I’ve spoken to many Gamma Zeta seniors and other soon to be college grads who are in the process of looking for their first job and find that I’m repeating some of the suggestions over and over again. I thought that it would be useful to put them in writing so that I can just point people to a link as a follow up to a call but also to solicit tips from others. After reading this list if you have other ideas, please make note in the comments section or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, here are a few thoughts that I’ve heard have been helpful…
- Ready, Fire, Aim. I say this in the context of getting moving. I’ve seen too many people delay their process because they don’t know exactly what they want to do or they haven’t done enough research or their resume isn’t quite perfect. Start Now! There’s nothing better for figuring out what you want to do, filling in your research or perfecting your resume than just getting out and talking to people. You learn something from everyone you talk to and you improve your skills. You get past any jitters you might have. You get better and better with each person you talk to, with each phone call you make with each note you write. And, this always takes longer than you think so the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get a job. Even if someone told you today that you were perfect for the job and the job is yours, there are always other levels of approvals, background checks, drug checks and other factors that can get in the way of you actually starting work. It can be weeks to months before you start a job from the time you get your offer to the time you start getting a paycheck. You don’t want to be doing this from home with your mom and dad nagging you every day about what’s going on. You want to get things settled as soon as possible. You need to get rolling on it today!
- You already have a job. Your job is finding a job. It’s a sales job. You have to sell yourself. This is most importantly a mindset that you need to adopt. You need to set aside time every day, every week for a methodical job search process. It might be an hour a day. It might be two days a week. You need to deliberately schedule and plan to work this job or it’s never going to happen. The job market is tough. A great job is not going to just fall in your lap. You need to initiate the process and make it happen.
- It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Or, for those of you who don’t know too many people yet. It’s who someone you know knows. Time and time again I see the most successful job searches ending with an inside referral from someone who works for a company or a referral from someone who is personal friends with a hiring manager. Don’t try to do this alone. Maybe it’s a matter of pride but too often young job searchers go off thinking that they can do this on their own. They don’t want help from their parents, their rich uncle, their next door neighbor… whoever. This is a mistake. Take their help. Listen to them. Accept a job, especially your first job, as a result of a referral from one of these people. Very simply, this is how the world works. Experience matters. Your resume matters. Your skills matter. But when it comes down to it, more often than not, the person who gets the job is someone who is referred by someone who is trusted by the hiring manager.
- Create a list of 100. This is how I’d suggest you implement point 1 of Ready, Fire, Aim. Start by compiling a list of 100 names… maybe even 50 to start. Write them down. Include your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, older fraternity brothers who you personally know (the guys just one, two or three years older than you), family friends, parents of your friends, old coaches, old teachers, adult advisors you’ve met on campus, professors, friends from church, neighbors, your ATO Mentor and others in the ATO network. Then, start reaching out to them immediately with a request for a networking discussion. Don’t ask them directly if they have a job for you. Just ask to get together to catch up, to talk about what’s going on in your respective lives and to network in general. For most of these people, this will be the beginning of a very different relationship than what you’ve had with them in the past. You’ll be talking about jobs and careers and business. Both of you will likely enjoy this. An old little league coach (who happens to be president of a company) will be delighted to hear from you, to see how you’ve “turned out” and to see that you still remember him and valued his influence many years ago. He will turn into an invaluable ally in your job search process. A fraternity brother who graduated a year or two ago who only related to you as a drinking buddy can now tell you about how he found his first job, how he got interviews and where he knows people are hiring. Methodically work your way through this list. Meet people in person whenever you can and have phone calls when that’s all that’s practical. This list may grow as you get referrals from the people you meet. However, I guarantee that you’ll likely have a job by the time that you make it through the list. It may come from the most unlikely source. My nephew got a job as a result of a lead from the lady who lived next door. Turns out she worked for a large Pharma company and she gave him an inside track to a perfect job for him.
- Research and prepare for each discussion. Research background on the individual and their company. Use Linkedin and the web. A great place to find relevant information on a company is the investor relations section of their website. Review their Annual Report and their Quarterly Analyst presentations. These documents are typically 10-15 page powerpoint presentations that get right to the point – performance, challenges and plans. Going into a meeting knowing this information and having some questions about this will help start meaningful dialogue and set you apart from others who haven’t done their homework.
- Start doing your dream job before you even interview for it. There’s a job search website that I recommend called http://asktheheadhunter.com/ . You can sign up for a free weekly eNewsletter at this site that I think is very good. One of the basic techniques recommended on this site is to put yourself in the mindset of having a job before you get it. Here’s a quick example from my past. I was interested in working for a company called Gartner. Gartner sells IT Research and Advisory Services to CIOs and their direct reports. Prior to interviewing with Gartner, I reached out to several CIO contacts that I had and asked them about Gartner. Why did they do business with Gartner. Why didn’t they do business with Gartner? What could Gartner do to earn their business? I went into my interviews with Gartner with a point of view and plan on how I could help bring them more business. In fact, one of the CIO’s who I met was someone that Gartner had been unsuccessfully targeting for years. Gartner was very impressed that I knew him and that I could have a discussion like that with him and could tell them exactly what they needed to do to get his business. Having information and a point of view like this changes the entire interview process to something that is very real, very valuable and much easier.
- Treat every meeting as if it is an interview. You never know when one of these discussions may turn into a real interview. Send a confirmation note. Do your research as mentioned above. Prepare questions. Send a thank you note. Be on time (Lombardi time – 15 minutes early). If you’re meeting in person, put on your suit and tie and shine your shoes. I referred my niece to one of my ATO contacts who told me that he’d be happy to talk to her but that he didn’t have any openings. However, when he was talking to her on the phone, he was very impressed. He walked down the hall, while she was still on his mobile phone, and handed her over to a colleague who did have an opening. She ended up getting that job. You just never know so be prepared!
- Show results in your resume. Most resumes that I see list past internships, activities and jobs and basically say “you were there”. You will stand out much more if you can list the impact that you’ve had in a particular role in a measurable way. For example, rather than have a bullet on your resume under being Scholarship Chairman like “Led fraternity scholarship program”. Change it to “Improved fraternity GPA ranking from 35th to 7th out of 43 in two semesters.” Measurable results will help you stand out from the rest and give you great things to talk about on your interview.
- Leverage all of your resources. There are tons of resources available to help you while you are on campus. Your college will offer job fairs, resume workshops, mock interview sessions and alumni networking and mentoring sessions. Take advantage of all of them. You will never again have so many people and resources available to help you. Once you get home, these things will dry up. You’ll be on your own. Especially use all of the resources offered by ATO such as the Mentor Program, Mock Interview Sessions, Resume Workshop and resources on our website at https://atoillinois.com/category/mentor-program-tools/ If you don’t have an ATO Mentor assigned, reach out to your Career Development Director and ask for one immediately. These guys can be incredible resources to you as entrees to the ATO Alumni Network but also their own vast personal and professional networks. We have many, many guys in our network who have the power to get you an interview or sometimes even a job simply because they referred you. Join and utilize the ATO Illinois Linkedin group (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Alpha-Tau-Omega-University-Illinois-96736/about) and reach out to alumni who are with companies that interest you.
- Don’t be too picky. Until you have accepted a written job offer, take just about any meeting or interview you can get. Every interview is an opportunity to improve your skills. You never know… you may find that you really like a company or job that you didn’t think that you’d like once you learn more. And, once you have an offer, even if it isn’t your dream job, it gives you confidence and leverage as you continue with other interviews with other companies. If you can say on an interview that you have other offers and that you need to hear back on your status with a company by a particular date, you may be able to accelerate the process with a company that you are more interested. You can always say no. It’s just invaluable to have that offer in your back pocket
Do you have other tips that have been helpful to you? Please comment below.