Figuring out how to start your career after college can be a challenge for anyone who has never been through a full-time job hunt, interviews and hiring process. It’s a daunting task to get started in your first job and establish yourself as a well-spoken, professional in your field.
Stop Applying To Jobs Online
If you read no other advice on my blog, read this:
The worst way to try to start your career after college is spend time applying for jobs online unless you are spending at least five times that amount of time investing in trying to build relationships and network with people who have the power to connect you to the job you want.
The fastest way to be unemployed or resort to underemployment is to throw your name into a few online job applications and wait for the universe to return your good favor to you. I see so many young adults searching to find a job online that checks all their boxes and then they apply for it.
If you are bold enough to believe I know what I’m talking about, I dare you to not apply for another job online until you have connected with someone personally from that company. In fact, this is so important that while I was writing this post, I stopped in the middle of a train of thought and went out to LinkedIn to send a note over to someone I am due to catch up with.
Here’s the reasons why you shouldn’t just blindly apply for jobs online unless you know someone at the company:
- Less than 2% of online applications pass through to an interview! Online job postings have been automated for quite some time, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking it to the next level. Employers are trying to save time and money, so AI uses an algorithm and machine learning to narrow down the most ideal candidates based on keywords used in their application and resume. What this means for you is that if you aren’t customizing your application and resume for every job you apply for, you have less than a 2% chance of even getting an interview. I hate those odds!
- Algorithms limit your potential. I’m a big believer that you don’t need to be 100% qualified for a job in order to be hired for it. There are exceptions, but algorithms are looking for the best match, which means that if you aren’t fully qualified for that job, you won’t stand a chance. Making a personal connection with a recruiter or hiring manager though, could impress them enough to overlook some areas you are less than qualified for the job.
- Companies hire people with stories, not resumes on a screen or paper. The absolute best way to get hired is to find a way to make the connection to you being a person with a compelling story.
- Many jobs posted online are done so out of company policy. The hiring manager may have already identified someone they will promote internally, but they are required to post the job online. Further, that job may have already been posted for months and they could be in the final stages of interviews, no longer reviewing new applicants.
Identify The Exact Job You Want
One challenge young adults have when job hunting is a lack of focus. They apply for any job they are qualified for because they are desperate. As difficult as it can be, I encourage you to narrow in on a focus. A focus around the job function is most important, but if you can focus on an industry too, that’s great.
The reason you should focus on what exactly you are looking for is two-fold. First, you are wired to find what you are looking for and believe you are capable of achieving. Narrowing your focus to something you really want will allow your brain to try to figure out how to make that happen, versus the 20 different job types you were pursuing before. Second, should you be lucky enough to get 30 seconds of attention from someone who can either hire you or put you in touch with someone who can hire you, you need to be crystal clear on exactly what you want.
For example, an unfocused goal would sound like, “My degree was in business and I might like the medical industry, the fashion industry, or retail.” On the flip side, a focused goal is “I am looking for a junior level sales role at a medical device company.”
Being clear about what exactly you are after will allow others to help you find opportunities.
Aim To Keep It Professional
It might not be fair, but everything you do, say, and post online and in person will be attributed to your reputation as a start your career after college. People who are established in their career will likely look at a fresh new young face with the subconscious attitude that you haven’t completely learned professionalism.
For the early part of your career, you will need to overcompensate to ensure you build a healthy reputation. Dress a little nicer than everyone around you. Be the first to introduce yourself with a firm handshake, instead of waiting for others to introduce themselves. Be intentional about asking others about themselves and just staying quiet to listen.
I hope this goes without saying, but avoid putting negativity, harsh or vulgar words, or political statements out on social media. Recruiters, hiring managers and people managers will see what you post and it will factor into the reputation you build with them, for better or worse.
In your job, try to be careful how much you use your cell phone and avoid using it for social media or personal use as much as possible, unless of course social media is part of your job. Better yet, approach your manager and ask what their policy is on cell phone use at work, to establish that you want to be respectful of their rules.
Deal With Failure Well
Like it or not, as you start your career after college, you are going to look more like this baby giraffe than you will care to admit.
When I first saw this somewhere randomly on social media, I immediately thought about how fitting this is for a young person’s learning curve early in their career. The reason I share something so visual is because it’s important to understand that no matter what you do to prepare, you will have challenges that bring you to your knees in your career.
There will be tasks you are asked to complete that are beyond your ability. There will be people who are rude, disrespectful and only interested in their self-gain, at your expense. There will inevitably be interactions at some point in your career that will make you cry and want to quit your job.
My aim is not to paint a negative picture of the working world. It is for you to set realistic expectations. If you are about to start a job and you expect you will always be the most valuable employee, knock every assignment out of the park, and never make anybody mad, then you are set up to fail.
If instead you have the attitude of that this baby giraffe has, which is to struggle and get back up, again and again, then you will be prepared for whatever comes your way. Know that when you make a mistake, it’s your job to own up to it. People will forgive imperfect people who own their flaws, but they won’t forgive people who blame everyone else for their mistakes. Know that when you encounter someone who is rude or disrespectful to you, which I guarantee you will, that you have likely done nothing wrong and they are overly sensitive because of something going on in their life. Be ready with an appropriate response, such as, “I can see you are upset about this. Can you help me understand what went wrong so I can fix it?”
When you start your career after college, it can be so challenging to find your new normal and figure out how the flow of your institution works. If you are still in the job hunting phase, give up on those online applications until you have made a connection with someone at a company that can connect you to a hiring manager or recruiter. If you have already landed your job and are just starting out, keep in mind that there will be critical eyes on your actions, so keep them professional. Last, give yourself a little bit of grace. You will make mistakes, so mentally prepare yourself for how you will recover gracefully.
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