the way that I think through things, or it looks like I really like working where there’s a lot of structure already in place. Or, I love things where I get to work with many people and really help people. 

Knowing those themes is going to help you to figure out what it is you want to do. If you don’t already know, it will help you hone in on the job roles you might want within certain industries based on what you notice in those particular patterns. I think it’s never too early to start talking to people, networking, and getting to know what it takes to get into that field. To get ideas, you can talk to professors, young alumni, and even people from your town when you are home for the holidays. 

Every student that’s in college or university has access to a career center. And if they’re not already using their career center, they should be because a career coach is very expensive once you graduate. So, why not take advantage of all of the advising appointments they have and the programs and events they’re offering? If nothing else, it’ll help you know what you don’t want to do, which is useful information. 

Handshake works with thousands of colleges and universities

Handshake works with over 1400 universities and colleges. It is something career centers usually purchase an annual subscription to and provide to all of their students. Every student can access Handshake for free to use all the career center resources and connect with students on other campuses.

So, as a student, let’s say, for example, I was a Berkeley student, I would go into Handshake, and I would be able to make an appointment with my career advisor at Berkeley. I could attend events that Berkeley has specifically put on for me based on my interests and the industries I want to go into. I can attend career fairs that my career center has suggested. I can get resources on how to write a resume, how to do a cover letter, how to network, or more specific things that are niche to my industry or job role. All of those resources would be in Handshake. 

I can also connect with alumni and other students at other Handshake schools. So let’s say I’m at Berkeley, but I really want to go to New York because I want to work on Wall Street. But I don’t know many people because I’m from California and don’t know people on the East Coast.

Now, I can network with a student from NYU in one of the 1400 Handshake schools. So I could find a student that goes to NYU and ask, can you tell me what living in the West Village is like? Can I afford to live there? Handshake is also creating user-generated content where students film themselves and share their work experiences to help other students looking at that opportunity. 

G&F: What career or personality assessments do you recommend to students who are still in the process of exploring their career interests? Are there tools that you suggest?

CC: All career centers typically offer some assessment, usually at a very low cost for students, like $20 or $30. The career center can help administer the assessments and help students understand the results.

Many assessments are online. They won’t typically be the full assessment you would get if you enter the career center. The Myers Briggs Type inventory is often a popular one that some people will take, and it just gives you a sense of some of your tendencies, which is really more just around self-awareness. It just simply gives you more awareness about your preferences.

Another tool that career centers often use is called the Strong Interest Inventory. It looks at your interests and says, based on your interests and other people who have your interests, these are the jobs they’re doing. It’s not recommended to you that you should do these jobs. It’s just offering ideas of things you might find interesting. Another favorite of mine is the Enneagram Types because I found it very helpful.

Honestly, the most basic way to understand your interests doesn’t require an online assessment or fee or anything, but it’s just journaling every day and jotting down three bullet points on what gave you energy that day. If you do that consistently for a solid month, I promise you, you will start to see themes come out of it. And if you can’t see them, share it with your roommate or your friend, and maybe they’ll see the themes in your interests. 

G&F: The last thing I wanted to touch on, Christine, is if you’re a student and having your first meeting with a career center, how should you best prepare for that meeting? Is there anything students should do beforehand to get the most out of that first meeting? 

CC: I will reiterate some of the things I’ve said. Spend time searching for your interest so that you can say, ‘I’ve been paying attention over the past month, and I’m not interested in these things, but I’m interested in these things.’ Even if you don’t know what this means regarding your career, somebody in the career center can help you understand it.

They can give you the next step. I would also recommend coming prepared with questions. You don’t need any answers to go into a career center — all you need to do is come in with our questions. So, if your question is, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. That’s okay. It’s fine to list all your questions and come in ready to be open and ask them. That’s all you need to do. The career center will take it from there.

More Great Reading:

Five Ways To Support Your College Student’s Career Development

Christine Cruzvergara leads Handshake’s partnerships with the higher education community, which includes 18 million students from 1,400+ educational institutions. A nationally recognized change agent and expert on strategies to drive equitable student career success, she is regularly referenced in media, such as WSJ, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, and Inside Higher Education.

Before Handshake, Christine was the Associate Provost for Career Education at Wellesley College, where she received the 2017 Career Services Excellence Award from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the 2017 Innovation Award from Eduventures. She has also held senior-level positions and board roles at George Mason University, Georgetown University, The George Washington University, NACE, and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).

About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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