Not every college graduate knows what his/her pivotal first job will be. And that’s perfectly okay, according to Steve Morrissey, Managing Partner at career and talent consulting firm, Perpetual Ambition in Darien, CT. “Graduates are at a crossroads, and it takes a lot of work to articulate who you are and what you want to do,” he says.
Here are Morrissey’s tips for paving a smoother path while pursuing a job that suits you:
- Curb your enthusiasm to rebel against your parents’ wishes. If your parents are pushing you to head in one career direction, you don’t have to follow. “Advocate for yourself if their vision doesn’t feel right,” says Morrissey. “But don’t just push back and shut down. Let their words motivate you to prove them wrong and forge your own way.”
- Work to find good work. Don’t party late at night and sleep until noon. Rather, Morrissey says, “Get up as if you are going to work, do a workout, and keep your mind active, so you avoid disillusion.” The bottom line: view your transition time in the same way that you would a job and work on it all day. Spend the bulk of your day researching, sending emails, putting presentations together, and making calls. If you have to earn cash while you search, that’s okay. Your future employer will view your work ethic favorably.
- Think about the kind of job satisfaction you need. Ask yourself: ‘what will make me happy? Do I value financial rewards, lifestyle balance, or invigorating company culture?’ Then pair your work must-haves with an honest list of your academic and professional strengths and your work and internship experiences.
- Create your resume and have it mirror your Linked In profile. Morrissey says, “Make sure the content is relevant, and can be authentically discussed by you.” Add interests—and dare to be a little quirky—at the bottom of both, so long as they’re genuine, says Morrissey.
- Be a research junkie. Search entry-level positions at the companies you think suit your happiness barometer best. See if the content of the job fits you. Morrissey says, “Consider how you can contribute to the spot and the company.”
- Turn into an application and networking machine. Morrissey states that you can’t underestimate how much time and effort it takes to effectively network and apply. “Don’t apply for as many jobs as possible online, and then sit back and wait. You need to do all those applications while harnessing the power of LinkedIn to connect with the right people at your top companies,” he says.
- Take your connections to the next level. Connect with entry-level folks, and work your way up the corporate ladder. “Then, request a 10-minute phone call or coffee, with the understanding that you are trying to connect with the hiring manager, score an exploratory interview, or learn more about a company and the entry-level job functions,” Morrissey adds. “You’d be surprised at how lucrative these chats can be. They often end with, ‘Why don’t you come in and talk to us.’ That’s where jobs are created for individuals.”
- Get to the top of the resume pile. Thoughtful customization of each application, resume, and cover letter you submit helps. “Companies are overwhelmed,” Morrissey explains. “The number of applications they get is so high that they can prescreen the top 20 percent before they meet anyone.” They are scanning for academics and experience outside of studying—anything that’s relevant to the job.
- Verbalize who you are on paper. Morrissey says it’s common to be pre-interviewed on the phone. So practice being well-versed about who you are and what you want to do. Learn how to talk about your accomplishments and experiences and what you learned from them. Your takeaways can be relevant to almost any new job. For example, bussing tables taught you to interface positively with customers, taught you the importance of politeness, and brand promotion from the top down.
- Stay organized. Run a spreadsheet of jobs you apply to. Morrissey says it should be detailed: with dates, contact information, actions, methods of application, and follow-up plans.
Turn to the pros. Consider working with a recruiter who specializes in entry-level positions. You found a good one, says Morrissey, if they call you in for a meeting and build a relationship with you. Finally, don’t just rely on one recruiter; scope out a few.