IBM Jobs Blog

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me as a College Freshman

After about 15 years of college recruiting, Steve Choquette got discouraged by the resumes he was seeing.  Smart students with good GPAs were coming to the IBM booth at career fairs with no job experience, so he met with other college recruiters at IBM and put together this list of good advice for college freshmen. Here are our top 10.


Tip #1:  Get work experience early and throughout your college years via a co-op, internship, or part-time work.

A perpetual complaint of interviewees is “How can I get work experience when nobody will give me my first chance?” If you cannot find full-time paid work then volunteer or work part-time, ideally in your chosen profession. This will show your interests to your future employer, and help you develop skills early on.

 Tip #2: Be open to new opportunities in areas not at the top of your wish list.

When I expressed interest in going into management at IBM, I told my manager that I didn’t want to do customer support.  My first management position was – you guessed it – customer support.  And I discovered that I was really good at it.

Tip #3: Practice your soft skills – networking, socializing, building meaningful relationships, communicating and writing down your thoughts.

By the time you’ve been employed 15 years, chances are good that what you’re doing day-to-day doesn’t resemble what you studied in college. Soft skills like being able to talk to and present to a customer will get you ahead. Practice now – join Toastmasters, lead a school club, or volunteer at a school or community organization; there’s a lot you can do to develop your soft skills while still in school.

Tip #4: Differentiate yourself – grades, work experience, leadership, projects, and skills.

There are many smart people competing for your dream job. You are competing not only against others you went to school with, but with students from across the nation. Show the areas where you excel so you can stand out.

Tip #5: Go to job fairs, talk with recruiters – put your face out there.

It’s all about networking. You want the recruiters to remember you as someone they’d like to hire – if not this time, the next time they’re at a job fair.

Tip #6: Develop a two-minute “elevator pitch” to promote yourself.

Craft an ideal “elevator pitch” – a short speech that summarizes who you are, what you do, and why you’d be a perfect candidate.

Tip #7:  Make yourself, and your skills, visible.

Your first job may come from your stellar resume and smooth talking. Your next job will come from people who know your reputation and want to hire you. Be visible.

Tip #8: Take advantage of resume reviews and mock interviews.

Pull in expert help to tune your resume and practice your interviewing skills. If you’re in college, your tuition already pays for the school’s Career Services. Take advantage of the help they can give you.

Tip #9: Be confident at career fairs and during interviews.

You wouldn’t be at the interview if the recruiter didn’t find something of interest on your resume. The resume describes you … and you know yourself best. Remind yourself of the great things you can offer so you can carry yourself with confidence.

Tip #10: Never be afraid to ask for help.

The most successful minds needed help along the way. We all stand on the shoulders of others. Get someone to critique your resume. Practice your interviewing with a friend.


Steve is an IBM recruiter based in the US. With 20+ years of college recruiting experience, Steve has seen well over 21,000 résumés, a lot of which were poorly written and did not showcase the applicant’s proficiency. Steve has helped many students and IBM peers rewrite their résumé to get their dream job.

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