Truth be told, I am not a college grad. School was never my thing. I was just someone who needed to get out into the world and make something happen, discover things about myself and learn about what it’s really like out there. A classroom just never did that for me (thankfully my kids are too young to read this) :)
I was thinking about all of these college graduates that friends ask me to help get jobs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s my pleasure to try to help. But, I see so many that are just completely lost on how to do it. Truth be told, I’ve never applied for a job myself since I’ve never worked for someone else. So, I have no experience creating a resume or interviewing. Nevertheless, I am someone who does hire (especially new grads) in my gig running a business news startup.
So, if I was a college grad, here is what I would do to get a job:
Find your passion first - The biggest mistake I always see is young people going after jobs that don't honestly reflect their passion and it shows when they get into the workforce. You are going to spend 90% of your life working! Choose something you love and actually look forward to doing everyday.
Start early – Try and get internships in high school. Nothing against being a swim instructor, but far more impressive to me are the people who worked for a business, any business, during high school. This says to me that this young person works hard and is serious about business and their career.
Intern while in college - Again, get a job. If you can get by even without getting paid for it, do it! It will pay dividends in the end. If you know your field of interest, obviously go for a job in that field.
Get references - While I might not give them a ton of credibility (who asks for critical references) :), it does show an attention to detail and thoroughness.
Forget responding to ads - If a company runs an ad these days, assume they will be getting inundated with resumes. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to stand out.
Network - Ask your parents, friends, teachers and past employers for leads. But don't just email them, go see them. Ask simple, open-ended questions like "what career advice would you give me,” and "what lessons have you learned in searching for a job?" etc…Be a listener, not a talker. No one wants to hire a know it all!
Do your homework - If you know your career direction, research the best companies in that field that are local. So often I meet with new grads and I will hear "I want to work in New York and have fun," and I’m thinking to myself "and I want to play quarterback for the NY Giants.” :)
Write a short but well researched email to the CEO or a manager - Make it less about you and more about the company and how hard you are willing to work to make a contribution. If someone took the time to research my company and describe their desire and passion to work for me, I will certainly take notice.
Work cheap or for free to prove yourself - Too often I hear stories of a new grad that actually turned down job offers because they felt they don't pay enough. I get that new grads have bills accumulating and tuition to pay off, but that’s nuts to me. I would literally ask to work for free for a certain period of time to prove myself and hope it would turn into full-time work. Again, in a cutthroat environment like the one we are in these days, passion and desire are as important, if not more, than experience.
Here is a real life experience of someone who did it right in my book. Matt is a new hire at The News Funnel. He came to us as a new grad from a good local school with a journalism background. Perfect for us on paper. He came in for an interview totally prepared, did his homework, etc. Before that he was working a part-time job delivering pizza. And I respected that. Said to me that he was a hard worker and while it's tough to get a job in his chosen field, he was willing to work just to work. We told him we would give him a shot part-time, low pay etc...and he jumped at the opportunity. Three months later we were so impressed with his positive attitude and work ethic, we hired him full-time. Way to go, Matt!