Job Search and Interviewing Advice
Two human resources and talent management alumnae from non-profit Stand for Children shared some advice for the class of 2021.
Demian Lucas, BS '17, MS '19, has served as Stand for Children’s Vice President of Talent since completing her graduate degree at Portland State University. Drawing on her extensive human resource management career, she delivered an inspiring commencement speech in 2019 where she asked fellow graduates to identify how to make the biggest difference in the world and offered encouragement by saying “push past any discomfort and do that.” Demian has applied that determination to her own career development and pushed past obstacles to achieve roles where her work makes a tangible difference in people's lives.
Prior to attending PSU, Demian held several human resource management roles including Talent Acquisition Manager, Senior Human Resource Business Partner, Lead Recruiter and Benefit Analyst. Her current certifications include Society for Human Resource Management - Senior Certified Professional, Human Resources Certification Institute - Senior Professional of Human Resources and DiversityFIRST TM - Certified Diversity Professional. These certifications, and this body of preparation, helped to make Demian a stronger and more desirable candidate in her search—companies recognize that in order to accomplish nationally recognized certifications, plenty of hard work and talent go into the process reflecting highly on the candidate.
Demian began her job search six months before graduation because she had very clear job search goals. She wanted to work for a national nonprofit organization that served Black and Brown communities. She also knew that she would apply her expanded education to her human resource management career. “I wasn’t seeking to change careers, I really wanted to break the glass ceiling and land squarely in senior leadership.” In just under two months, Demian received two job offers and was a candidate for a third leadership position. “I was so grateful that my preparation paid off and I chose the position that met all of my criteria, plus some.”
Today, Demian has similar advice for graduates. Reflecting on her own experience she states, “I was a little overwhelmed when I stepped directly into an executive position after finishing my graduate degree.” She credits her experience at PSU for her quick adjustment. She says, “graduates, go for your biggest dream and have confidence it is possible; in other words, don’t settle because you’re overwhelmed or uncomfortable, focus on the impact you can have in the world.”
Today, Demian is ever more so enthusiastic about her role at Stand for Children. She is committed to developing robust human resource and diversity, equity and inclusion systems and programs that engage all staff in meaningful ways and contribute to the culture of inclusion, advocacy, and service. She offers the following job search tips to current graduates:
- Build and leverage your network - even virtually. Peers, faculty, career services, alumni services. Participate in virtual networking events and career networking. Seeking out informational interviews can be a great way to network.
- Even though you are job-searching virtually, still consider professional dress and surroundings during video meetings and interviews. Consider using an office setting or professional background filter on platforms like Zoom.
- Check to ensure your technology (including audio and video) are working and log in 5-10 minutes early for any meetings with prospective employers.
- Create and build out your LinkedIn profile including a professional-looking photo.
- Read and follow application instructions.
- Optimize your resume for the job description. Use key words and phrases from the job responsibilities and qualifications in your resume. Tailor your cover letter to the job and organization. Make it specific.
- Add your extracurricular activities and relevant coursework to your resume with details to add depth to your experience.
- Do your research! Come prepared to ask the interview team thoughtful questions based on your research.
- Remember that an interview does not mean an offer, but it does mean an opportunity to learn, to practice your skills, gain insight, and make connections.
- Lastly, another great option is to work with a staffing agency. This can be a really good option if you want more direct support with your job search.
Priscilla Pimentel '19 is Stand for Children’s Human Resource Coordinator and a first-generation college graduate. Like so many other PSU students, she held a job and took most of her classes online. She reflected, “I was able to be successful in school while working 30 hours per week in part because most classes were offered online.” In Priscilla’s case, a temporary agency was instrumental to her job search. She shared, “In my experience, it was hard to find an entry level HR role right out of college. I found out that temp agencies are a great way to get your foot in the door. NW Staffing Resources had many connections and they were able to use my skills and coursework to find me the role I’m in today.”
About Stand for Children:
Stand for Children is a national non-profit education advocacy organization (headquartered in Portland) focused on ensuring all students receive a high quality, relevant education, especially those whose boundless potential is overlooked and under-tapped because of their skin color, zip code, first language, or disability.