Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top 5 Secrets To Getting A Job After College

It was spring, 2007, and I was sitting in a computer programming class while the instructor talked about big opportunities with big companies. The average business major coming out of college was expected to make $46,000 that year, but the programming business jobs easily went into the $50k range.

He painted a very vivid picture of the end goal, but I saw that something was missing. How are you supposed to go from point A (where you are now) to point B (earning $50k per year)? So I asked him.

"Get a job," was his reply. My classmates laughed and I sheepishly put my hand back down. It was funny, but it still didn't answer my question. It's like you were expected to have a job fall into your lap as soon as you graduated.

Well, I've learned a few things since then. And since I'm a huge fan of lists with actionable items, I've put this together for you. Let me know if you agree or if you see any gaps by leaving a comment.

Without further ado… the Top 5 Secrets To Getting A Job After College:

1. Use Your Network
Networking in real life is different than how it was taught in college. I'm a pretty shy person sometimes, and I put a high value on having real relationships. The last thing I want to do is rub elbows with a bunch of business hotshots at a career fair and give an elevator pitch 25 times. Plus, the way students prepare and get worked up for some of these networking events, you'd think they were going to meet President Obama.

It's so much easier than that, thanks to Facebook. Post a simple status message letting people know that you are looking for work, and anybody who knows you can see it. The number of available jobs out there is increasing, but if you can get a referral through somebody who can personally vouch for you, the odds of getting work are stacked in your favor.

You can also hit your email contacts list and send people one-off messages asking if they know of any leads at their workplaces. I made a habit of telling friends all over that I was looking, and a few people really came through for me.

2. Fix Your Resume
Ok, if you are fresh out of college, you probably have next to zero real work experience. But that's ok. You probably also have more community service time under your belt than you'll ever have again, and I'm willing to bet you participated in some kind of extra-curricular activities (beyond getting wasted).

You can probably find a job with requirements that mirror some of the projects you did in school. And you can use some of your favorite professors as references on your resume. Just play up the enthusiasm factor and be very willing to learn. Many companies would rather hire a yet-to-be-proven rockstar than a washed up corporate veteran, and they will often pay to have you trained on the job.

And it always helps to have your resume hand delivered by a friend on the inside. It literally sets you apart from the pile. Also, bring your resume by the career services department at your school…and have a friend or professor take a look at it before you send it off.

3. Nail The Interview
Wear nice clothes appropriate to your desired position, and dress up half a notch if it's your style. This means wear a tie or a jacket if the dress code is slacks and a button up (for guys, obviously). Be sure your clothes are comfortable, and that you smell good but not overpowering. If you feel comfortable and confident in your appearance, your body language will naturally follow.

Speak clearly, comfortably, and naturally. And ask questions so the interviewer sees that a) you care and b) you aren't a vegetable. When the interview is over, follow up by mailing a handwritten thank you card to your interviewer. This is a nice touch that will set you apart in the e-mail age.

4. Negotiate For Your Salary
I've successfully botched this step, and it set me back for my entire two year duration of employment at one company. I've also played this card right and earned the quickest $10,000 in my life.

Don't get overexcited when they give you a job offer. If you take a few minutes to prepare for this step, you can dramatically jumpstart your career. Talk with friends or search around to find the appropriate salary for somebody in your position, so you have a reference point. I have a good rule of thumb though, especially if you are shy: Ask for more money than you think you are worth. This gives you some breathing room in case they come back with a lower counter offer.

5. Work Harder (And Smarter)
Ok, admittedly this tip won't help you get a job…but it will help you keep a job, and it may even help you get promoted. Never be afraid to ask questions if you don't know the answer. Most people have a fear that people will think of them as stupid or weak because they asked too many questions. In reality, the people who ask questions will make fewer mistakes and develop a stronger relationship with their boss.

Also, be willing to do the crap work that nobody else will touch. It will make you look like a go getter, and the boss will be able to count on you to get the job done when better work comes along.

I hope this helps. If you have anything to add from your own experience, leave a comment below. If you want to learn more, check out www.youwillgetajob.com. And if you like this, tell a friend!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I made a website

Hi folks.

I wrote a book this summer, and put a preview chapter up online.

The book is about:

- Why job sites don't work anymore, and why you can't depend on them for anything. (Monster, CareerBuilder, Craigslist).
- How to compete for jobs where you "don't have enough experience."

And other useful things like how to:

- Find job leads within your social network.
- Get your resume noticed.
- Rock the job interview.
- Negotiate salary and get more money.
- Climb the corporate ladder and get promoted faster.

Some of it is common sense. A lot of it is not the "typical" way of doing things. All of it has been very useful in this economy. Hopefully this helps you the same way it helped me.

Want to learn more? You can go here to visit and download the free bonus chapter. It's about using Facebook to launch your job search.




Monday, July 12, 2010

Fix Your Resume - It Looks Like Everybody Else's

Generic resume advice is everywhere. Following generic resume advice like the majority of people on the net will give you (wait for it...) a generic resume. It may look impressive by itself, but if your resume doesn't stand out from the giant stack of resumes your prospective employer will surely get on a regular basis, then it will be ignored.

Acheiving the "perfect resume" simply isn't a realistic goal in the current job market. The US has a record number of qualified and unemployed people, most of whom have stellar resumes. Think of the modern job search as being 80% about who you can connect with and only 20% about making a good resume.

So if you devote 10 hours a week to your job search, I would spend 8 hours talking to friends, family, and other people about their jobs and availability. The remaining 2 hours -- if that -- can go towards your resume. Don't get too caught up with job sites and Craigslist, a simple inquiry email to a friend can be infinitely more valuable than 50 resume submissions online.

Since the resume is clearly less important than getting the word out, you have my permission to not agonize over it. But here are a few simple rules you can follow, since you still want the resume to stand out in a crowd.

The resume should be tailored to the desired qualifications of each position - usually a list of 3 to 5 main bullets in the job description. One of my potential jobs required these general skills:
  • Process Improvement
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Reporting
  • Online Advertising
So instead of listing my employment history for the last 5 years, I listed these qualifications in bold and pasted in bullet points of various things I had done to demonstrate each. I also lifted keywords directly from the job description and bolded them.

Any time you have a chance to mention a number, whether it's how much money you saved, percentage of efficiency you improved, number of accounts you closed, etc, include it. So instead of saying, "I worked on the Meely Worm process improvement and helped our team become better," say something like, "I helped develop and launch an internal process improvement that saved 16 hours per week in labor costs, amounting to $16,000/year savings for XYZ Company."

Combine that with a slick heading up top, and you have a very readable first page of your resume. I put employment history, education history and various certifications and degrees in small bullets on the second page...if they are interested in page 1 -- and if the resume came from the right source -- they will keep reading.

When I applied for jobs, they were all similar enough that I could use the same resume for each one. One job placed a much higher importance on Process Improvement and no priority on Online Advertising, so I reordered my sections. I kept the blurb on advertising in there, because it was interesting and pretty cool in its own right. I wound up getting an offer for that job.

If you want a pretty resume, steal a page from Apple (their stuff is very pretty). The default font on their Keynote software is Gill Sans, and it looks great on a monitor or printed out.

This is my resume format (the details have been fictionalized...because it's more fun that way). This resume format, combined with word of mouth introduction from people who were already employed there, got me first and second interviews at two different technology companies in the area...one of them is globally renowned. It really can be this easy. Steal and tweak at your own leisure.

Friday, July 9, 2010

How To Make Your Facebook Boss Proof

Step one of your job search: announce that you are looking. I went on facebook and posted a status update to all of my friends and family. I got an overwhelming response of positive messages and job leads, ultimately leading to a great job. This was in March 2010, so the economy was officially screwed by this point.

I like facebook. But as it becomes more popular, you start to collect more and more "friends" who you wouldn't normally hang out with, like your boss. It's also not unheard of for a prospective employer to stalk your facebook profile during your interview process.

Keeping your information private is common sense, but it's also a very easy mistake to make in haste. So here's how you fix your privacy settings on facebook.

At the home page, click Account --> Privacy Settings.

Under Sharing on Facebook, click Custom.

At the bottom of the list of text on the right, click Customize settings.

At the top of this list, where it says Posts by me, click on the box at right (mine says Friends Only) and select Custom edit.

Make this visible to Friends Only (or be even more selective, it's up to you). Under Hide this from, type your boss' name and anybody else you don't want to see your status updates. Save settings.

Your settings for Posts by me should now say Custom.

That's all there is to it. I prefer facebook over other more professional social networking sites, because it's a direct link to people (family and friends) who will typically go the extra mile to help you succeed. In my case, using facebook is much more effective than any recruiter has ever been.

Anyway, more on this later. Clearly facebook is only one piece of the puzzle -- you need to fix your resume and other things before you can get a job -- but it's a great place to start.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Job Market Sucks - Find A New Angle

I don't want to find a job. And I'm glad I don't have to look for one right now.

Quite honestly, the economy sucks. Unemployment is still at 9.5%, and out of 1.5 million fresh faces graduating from college each year, 60,000 of them are bright eyed, bushy tailed, and unemployed.

I wish I was making these numbers up. The other figure that depresses me is the 1.2 million people in the US who are not searching for work because they believe that no available work exists. People have given up.

But I found a job. I got my bachelor's in 2007, and have had a 9-5 ever since. And despite all this news about the economy being in the shitter, I managed to get a new job with a $10,000 raise in February. My former company was going through a salary freeze, and despite our division turning a record profit, I got tired of seeing the less profitable divisions benefit from our hard work without us doing the same. So I jumped ship.

And it isn't just me who is finding work in a troubled economy. My circle of friends, most of whom work for a giant aerospace company in the area, have each been promoted within their organizations a few times in the past three years. The point is that it can be done. If these guys can manage to hold onto their jobs and get promoted in a tough economy, I am willing to bet that other less fortunate college grads can do so too.

The job market has changed. And there are more people than ever competing for the same jobs in the same places. They get on a job site like CareerBuilder or Monster, they post their resume to any jobs that fit their desired criteria (which at this point is pretty much anything that doesn't require selling insurance), and they wait. A few weeks later, they talk to me about how frustrated they are that it hasn't panned out, "I've applied to 50 different jobs, and NONE of them will email or call me back!"

Then the victim mentality sets in. The unfairness of the whole damn situation overwhelms them, and they roll up their sleeves and try their luck on Craigslist. The process repeats.

You just have to learn how to play a different game.

I don't mean to hold anything in your face, or demean the fact that you may not have a job right now. I've been unemployed and searching before, and after a while it can really wear on you. But what I can do is share what has helped college graduates like me get work in a shitty economy. Anything to save you from moving back in with your parents.

My first piece of advice: accept that the world is an unfair place. Accept that it's also far more abundant than any bloated job site will indicate. Read "The Alchemist" if you want an inspirational folk tale to help your search. I'm serious.

Every single job that I have found throughout my career except one has been through somebody that I know. This isn't just about networking, it's about putting that social network that you have to good use. The BEST way to get an interview is through somebody you already know. Spamming job sites with your resume does not work, because that's exactly what everybody else is doing.

And yes, I found my $10k raise through somebody I knew. My personal and professional relationship with them got me an interview, and once my foot was in the door, getting a job became much simpler.