Hey, do you remember when you were a college student and could hit the snooze alarm without a care in the world? Class was optional and the only place you needed to be was the bar by 5:00 for 25-cent wings.
Those were the days, right?
Last month, a million college students hit their snooze buttons for the last time. Pushing off reality a little while longer before they move back home and prepare to enter the job market. When they call me, what advice will I have for them?
No more snooze, guys. The competitive job seekers are already having their second cup of coffee. Time to get with the program.
No kidding. I’m empathetic. I’ve been in their shoes, I ate the wings. But I’m a recruiter now, not their roommate.
Here’s my tough love advice for every college grad/job seeker in your life:
1. Have internship experience in your field.
It demonstrates to employers that you’ve thought twice about your career path and taken steps to vet your interests with practical experience.
It proves you can get yourself to a job, on-time, day after day. You have a realistic understanding about what your daily responsibilities and office environment will be like.
College students with internship experience have a tremendous competitive advantage. They can talk about relevant projects they’ve completed. They’ve learned the industry buzzwords, culture, pace and expectations – all of which gives them the confidence and ease to fluidly adapt to the professional world.
Employers don’t want to be the test case. They want to hire people that already know the drill.
2. Build your professional network.
You need to be on the map with people who can help you get a job in your field. I haven’t looked at the job boards in years. I use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites to research people.
You should have a detailed profile on each of these sites and use every opportunity to build your connections. Here are two posts about what to include in your online profile, how to expand your network and ensure you’re at the top of search results.
3. It’s all about attitude & aptitude.
Attitude is your energy, enthusiasm and commitment to learning the role. You convey attitude with a polished presentation and thoughtful questions that show you’ve researched the role and company. You’ve considered how you can contribute and are able to articulate relevant experience and strengths. You’re eager to do important work, but you recognize that any task you undertake helps clear your boss’s plate.
Aptitude is your ability to learn and assume progressive responsibility. It’s often about leapfrogging to the end goal or desired outcome, then figuring out what pieces are required to get there. Soon you stop asking what needs to be done and instead begin each day with an action plan.
4. Dress (and act) a level above you.
One of the most memorable tips I got early in my career was to dress like the level above you. Dressing is just one aspect of how you carry and present yourself. No need to act superior or aloof. Find someone that commands attention easily and emulate them. Read your audience, figure out how to engage them and project confidence (not arrogance).
More advice for first-time job seekers:
- Interview tips
- Job seeker resources
- Advice from the Under 30 to Watch