Career skills employers really want

(and how to show you have them)

Have you ever heard the term “soft skills” and wondered what that meant? How about “career-readiness competencies”? No matter what you call them, it’s a fact: employers want to hire people who not only have the education to do a specific job, but also have the personal skills like teamwork and communication that make them good all-around employees.

You might also hear them called “transferable skills” – that’s because you can gain these skills in many areas of your life, and then transfer them to any career path. The good news? Your experiences in college are helping you acquire those skills along the way. Here are eight career-readiness skills that employers are looking for, and tips from us on how to show you have them!

(Note: these career readiness competencies were developed by the National Association of Colleges & Employers, an organization for university career services providers and recruiting professionals)

Career & Self-Development

What it is: Proactively developing oneself through continual personal and professional learning, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, navigation of career opportunities, and networking to build relationships.

  • Example behaviors: You show an awareness of your own strengths and areas for growth; you seek out opportunities to learn, develop plans for your future career, and maintain relationships with people who can help you professionally.
  • Ways to show this skill: Attending career development workshops and events; completing professional education or training related to your field of study.
  • On your résumé: List industry-affiliated clubs or student chapters of professional organizations; add LinkedIn Learning courses you’ve taken. (Tip: LinkedIn Learning courses are free for OSU students!)


What is is: Clearly and effectively exchanging information, ideas, facts, and perspectives with others both inside and outside of an organization.

  • Example behaviors: You can communicate clearly and in multiple ways: verbally; via non-verbal cues and body language; and through writing and editing. You can also employ active listening skills, and you can communicate with respect to a diversity of learning styles, varied individual communication abilities, and cultural differences.
  • Ways to show this skill: Completed papers, presentations, and group projects; customer service roles; and by asking clarifying questions.
  • On your résumé: Customer service roles are great examples of communication skills. If you’ve worked in food service, hospitality, retail, or any public-facing role, you’ve built communication skills. You can also add educational experiences, such as examples of major projects you’ve completed that involved gathering input from others, or that required a public presentation.

Critical Thinking

What it is: Identifying and responding to needs, based on an understanding of situational content and logical analysis of relevant information.

  • Example behaviors: You can make decisions and solve problems using sound, inclusive reasoning and judgement; you gather information from a diverse set of sources to fully understand a problem; you can anticipate needs and prioritize action steps.
  • Ways to show this skill: Share examples of anything that requires a plan with specific steps to solve a problem, such as research papers, projects, and service learning.
  • On your résumé: Any job that requires you to multi-task well in a fast-paced environment shows your critical thinking skills; any classroom project, volunteer project or workplace task in which you were given a problem and asked to come up with a plan to solve it.

Equity & Inclusion

What it is: Demonstrating the awareness, attitude, knowledge and skills required to equitably engage and include people from different cultures. Engaging in anti-racist practices that actively challenge the systems, structures, and policies of racism.

  • Example behaviors: You can solicit and use feedback from multiple cultural perspectives to make inclusive and equity-minded decisions; you advocate for and actively contribute to inclusive and equitable practices that influence individual and systemic change.
  • Ways to show this skill: Seek out global and cultural exchange experiences that will broaden your perspective; engage in advocacy for inclusion and empowerment for historically marginalized communities.
  • On your résumé: List any study abroad or volunteer experiences that gave you the opportunity to experience diverse cultural perspectives; include any participation in anti-racist or equity-minded organizations or clubs.


What it is: Recognizing and capitalizing on personal and team strengths to achieve common goals.

  • Example behaviors: You can inspire, persuade and motivate yourself and others under a shared vision; you use innovative methods to beyond traditional methods, and you serve as a role model by approaching tasks with confidence and a positive attitude.
  • Ways to show this skill: Sign up for lead roles in organizations or class projects; take initiative on additional responsibilities in jobs, volunteer work or internships.
  • On your résumé: List any role in which you served as a team lead (even if it was a sports team, club or class project – it’s the same skill set whether you were paid for it or not). Be ready to share some examples of ways you planned, initiated or managed projects.


What it is: Knowing work environments differ greatly, understanding and demonstrating effective work habits, and acting in the interest of the larger community and workplace.

  • Example behaviors: You act equitably, with integrity and accountability to yourself, others, and the organization; you demonstrate dependability and consistently meet or exceed expectations. You work with a high level of detail and complete work with few (if any) errors.
  • Ways to show this skill: Share your successes in completing projects on time; talk about how you prioritize when juggling competing priorities and tasks.
  • On your résumé: List any jobs that required you to pay attention to small details and prioritize tasks; include awards like “employee of the month” regardless of whether they were received in an office setting, a volunteer job, or a fast food restaurant – it’s all evidence of your professionalism.


What it is: Building and maintaining collaborative relationships to work toward common goals, while appreciating diverse viewpoints and shared responsibilities.

  • Example behaviors: You listen carefully to others, taking time to understand and ask questions without interrupting; you can effectively manage conflict, interact with and respect diverse personalities, and meet ambiguity with resilience. You know how to compromise and collaborate.
  • Ways to show this skill: Projects where responsibility is shared, team-oriented jobs, and student organizations.
  • On your résumé: Specifically mention times where your job required you to work with others to accomplish your tasks; list group projects in a classroom setting, team sports or clubs.


What it is: Understanding and leveraging technologies ethically to enhance efficiencies, complete tasks, and accomplish goals.

  • Example behaviors: You can navigate change and can quickly adapt to new  or unfamiliar technologies; you can identify appropriate technology for tasks and use technology to achieve strategic goals.
  • Ways to show this skill: Share examples of how you’ve learned new technologies, or used technology to improve efficiency in school or work projects.
  • On your résumé: include a list of software or technology that you’re proficient in; be prepared to talk about how you learned/used those skills.

More tips for gaining (and showing off) your transferable skills

“Should I list my boring job on my resume?” – this blog post from Handshake does a deep dive on ways to show off transferable skills no matter what kind of work experience you’ve had.

“How to show off your soft skills to employers – with samples” – more tips from Handshake on adding transferable skills to your resume.

How to use power statements on your resume – Tips and examples from OSU’s career advisors on a how to write a power statement – a two-line, action-oriented statement you can add to your resume to show off your skills from previous experiences.


Enhancing your resume with classroom experience

You worked hard this year. Does your resume show it?

Being a college student is tough. And whether you realize it or not, you’re gathering skills that future employers want just by being a student.

Here’s how to update your resume to show off the transferable skills you learned this year.

Add projects. If you successfully completed a group project, you demonstrated teamwork and communication — two of the eight career-readiness competencies that employers are looking for!

Include research and relevant courses. Look at the job descriptions for positions you’re dreaming of and see what skills or qualifications are listed in the job posting. Then, take a look at classes you’ve taken, research projects you’ve completed, or fieldwork you’ve done, and add them if they relate back to those desired skillsets.

Remember, just because your experience wasn’t gained in a paid employment setting doesn’t mean it’s not highly relevant. Example: a job posting for a marketing position lists designing posters with Adobe Creative Suite software as a required skill. While you’ve never had a paid marketing position before, you learned to use Adobe software in a graphic design class and created posters as part of your required coursework. Go ahead and list that course and the skills you learned on your resume!

Tip: When adding classes, leave out course numbers or academic jargon, and list the course titles instead. (Example: Agricultural Business Management, not AEC 442).

Update your involvement. What do you do when you’re not in class? Clubs, athletics, volunteer work and sorority/fraternity involvement can all go on your resume. Definitely list leadership roles and organizations related to your field of study, but don’t be afraid to list clubs that are just for fun, too. Competing with the dodgeball club or volunteering at the animal shelter can show employers that you’re interesting, engaged, and capable of balancing multiple priorities.

Run a test. Once you’ve completed your updates, run your resume through Vmock. This online platform will give you instant, personalized feedback on your resume or CV.

More resume resources

Use our resume brainstorming worksheet

See our repository of sample resumes for inspiration


Ask a Career Counselor: how do I put my career change into my cover letter?

Q: I’m changing careers. Should I address that in my cover letter when I apply for positions in my new field?

Changing from one career to another is very common – U.S. workers report having 12 or more jobs in their lifetime, and a career change survey from online education platform EdX found that nearly one-third of U.S. workers have completely changed their career field since graduating from college.

If you’re a student gaining a new degree or credential at Oregon State and hope to take your career in a new direction when you graduate, you’re probably wondering: should I bring my career change up in my cover letter?

A: Yes! Just make sure to give it a positive spin. 

A common mistake that people make when talking about career changes is to use their cover letter to explain all the reasons they decided to leave a previous field or industry.

Rather than talking about all the things that didn’t work out in a previous career, focus instead on the positives – the transferable skills you gained in your prior roles.

You can also talk about the inspiration/passion that drew you into your new field, then focus on what you offer the employer.

The difference is subtle, but one is focused on the negatives of the past and the bumps in your road – the other is focused on the employer and why you are so excited to work for them and in this field.

Learn more about cover letters and career changes

What goes in a cover letter?

Example of a career-changer resume (degree is in one field, paid work experience is in a previous field)

Addressing job gaps in a resume or interview


A guide to career fairs

(for when you don’t have it all together)

speech bubble with no words, just three dots, placed on a corkboard background
Sometimes we all need help figuring out what to say.

Sure, we all want to be the person who walks into every room confidently, wearing a stylish outfit and smiling a perfect smile. But what if you’re actually the person who walks into the room, gets nervous, feels awkward, and doesn’t quite know what to say?

Here’s the secret: all of us are the second person sometimes, and if making conversation with new people tends to leave you feeling flustered, try these tips to help you navigate events like a pro – while still being your authentic self.

Plan your day in advance.

You don’t have to visit every table at the fair to consider it a success! Look at the event page online to see a list of employers before you come, and decide which companies you want to talk to (whatever feels like a do-able number to you).

Tip: Once you get to the fair, check in with the event staff and take an info booklet – it will tell you where each company is located in the event space, and you can plan your route to to the tables you’re interested in.

Plan your script, too.

Rehearsing things in your mind will help to avoid that frozen feeling that happens when you open your mouth and don’t know what to say! Practice a 30-second “elevator pitch” about yourself:

  • Start with a quick introduction:
    • Hi, my name is  _____, and I’m currently completing a degree in _____ at Oregon State University. I am interested in (a career/an internship/getting some information) in the _____ field/industry.
  • You can leave it at that, or add a little more detail. Mention an experience (a job, a class project, a club) that you’ve learned from.
    • I have worked  _____ with _____ and discovered that I really enjoy _____. 
  • Then turn the conversion back to the other person! 
    • Could you tell me more about _____ ? 
    • I’m interested to learn more about (Name of Company.)

If you want to keep the conversation rolling:

  • Tell me about what it is like to work for your organization.
  • What does a typical day look like for new team members at your organization?
  • What are some of the biggest projects your organization is working on right now?

Remember, this is your chance to interview the employers, just as much as it is their chance to learn about you!

If you’re ready to exit the conversation:

  • You have given me a lot to think about, thank you!
  • I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me! I will follow up with you if I have any questions.
  • Thank you for the information, have a great day.
  • Thank you, do you have a business card that I can take with me?

Don’t be afraid to eavesdrop.

If you’re walking around the fair but feeling nervous about approaching anyone, listen to what other people are saying. If someone near you has a great line, use it! If an employer is having a conversation with a different student, feel free to stand nearby, smile and nod, and look at the information on their table. You might learn just by listening whether this company is for you! You can also bring a notebook and take a few notes – it will make you look involved, and will help you remember later on if there are jobs you wanted to apply for or companies you want to email.

You can also just browse.

It’s totally fine to approach a career fair as an information-gathering expedition. Companies will have informational brochures, business cards, and small free giveaway items on their tables. Take information and freebies from as many companies as you want – that’s what it’s there for! If anything seems interesting, email the representative later:

  • I gathered some information from your table at the Oregon State University Career Fair this week, and I’d love to know more about the ____ position mentioned.

Recruiters will be delighted to receive after-the-event followup!

After the fair, it’s time for self-care.

You just took the time to invest in your own future. Now congratulate yourself! Whether it’s going out for a celebratory coffee with a friend or relaxing at home to watch your favorite show, make sure to leave time after the fair to do something that will help you decompress after a busy event.

You went to the career fair…now what?

Ready to keep moving on your career journey? Here are three ways to follow up after a career fair.

  1. Apply for jobs you learned about at the fair.
  • Apply via company websites directly.

2. Send a nice, professional email to follow up or request more information.

3. Thank people who took the time to talk to you.

Remember, you can always contact the Career Development Center if you need help strategizing next steps!

Career Fair Internships Success Stories

Internship exploration

Can an online search really lead to landing an internship?

Oregon State student Adam Henderson found that if you’re searching in the right places, it actually can.

Adam, a finance major, already had solid work experience and a foundation of coursework from the OSU School of Business when he began thinking about internships during his junior year. In the past, he had worked in retail, at The Home Depot near his hometown of Sammamish, Wash.

But as he pictured his options for the summer going into his senior year of college, he was hoping for something more directly related to his goal of a career in finance – and something that would allow him to stay closer to the connections he’d formed while in school.

“I was trying to get ahead, and I knew I wanted to stay in Corvallis if I could,” Adam said. “So I went on Handshake and started looking up job offers and internship offers in the Corvallis area.”

Handshake, a job and internship site designed for college students and recent graduates, allows students to personalize their job search experience, setting up custom filters for job types, locations, and roles they’re interested in. Handshake job postings are vetted for legitimacy before they’re made visible to students.

As Adam browsed through the Handshake listings that met his criteria, a position with State Farm Insurance caught his eye – it was local to Corvallis, it would give him relevant business and sales experience, and it was with a company he trusted.

Adam Henderson, wearing a black OSU polo shirt and khaki pants, poses in front of a sign that says "State Farm, Jim Kuhlman Agent"
Adam Henderson, a finance major at Oregon State, found a local internship via the Handshake job search tool.

“I have State Farm insurance,” he said. “I feel like it’s a very reputable company. So I thought, why not give it a shot?”

His application caught the eye of Jim Kuhlman, an independent State Farm insurance agent in Corvallis. After the application, Adam was invited for a phone interview, followed by an aptitude test and in-person meeting with Jim, where he was offered an internship with the agency. 

Six months in, Adam’s summer internship has been extended into the school year, and he’s still glad he gave it a shot.

“I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve had pretty good success,” Adam said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and how much potential I have.”

His internship involves everything from shadowing the sales team to working on marketing projects and meeting with customers. Through what he learned in his position with State Farm, he was even able to complete required state testing and is now officially licensed to sell insurance.

Now mid-way through his senior year, Adam is keeping his options open when it comes to jobs – he enjoys his work in insurance, but is also interested in careers in finance. Regardless of where his career takes him, he can already see skills he’ll take with him from his internship.

“The whole aspect of creating value is something we talk about a lot. When you’re selling insurance, a lot of times customers only think, ‘What’s the cost?’ You can break that down and go through it with them, but it’s really the value that sells the customer,” he said. 

“That overlaps into a lot of other jobs. When you create value for someone , they’re more likely to trust you and want to work with you. Learning to create and display the best value you can bring to someone is definitely something I’ll take away.”

Handshake internship search tips

There are thousands of positions posted on Handshake — here’s how to narrow down your options to find the internship or job that’s right for you!

  1. Use Handshake’s custom filters. Narrowing jobs by “location” (the cities you want to work in) and “job type” (part-time, full-time, internship) will help you key in on relevant opportunities.
  2. Use keywords. If you’re interested in any job that’s somehow related to “marketing” or “sustainability” but aren’t picky about the specific job title, do a keyword search on your filtered jobs. Handshake’s keyword search will search all text in job titles and job descriptions to find matches.
  3. Save jobs that catch your eye. When you hit “save” on a job posting, Handshake will automatically start showing you similar jobs next time you log in. It will also send you reminders about deadlines for jobs you’ve saved.

Learn more about getting started on Handshake.

International Students Success Stories

Persistence pays off: an international student’s journey to a job.

Minah Kim, ’22, BA in Psychology

Finding a job after graduation is a looming concern for most students in their final year of college. But for Minah Kim (’22), an international student, there was an added layer of pressure.

“Because I am an international student, the process of getting a job and being secure to live in the US is so complicated compared to domestic students,” Minah said. “If I didn’t have a job by the time I graduated, I might have to fly back home.” 

Minah, who is originally from South Korea, had lived in Oregon since the age of 14, first attending an international high school in southern Oregon, then Umpqua Community College, where she discovered a passion for psychology. She then transferred to Oregon State, drawn by the opportunities within the School of Psychological Science to gain a degree that would allow her to further her dream career – impacting the lives of children in need. By her final year at OSU, she had spent nearly half her life in the U.S.

“I built a close community here,” Minah said. “I am more comfortable here, more accepted here. I wanted to continue living in the U.S., wherever I ended up. My life is here.” 

With her goals in mind: finding a career helping children, and doing so within the U.S., Minah turned to Karla Rockhold, her College of Liberal Arts career advisor, for support.

“Karla gave me a bunch of websites and tools to look into that are specifically for international students,” Minah said.

“She also helped me with reformatting my resume and explaining how it should look, which really helped. And she helped me through practice interview questions. She sat down with me and helped me figure out word by word what I would say.”

Armed with new tools and resources, Minah felt much more confident tackling her job search, even with a looming deadline. 

“Working with Karla to prepare for my job search brought me comfort, because I’m not an expert,” Minah said. “This was my first time applying for an adult job!”

– Minah Kim, ’22, Psychology

Eager to have a job lined up before graduation, Minah began applying for jobs months before her graduation date – which didn’t always line up with the needs of the companies she was applying with.

“The hardest part of finding a job was the timing. I like to have things planned, I like to know what’s coming up, and I wanted to have the security so I could be at peace,” Minah said. “But if a company is interviewing you now, they want people now.”

Although she participated in multiple interviews over the course of her senior year, as graduation approached, she still didn’t have a job lined up. She did her best not to get discouraged, instead using each interview as a learning experience.

“Doing so many interviews, it provided me the time and opportunity to be more confident in the setting,” Minah said. “Your sentences become more fluent. They ask you similar questions. You learn to be more comfortable with yourself as well.”

Despite working to maintain a positive attitude, by the end of her last term, Minah was getting worried.

“I just kept thinking about how if I don’t have a job, I don’t know where I am going to be living,” she said. “It was a constant battle of waiting, working on my resume, and practicing interview questions. I’m doing all this, but at the end of the day I still don’t have a job. It was really hard to battle with that thought.”

The day of her last final exam at OSU, Minah was busy, frustrated, and stressed – she was studying, she was waiting to hear back about apartment possibilities, and she was preparing to welcome her parents, who were flying in the next day from South Korea for her graduation. And she was doing her best not to worry about the unknowns in her future. 

Turns out, her worries were about to be over. That very day, she got the news she’d been waiting for.

“That was one of the most amazing days. That last day I got my apartment, I got my job, and finished my last final!” she said. “It was pretty overwhelming, but it actually did work out. On the last day, it worked out.”

Minah Kim met with her OSU career advisor, Karla Rockhold, to help prepare for her job search.

Minah is now working as an early childhood educator with Family Building Blocks, an Oregon non-profit dedicated to providing preventative services at no cost to families facing overwhelming life circumstances. Minah works directly with young children and also builds relationships with parents, providing them with help and support. It’s exactly what she wanted: a career that allows her to help children and to stay near the life she’s built in Oregon.

Minah’s advice to other Oregon State students feeling pressure to find a job? Don’t give up, and take advantage of the career support at OSU.

“Use the resources you have as a student,” Minah said. “We pay for it! We might as well use it! Use the people here who can help you clean up your resume, don’t pay some random website to do it. OSU faculty are the best. I never met anyone who just does the job because it’s their job. They actually want to follow up with you and make sure you succeed.”

Job Resources for International Students

Working in the United States: information for international students from Oregon State’s Office of International Services

Tips for International Students for a U.S. Job or Internship Search: a guide from the Oregon State Career Development Center

Application Tips for International Students: a guide from the Oregon State Career Development Center

Resources for Interview Practice

Guide to Interviews: A complete overview of tips and best practices from the Oregon State Career Development Center

StandOut: OSU students can log in to practice interviewing on an interactive video interview tool

Sample Interview Questions: a list of common interview questions to review and practice answers for

Video Guide | Interview Like a Pro: this video from the Oregon State Career Development Center covers best practices for job interview success

Career Fair Success Stories

She took a chance at a career fair — and landed a post-grad job.

Isabel Nieman at a construction site, wearing a hard hat and safety vest, and giving the camera a thumbs-up.
Isabel Nieman, a 2022 Political Science graduate, found a job with the US Army Corps of Engineers after meeting a representative at an Oregon State University career fair.

Liberal arts and engineering don’t mix, right?

Not true for Isabel Nieman.

When Isabel attended a spring career fair at Oregon State University a few months before graduation, the political science major made a point not to limit herself when it came to networking. With a B.A. in Political Science, focusing on International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish, Nieman was confident she could bring value to a variety of organizations – it was just a matter of making the right connections.

“I treated the event as if I was interviewing the companies present, rather than have them interview me,” she said. “Also, conversing with all companies, no matter what they may have been looking for, was important, because you never know what opportunities might arise or what connections you can make.”

Nieman’s tenacity paid off. She walked away from the event with contacts at State Farm, Trex Co, and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) who were all interested in hiring her.

Aaron Riojas, the San Francisco-based U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talent specialist who attended Oregon State’s spring career fair, was initially looking for engineering students, not liberal arts majors. But when Isabel struck up a conversation with him about a shared experience (she’s from the Bay Area, and was familiar with the neighborhood where the USACE building is located), it led to further discussion about how her experience in international affairs might be useful to the Corps of Engineers.

Isabel Nieman in a graduation cap and gown

“You never know what opportunities might arise or what connections you might make.”

Isabel Nieman, ’22, Political Science

Now, Isabel works for the San Francisco District of the USACE, assisting their Public Affairs and Equal Employment Opportunity teams.

Her advice to other OSU students who aren’t sure whether they’ll find a relevant job or internship at a career fair: give it a shot!

“The people at the career fair were so nice, and the companies present were ready to hire and excited to get to know students,” she said.

Resources for making the most of a career fair

Tips for in-person career fairs

Tips for virtual career fairs

Networking overview, tools, and elevator pitches

See upcoming Oregon State University Career Fairs

Internships Success Stories

Q & A with a USGS Intern

Name: Josh Love, U.S. Geological Service Pathways intern at the Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory

Major: Geology

College: Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS)

Hometown: Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

What did you do post high school, prior to becoming an OSU student?

I had a lifelong dream of becoming a professional skateboarder. After 20+ years of pursuing that dream, my first pro model was released by my favorite skateboard company (The Killing Floor Skateboards) in spring 2021.

Like most skateboarders, I have always worked random jobs while working on skate video projects in my free time.

I was a custodian/housekeeper for about six years, I worked in warehouses, restaurants, retail and rideshares. I dreaded having to work minimum wage jobs forever and decided to try out some college courses in 2017.

Black and white image of Josh Love skateboarding off a rail while other skateboarders look on.
Skateboarding was Josh Love’s primary passion until he decided to try out some college courses, and discovered a love of geology.

(Photo credit: Tal Roberts)

How did you find your way from skateboarding to studying geology?

My friend Jasmin, who works in environmental consulting, encouraged me to take a geology course at Portland Community College in 2018. My first geology professor, Dr. Lalo Guerrero, completed his PhD at OSU. His enthusiasm for CEOAS converted me into becoming a Beaver.

Tell us about your current internship.

The Pathways internship position is with the Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory in New Mexico. ASL is responsible for maintaining a large portion of the Global Seismographic Network.

At the lab, I am working on an experiment using broadband seismometers under the guidance of Dr. Robert Anthony and Dr. Adam Ringler. We are investigating how increasing the depth of a borehole seismometer attenuates unwanted noise in seismic data, which often comes form things like wind, anthropogenic activity, and variation in temperature and barometric pressure. I will be presenting our results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December 2022, and will be finishing up my degree from OSU remotely from Albuquerque while continuing the internship.

Josh Love, wearing an Oregon State University T-shirt, uses a seismic instrument after an installation in the ASL vault
Josh Love centering the mass on a seismic instrument after an installation in the Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory vault.

(photo credit: Zeb Maharrey)

“The work challenges me on a daily basis, but I am learning a ton and I have very patient and supportive mentors.”

Josh Love, Oregon State geology student

How did you land your internship?

Toward the end of winter 2022 the Career Development Center hosted a panel of government scientists where they discussed how to get a job with the government, along with what it is like to work in government positions.

I have applied to many student trainee internships with the USGS prior to attending that panel and my application was always rejected before getting passed up to the hiring manager.

This time, I applied some of the advice that I received in that discussion about how to adjust my CV and cover letter, and later that week I applied to this internship. I ended up getting an interview and was offered the position.

See advice and resources for getting government internships

What other experiences helped you successfully get the job?

Aside from the information that I received while attending the panel discussion, I believe two other things were important for getting this internship:

  1. I stated very specific goals that I have in mind for graduate school in my application, and discussed how the skills I would learn at ASL would be valuable for graduate school.
  2. I have been working on an undergraduate research project at OSU with Dr. Jessica Creveling. We are investigating marine terraces in Newport, Oregon.

I do not come from an academic family or community, and Dr. Creveling has been incredibly encouraging and helpful when I need advice (along with many others, such as her entire lab group, Gabe Gordon, Emily Cahoon, and Andrew Meigs). I would not have received this internship position had she not given me such valuable research experience at OSU, as well as the confidence in myself to pursue things that are outside of my comfort zone.

What’s next for you? 

What I plan to do with my geology degree has varied throughout my undergrad, but working for the USGS at some point has always been at the top of my list. I am interested in tectonics and active faulting. I would like to research fault systems in order to contribute to Probablistic Seismic Hazard Analyses, ideally for a government agency.

I plan to begin grad school in fall 2023 to continue working toward this goal.

Resources for landing a government job or internship

Interested in pursuing a government job or internship? OSU’s Career Development Center can help you tailor your application materials to successfully apply to opportunities with state and federal agencies.

Downloadable info sheets

Tips for state government job applications

Tips for federal job applications

More government job tips

Job boards and search tools

Sample résumés (including federal résumés)


“Getting a Dam Job” is OSU’s signature career workshop series, designed to equip students with the skills they need to find jobs and internships. Topics vary each term, and workshops on getting government jobs are offered each year.

See this term’s Getting a Dam Job workshops

See all upcoming events

Panel Discussion: How Do I Get a Government Job?

Wonder how to get your foot in the government door? Tips for USAJobs? How to go from seasonal to full time? What a day in the life looks like? This Q&A discussion tackles questions from OSU students.

How Do I Get a Government Job panel discussion

Success Stories

She knew she had more to offer

Oregon State helped her find it.

When Marty Marrs started thinking about changing careers, she knew one thing: this time, she wanted to do something that mattered to her.

Marty graduated from Oregon State in June 2022 with a B.S. in natural resources. Prior to that, she spent 18 years raising a family, which she loved, and also working in administrative jobs, which she wasn’t as passionate about.

“I just knew I had so much more to offer, and so much more to give.”

– Marty Marrs, ’22, Natural Resources

That’s where Oregon State came in.

A web search led Marty, who was living in Georgia, to the B.S. in Natural Resources program, delivered online through OSU Ecampus in partnership with the College of Forestry (CoF). But she wasn’t sure how to turn an interest in the natural world into an actual career. A combination of online and in-person resources helped her connect the dots.

She attended a virtual job fair via OSU’s job platform, Handshake, and listened to a presentation from a company that did environmental consulting work. Although she wasn’t yet ready to apply to jobs, her interest was sparked. She used another of OSU’s online tools, Vmock, to review her résumé. Based on the feedback she received, she realized she needed additional help.

“I was not your typical student,” Marty said. “I was making a complete career change, and I was also coming off of 18 years of staying at home with my kids. There is a lot of value and wisdom that comes with that, but I didn’t know how to show that value.”

So Marty made an appointment with Britt Hoskins, the career advisor for students in CoF.

“Britt helped me completely redesign my résumé ,” Marty said. “She took the time to talk to me, to find out where I did have experience, and she taught me how to put that in a résumé form. She showed me how to incorporate my OSU classes, and the projects I did in my classes, to build up my résumé.”

Taking initiative

That wasn’t the only piece of career advice Marty took action on. After listening to a session from Britt on informational interviews, Marty took the initiative to request an informational interview with a company whose work seemed to align with her interests.

“I had never even heard of an informational interview before, but I reached out to this company, and said, ‘Hey, can I just talk to someone and get more information about what you do?’ Through that process, I learned that consulting was something I really am interested in,” she said.

Meanwhile, she continued to take a full load of classes through OSU Ecampus and also moved cross-country from Georgia to Oregon, to be closer to her daughter and closer to more companies in the environmental consulting field.

Zeroing in

As graduation approached in 2022, Marty began to pay even more attention to jobs and companies she was interested in. When she saw a position open up with Environmental Resources Management, a sustainability consultancy in Portland, she was interested but apprehensive.

“I had that typical concern, where I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t check all the boxes for all the qualifications, so I don’t know if this is going to work.’ But I applied anyway,” she said.

Again acting on her OSU career advisor’s advice, Marty took two additional proactive steps: she tailored her cover letter to the position and she networked in advance of her interview.

“One of the things I learned working with Britt is that the cover letter is your chance to explain everything to the employer,” she said. “I really just laid it all out there – this is why I’m here, this is what I’ve been doing, and this is what I can bring to the table.”

She also scoured LinkedIn for potential connections at ERM, and found one – an acquaintance she’d made through mountain biking who was happy to chat with her about working at the company.

The big news

Marty went through two rounds of interviews with the company. Even with all the networking, research, and preparation she’d done, graduation was looming and Marty still wasn’t sure whether she would land the job – until she got the news she’d been dreaming of.

“Oh my gosh!” Marty said. “I followed Britt’s steps, I did everything she said to do, and I got a job offer four weeks before graduating!”

Marty now works in what she describes as her “dream job” – a position that makes a difference. She’s an Impact Assessment Scientist with ERM, studying the ways that natural resources and human dimensions intersect in the environment. 

She encourages other students not to be shy about taking advantage of the career tools, resources, and services that OSU offers.

“To any other non-traditional student, don’t think that those job fairs or career services are not for you,” Marty said. “Use them. They absolutely are there for you.”