I Graduated… What Now?

Lessons and advice on the job search from one recent graduate to another.

Try Before You Buy

“The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.
The sure-thing boat never gets far from the shore.”
– Dale Carnegie –

http://msn.careerbuilder.com/Article/MSN-2054-Job-Search-Try-Before-You-Buy-How-to-Get-a-Job-That-Doesnt-Exist/?sc_extcmp=JS_2054_advice&SiteId=cbmsn42054

I found this article of particular interest. The idea of “Try Before You Buy” pitching to companies sounds like a unique way to get yourself noticed. But, does it really work? Is a company who is on a hiring freeze, or worse, letting people go, really going to find the finances to  support this temporary offer? Personally, I like the suggestion to skip the cover letter and go for the elevator speech in writing, at least for the industry I’m interested in. I’d love to hear what you, the job seeker and employer think!

October 31, 2009 Posted by | Advice | , , , , | Leave a comment

Look Around Once in a While

Time

Impulsivity has kept me from enjoying this gap period between school and work. Instead of enjoying my flexible schedule and free time, I’ve been fretting over what my next move needs to be. Only last week did some unexpected turn of events lead me to the realization that if you don’t stop to enjoy the moment, it’ll most certainly pass you by!

With my new found outlook I was able to accept that this was not a gap period, but rather an unexpected detour. Not only has my time as a server allowed me to travel and enjoy things I may not have had time for, I’ve recognized how it’s helped me to grow as an individual. Here are some highlights of my lessons learned:

Patience

There are some times you have no choice but to be on someone else’s time.

Teamwork

You cannot succeed in any industry, especially the restaurant industry, without working together

Diversity

You learn to successfully communicate, understand, and work with people of all backgrounds, education, beliefs, values and work ethics.

You will not love everyone you work with

But you will have to learn to work with everyone.

Dedication

No matter how much you hate your job at any given time, you better be there the next day if you want your paycheck.

Innovation

There are only so many options on a menu. But, there are endless ways to pitch them. Learn to read people and figure out how to best accommodate them.

How to bite your tongue/pick your battles

The costumer is always right is not a saying- it’s a mind set- and a lifestyle during work hours. Whether a co-worker or a guest, some times it’s better to let things go.

The immediate affects of divisional functioning of an organization

The results of each division of an organization aren’t directly apparent faster than in the restaurant industry. Managers, servers, bartenders, food runners, cooks, chefs and bus staff operate as a unit, each executing their own responsibility in order to run an efficient company.

So, the next time you are stressed and feel like the ship has sailed while you’re still at check-in, take a look around and improvise. I guarantee you can take something positive from the situation. In the meantime,Look there’s always happy hour 🙂

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Advice | , , , , | Leave a comment

Keep Your Search Straight

clever-miss-multitask-lg-83513889Lists, journaling, excel spreadsheets- whatever method best suits you- get started!

I recently spoke to a family-friend who is investing his time in helping me get connected to the right people. His first question was: “What have you been doing on your own?”

No matter how much you’ve done so far, it’s important to keep track of everything. What would be more embarrassing than being put on the spot by a reasonable question, such as this, that we aren’t prepared to answer.

I feel that I’m reaching out to many people for advice, direction, and mentorship. To be honest, I laughed at my dad when he originally suggested that I keep track of everything, so I’m not confused. “Dad, I know who I talk to and I know what I’ve applied for,” was my response.

Honestly, he has a point (Although I’d NEVER admit that to him, and I doubt he even knows what a blog is.).  I can recall who I’ve talked to and what I’ve applied to, yet I wasn’t able to provide a sufficient response to this question. Organization keeps us from forgetting anything as well as keeps it in order. STEPS are important. A simple example:

  1. Emailed Joe Smith to inquire about a position with ABC company.
  2. Joe Smith put me in touch with his HR department as well as gave me John Doe’s contact information at XYZ corporation. He thinks they may be hiring.
  3. Got in touch with John Doe, who is forwarding my resume on.

Thanks to my newly developed list, I will not get my connections mixed up, I will have record of initiatives and results, I won’t forget to follow up with John Doe, or to thank Joe Smith for his efforts, and I’ll now be able to give a detailed summary of the steps I’ve taken on my own. The friend will now be able to recognize my determination and dedication, thus assuring him that his own time will not go to waste. Also, I can refer back to my list to see what actions resulted in positive feedback, and which actions yielded little response.

October 29, 2009 Posted by | Advice | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Be Careful What You Tweet For

A flawless job-search experience would probably be asking too much. How do we learn without be critiqued? These are the sentences I found running through my head a few months ago, but I couldn’t lay them on thick enough to mask my mortification.

Earlier this summer I applied for an assistant account executive position with a local advertising agency. For those of you not familiar with this term, an assistant account executive is an entry-level position that allows you to provide support on accounts, yet limits the amount of independent decision making you have. This sounds perfect for a beginning professional! Or so I thought.

So excited by the possible new position, I contacted a friend who knew someone at that particular agency. My friend, whose advice and encouragement has greatly eased the stress of this horrific job search, forwarded my resume to her contact at the agency. What better way to get noticed than from the inside, right?

Now I’m really enthused! A recommendation from a respected professional! The next morning I woke up early and decided to check my Twitter account, only to find that someone had retweeted a post made by the contact at this agency.

A part of me died that morning. In 140 characters or less, this “professional” had made fun of my resume embarassing_45526.jpg_320_320_0_9223372036854775000_0_1_0for having Twitter listed under my proficiencies. Worse yet, another professional (not employed by the same company) found it funny enough to repost. Correct me if I’m wrong, but social media skills are a highly sought-after skill in most companies.

I understand that this woman meant no personal harm, does not represent the entirety of the agency, and I could have worded it in a more marketable way. However, I was taken aback by the lack of empathy and professionalism a woman, whose own company uses Twitter as a marketing tool, had.

A good laugh with some colleagues, in the privacy of their office, probably would have been a better choice. Thankfully, I got over the embarrassment, didn’t take my sister’s advice to continue my job search in another country, and checked off another lesson learned.

I never heard anything back from the agency, so my only impression of this company will forever be of this negative Tweet.

To those of us circling on the perimeter trying to break in, remember to ALWAYS present yourself in the best light both in person and on social media sites. There is a line between sharing our personal life, and making our selves look bad. If it’s on the internet- anyone can see it!

Share your most embarrassing job-search experience in the “comment” box below!

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Advice | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Ears are for Listening

My downfall has never been a lack of words. Laughs are still exchanged on every holiday over a story of when I was 6 years old riding in the car with my uncle. Apparently, I talked the entire 45-minute ride to our lake house, pausing only twice to take a breath. My uncle, never having a daughter or a chatterbox of his own, couldn’t believe how much I had to talk about at such a young age.

The problem with doing all the talking is that I never learned much. The secret to gaining something from a conversation is to be a skilled listener.

In an effort to be successful in the job search, I decided to change my mindset and open my ears to everything (even my parents’ advice).

advice_graduate

The most valuable conversation I’ve had thus far was with Kim, a very respected PR professional that provided me with a glimpse into my desired field, as well as connected me to many people who offered their guidance.

After one brief encounter, she offered to meet for coffee to discuss my options. Determined not to let this opportunity pass me by, I did all my research and compiled a list of questions. This was the time for active listening!

Not only did she READ my resume before I met her, she had plans. Over an hour and a half was dedicated to my credentials, goals, and options. I knew her company was not hiring. I was just thrilled to be in the presence of a seasoned professional whose brain I could pick.

By listening to her input, I was able to pinpoint what exactly my industry of choice was looking for. Hence why I am now working on my social media skills 🙂

Kim introduced me to a variety of options that would allow me to exercise my core skills set, as well as set up meetings for me to speak to a human resources director, and a man in public policy.

Although a job was not in the cards, this was by far my best listening experience. As a result, I now have a more positive outlook on the job search, a stronger desire to work amongst people as helpful as this, a hunch on what employers’ are looking for, and of course, a new mentor.

Here’s to opening your ears!

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Advice | 4 Comments

May I Have Your Attention?

Are our cover letters and resumes being sent to outer space? Am I the only one that gets 1 response for what seems to be every 100 positions I apply for? Not even an automated response!

While at my waitressing gig tonight, I was offered some well-intended advice from a guest: “You need to just get your resume out there!

As fun as slinging meatballs can be,  if “just getting my resume out there” was all it took, then my passion for public relations would be far more than an aspiration.

After attempting to politely redirect the conversation, the guest continued: “All you need to do is get an entry-level position and you’ll work your way up!

Did my intentions come across as expecting to take over for Daniel Edelman tomorrow?

It takes experience to get an “entry-level” position nowadays. What a catch-22. There are no positions out there for truly “entry-level” professionals, yet we aren’t hired without experience. Hmmm….

Internships? I am on my fourth. Every professional in my chosen industry, although extremely helpful and encouraging, has offered me a different skill that needs to be mastered to be considered for a position. How much mastering does it take to land an “entry-level” position? Because I have gained great experience, skills, and contacts, I  continue to welcome unpaid internships.

Networking? I continue to connect with people I believe to be knowledgeable, respectable, and successful. I’ve gained so much valuable insight and suggestions, yet I’m still slinging-meatballs.

Here are some things I’ve found useful in gaining employers’ attention:

  • People WANT to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and opinions and definitely keep in touch with those you’ve connected.
  • I’ve received better responses/feedback from the companies I’ve sought out. Many positions have actually been filled by the time they are listed on the Internet.
  • Contact people in the industry you’re looking to enter into. So far, no one has been bothered by a polite e-mail inquiring about their position/company. In fact, I have yet to not receive a response. Even if there is not a position available, I’ve gained additional knowledge through each contact, as well as a new friendship. Bonus: now you’re on their radar. When a position becomes available, you are more than just a name on a resume.
  • Persistence rarely goes unnoticed.
  • Taking the extra step to follow up with a phone call or an e-mail shows you’re serious about the position and committed to the hiring process. Do a little research to find out the name of the company’s hiring manager, or even go straight to the president. Worst case scenario: no response.

Although I don’t have a solution (but welcome those you may have!) to gaining an entry-level position with little experience, I do know how to gain the attention of professionals. The next time you find yourself checking your email every hour for a response that you may or may not ever receive, why not take the extra step?

October 25, 2009 Posted by | Advice | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sky Isn’t Falling

Lets face it: the world doesn’t stop after college graduation, and the sky doesn’t fall during tough times. Time to put our big girl panties/big boy boxers on and accept that a college diploma is not a “go straight to *Insert dream company*” pass. A chance at free parking every once in a while is about the only Parker Brothers’ metaphor in this reality.

Only recently have I resolved this: no matter how much preparation, passion and persistence you may put into the job search, sometimes it’s just not enough.

Thanks for letting me get all of that off my chest. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past five months since graduation.

1. Don’t Get Discouraged

There is no possibility of a win if you don’t keep trying.  Think you’ve memorized every job post on the Internet, contacted everyone in your network, your neighbor’s, and your cousin’s in Nebraska? Chalk it up to timing and keep on keeping on. Look at it this way: you can keep trying, or you can settle for where you are right now. Refer to these famous failures to make yourself feel better: http://ezinearticles.com/?16-Most-Inspiring-Famous-Failures&id=862208.

2. Don’t Feel Alone

80% of recent college graduates move back in with their parents (R1FinancialEducation).

Over a cup of coffee with a high school friend, I learned that even those lucky enough to find employment in their dream field right away, weren’t able to stay there. One classmate landed his dream architecture job with a prominent firm in Orange County, California a year and a half ago. I was surprised to learn that he had been laid off 6 months ago, not due to lack of performance, but by lack of business. He is now back working in our small town. Another peer, who interned for an environmental non-profit in NYC for 6 months, has been at home looking for a full-time position for over a year.

Even those of us who have worked hard and taken all the right steps are facing roadblocks. So in good “misery loves company” fashion, remember: you’re not alone.

3. Don’t Make Excuses

The economy may be enough of an excuse to keep your parents off your back about landing a job, but using this to post-pone the job search isn’t benefiting you at all. While you pout at home over Xbox and bon-bons, others are out there making connections, which will leave you that much farther behind when jobs start popping up. Just think: all of this networking, researching, interning, and interviewing is sharpening our skills and bettering us for our future job.

4. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Just because you are not being hired right away does not mean that you are not valuable. Really think about your skills and proficiencies. One recurring question I’ve run into is: “what is your core skills set?” My first response was something along the lines of not having enough professional experience to be able to answer that. WRONG! We’ve all used computer programs in college. Do you have any leadership or management experience? Yes, being responsible for three children several times a week counts and so does mentoring a trainee at the restaurant you work for. Don’t sell these experiences short- being able to compare these experiences to a future job situation are what make you stand out!

So, you’re homework for tonight is to stop feeling sorry for yourself and start preparing. Make a list of your “core skills set” and don’t downplay anything. Project management, leadership, and organizational skills are a great start! Don’t forget to list exemplary performance in an internship, exceeding goals, and any promotions.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment