Originally published by Lindsey Pollak, 7 November 2017
In my book Getting from College to Career, I provide readers with an essential guide to succeeding in the real world. The book is organized into 90 tips to help orient and guide you. My book (and this post) don’t contain a step-by-step, all-inclusive guide to getting a job. Rather, it offers the best tips I’ve gathered on a wide variety of topics to help you stand out from the crowd and make a successful transition from college student to career professional.
- Start Wherever You Are
Don’t worry about what you could’ve done, would’ve done, or should’ve done up to this point. Just get started right now. Make a commitment to work on your job search, starting today.
- Know the Numbers
When you’re comparing yourself to others, it may seem that everyone is getting a job faster than you are or no one is moving back home to live with their parents. The truth is that getting a job can happen overnight, or it can take a long time to find the right position. Experts say landing a new job takes about a month per $10,000 of salary you are looking for, but keep in mind it might take longer or shorter.
- Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Career Preparation and Job Hunting
You’ve heard the refrain, “There are no stupid questions.” Well, I would add that there are no stupid ways to gain experience and look for a job. The biggest mistake is doing nothing. Commit to taking action every day and you will succeed faster.
- Embrace Your Stereotype
I know that you’re a special person with many unique qualities; at the same time, you are also totally generic. What I mean by this is that you are in no way the first, the last, or even the fifty-millionth person to be in your current life stage. You’ve probably already realized this from the number of times people have said to you, “Boy, I sure remember what it was like to be in your position!” Instead of rolling your eyes every time someone says this, my advice is to take advantage of it and ask each person what they wish they had known or what actions they took that helped them land their first job. You’d be surprised how eager most people are to help when asked.
- Overcome Your Stereotype
Unfortunately, millennials (of which you may be a member) can get a bad rap as being the “entitled generation.” If many people—job interviewers especially— believe that young people are lazy, entitled, or ungrateful—then you can really stand out by being hardworking, respectful, and well mannered. Courtesy and humility count (and that’s true for all generations, of course).
- Get Organized
You need a system to keep track of ideas, research, contacts, planning, and other information related to your job search. Use an app, a spreadsheet, a notebook, or whatever works for you. And if part of your organization includes needing to organize your day, this post has a great tip on my favorite time management and productivity strategy.
7. Don’t Ignore the Obvious
Your college career center should be the very first stop on your post-college job search. Besides setting up meetings with companies that are recruiting on your campus, they also can help you with all elements of a job hunt, from assessment testing to resume and online profile critiquing. And, for those who have already graduated, note that almost 97 percent of career centers report that they extend services to job-seeking alumni, often for no cost. Get more great advice on tapping your college career center.
- Subscribe to a Daily News Source
I honestly consider this to be my number one career development tip and share it with every young professional audience I speak to: read the news—of the world and your specific industry—every single day. You will be among the first to learn about new opportunities, companies, and industries—any of which could lead to a real job prospect. And you’ll never be at a loss for conversation topics at a networking event.
- Set Yourself Up for Success
You definitely need access to email and a phone to find a job, but there are a couple of other resources you’ll need as well. One is knowing a super-fast dry cleaner for last-minute opportunities and another is having a go-to coffee shop that’s good for meetings—a place that is relatively quiet, has good WiFi, and where it’s easy to get a table.
- Use Your Helicopter
Heavily involved “helicopter parents” can be a nuisance, but only when they are not involved appropriately. There are some areas where it is totally appropriate and encouraged for your parents to help with your career planning and job search, such as proofreading application documents or conducting mock interviews to help you prepare. When in doubt about involving a mom or dad, ask someone outside of your family (such as a career services staff person, a professor, or a trusted professional friend) whether or not parental involvement would be acceptable. I wrote a post with more ideas on how you should and shouldn’t use a parent’s help in your job search.
- Upgrade to Grown-up Contact Methods
E-mail addresses like GlitterGirl, LakersManiac, and KegMan don’t exactly inspire confidence when listed on a resume or posted on a job search website. For professional purposes, register a simple combination of your first name (or first initial) and last name at a free web-based e-mail service, such as Gmail. A campus e-mail address is fine as well, as long it contains your full name and you check it regularly.
- E-mail Like a Professional
Remember that every interaction you have with a potential networking contact or employer, or his or her assistant, is contributing to your image and your chances of getting a job. So use complete sentences, proofread, and avoid acronyms and emojis in professional correspondence. You can’t go wrong using these professional email tips.
- Get Carded
I never go anywhere without my business cards—and neither should you. You don’t need a title or a company or even a street address to have a business card. All you need is your name, cell phone number, and that professional e-mail address. If you have a professional LinkedIn profile, you can choose to include your profile URL as well. Still unsure about the importance of business cards?
- Clean Up Your Internet Image
While sometimes you can’t control what information appears about you on the web, often you can—such as asking a friend to remove an embarrassing photo caption from his blog before you start interviewing for jobs. You can also control what image you yourself send out into cyberspace on social media and elsewhere. Make no mistake about it—employers are checking you out online.
- Shine Online
Having an inappropriate web presence can kill your chances of getting a great job, but having no presence at all can be problematic as well. Depending on what kind of career opportunities you’re pursuing, you can develop an online presence by contributing blog posts to university or industry websites, engaging in professional social media discussions (especially on the professional networking LinkedIn), and commenting on blogs. Go here for more information on branding yourself online.
- Become an Industry Expert
Once you determine what profession to pursue (or even a few options if you’re not quite sure yet), begin to read anything and everything you can about that industry. Know which publications are essential reading, which companies are in the news, which executives are being profiled, where the conferences are held, who has the most Twitter followers, what buzzwords are popular, and of course what job titles are available.
- Start a Really Big List
When it comes to targeting jobs and employers to pursue, quantity matters. Start an ongoing list in your career notebook, or on your computer or phone, of every career possibility that comes to mind as a prospect. Try not to censor yourself at all; just write. Your Really Big List will come in handy in a variety of ways during your career planning and job search. For example, you can bring it to meetings with career services staff or informational interviews (see tips #31 and #32 below).
- Get Rid of the “Shoulds”
It may be that you’re interested in some jobs or career fields simply because you know people or have heard about people who are in those fields, or someone told you that’s the career you “should” pursue. While it’s great to seek advice and to follow in the footsteps of those you admire, you may not want to limit your options to the careers of people in your immediate frame of reference—or to jobs that you currently understand how to perform. I guarantee there are thousands upon thousands of careers, companies, and job titles that you’ve never even heard of. One of those may just be the winning ticket for you, so keep an open mind.
- Assess Yourself
Completing a career assessment is a helpful way to narrow down the entire universe of potential careers into a few manageable categories that fit with your skill set and interests. Assessment is a good idea for anyone, but it’s absolutely essential if you have a wide variety of talents and passions or you’re completely unsure of what you want to do. Many college career centers offer career assessment tests for free: take advantage!
- Explore a Passion
Pursuing a passion now—before you have dependents, a mortgage, and years of experience behind you—should really be considered a career strategy. I am very serious about this. I have met with dozens of people at all stages of their careers and eventually everyone comes around to the same conclusion: to be ultimately happy in your career—which is a big chunk of your life—you have to work at something you find fulfilling. If you pursue something you don’t really enjoy, it’s highly likely you’ll eventually try to change careers to something you’re passionate about anyway. Check out this blog post for more advice and strategies for finding your passion.
Continue reading How to Get Started On My Career: 90 Tips for Success here.