How to Land Your Dream Job After College and Become a Savvy “Job Dater”

By Lisa Frank & Shira Grayson

As you near the end of your college career, it may be difficult to picture exactly what your life will look like – even one year from now. You’ll have your college degree and a range of internship, volunteer, and work experiences (and maybe some debt) under your belt. But you can’t quite picture the details of your future job, where you will be living, who you will be living with, or how you will be spending (or saving!) your new salary.

It’s tempting to put these questions on the back burner, especially during these last chaotic weeks of college. However, carving out the time to focus on the job search process to strategize how you are going to achieve your career goals after graduation, can make for a much smoother transition into the “real world”.

As a career coach and executive recruiter, I’ve found many parallels between job searching and dating. So, I’ve broken down the most important job search do’s and don’ts into familiar and relatable stages that I call “Job Dating”.

 
What are you Really Looking For?
Instead of aimlessly casting a wide net and hoping that something (or someone) sticks, be intentional about your search. Grab a pen and start with a freestyle brainstorm session! Make a list of your strengths, skills, interests, and goals. Of course, sometimes it’s easier to start with what you don’t want, in order to figure out what you do want. Either way, keep the list handy and add to it over time – it will be a great tool to reference while networking, interviewing, and writing your resume. Remain open-minded to opportunities but also be realistic about your goals. (Unfortunately, your five summer internships don’t translate to 5-7 years of work experience. So, even though you may feel you’d make an excellent manager, you are likely unqualified at the moment). Your ideal job may not initially appear with all of the bells and whistles on your wish list, but it might just lead you down the path toward achieving your larger career dreams.

Put Yourself Out There
Don’t be afraid to “swipe right” sometimes and put yourself out there! Explore your career centers, set up informational interviews and shadowing opportunities, and attend networking events so you can meet new people and learn more about the jobs that interest you. You will learn something new from every conversation and, I promise you, it’s way more interesting (and productive) than hiding behind your iPad searching for jobs on LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, and Facebook. Most importantly, ask a lot of questions. You would never marry someone before getting to know them first. Same goes for a new job. Make sure you are fully aware and on board with the job duties, responsibilities, and the company culture before you sign yourself away. Unfortunately, if these details aren’t considered at the start, they are sometimes learned the hard way. Last but not least, don’t shy away from getting “set-up.” Your connections are some of your best assets during the job search process – so be proactive and spread the word that you are on the job hunt.

Make That Lasting First Impression
Before you even step foot in the door for an in-person interview, you will be judged by the appearance of your online profiles, your resume, and your writing samples. If you are serious about a job search, proofread your application materials and perfect your resume so it reflects your skills and goals. Also, take the time to clean up your online presence (including your photos). A complete LinkedIn profile with a professional-ish picture will likely get you more attention, so spend some time updating it with accomplishments, keywords and a great headline! Sometimes companies outside of your “search preferences” will contact you. If you’re not interested, respectfully decline. If you are interested, get on it! Transition to phone or in-person ASAP – competition is fierce in cyberspace! Also, if you apply online, sometimes you will get a response, sometimes you won’t – but don’t take it too personally. You never know who (if anyone) is on the other end of your application.

They Want to Meet You, Now What?
Great news- you got the interview. This is your time to shine! That means put your best foot forward, dress the part, and bring copies of your resume. Yes, I know you already emailed it to them, but it’s likely buried in an inbox somewhere, so it’s always better to have copies on hand. Research the company and be ready to ask good questions. Don’t chew gum and, please, silence your iPhone before putting it away. You should give your interviewer your undivided attention. This means make eye contact, sit up in your chair, smile, and act like you’re engaged in the conversation, even if you’re not as “into it” as you thought you’d be. If you are into it, find out when you can see them again! Healthy confidence is attractive, but arrogance can be a big deal breaker. Check your ego at the door and bring your humility with you to the interview.  When it comes to first meetings, you have a limited amount of time to “sell yourself” so listen closely, share relevant experiences, and ask follow-up questions that show your interest.

Still Interested? Follow-Up!
The first meeting was perfect. The chemistry was there and you were at your all-time best. Don’t forget to send thank you notes in a timely manner. DO NOT send thank you notes by text. Send them via email using full words and complete sentences. Do they want you to come back for more interviews? Great! Make time to be available – I know you’re busy, but you want to show them that this is a priority to you, so avoid playing the “hard to get” game. Also, this is the time for you to ask specific questions and gather more information. Can you see yourself working here for a year…or even more? Remember, just because they are asking you back for more interviews doesn’t mean that you’re the only person they’re seeing. You still need to be on your A-game while they decide if you’re “the one.”

Are You Ready To Get Serious?
By now, you should have a pretty strong gut feeling if there is potential here. They’ve wined and dined you, you’ve met the managers, toured the place and done all of your research. When they offer you the job you’ll be ready to say YES, right?  If your answer is no, what’s standing in your way from making the commitment?  Remember what you were looking for that led you to this opportunity in the first place. If you want the job, accept it right away.  If you don’t, tell them as soon as you know that, too. They are making a commitment to you and hoping you will make one to them. How you handle this delicate part of the process will speak volumes about you to the company.  Don’t get distracted by outside input from family and friends. You will be the one working for this company, so you should be the one making all the decisions.

So You Weren’t a Perfect Match
Rejection in any form is rough, especially when you’ve invested a lot of time and energy. Even if you’ve been given the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” line, it can still sting. Don’t fret, there are plenty of fish in the sea! Remember, each employer is looking for something a little different and you will find your match. Of course, it’s natural to feel disappointed, maybe even sad, but try not to let the rejection lead you off-track. Instead, give yourself some time to regroup, reflect, and rehash – and then get back out there ASAP. Landing your dream job isn’t an easy process and it requires persistence and determination. You will have to take some chances, put yourself out there, learn from each disappointment, and not give up until you are satisfied.

Frankly Speaking: Even though you feel on top of the world right now with your degree in hand, you are likely new to the job search scene. There is still so much to learn. Be humble. Ask for help. Learn from your mistakes. Listen to your mentors. Be receptive to feedback. And, most of all, be a mensch. This process can be a roller coaster of excitement, awkward moments, memorable stories, and some disappointments. But, stay positive and keep your eye on the prize, and remember- there is a lid for every pot!

 

Lisa Frank is the CEO of LBF Recruitment Strategies, a woman-owned, executive search & career coaching firm. As a recruiter, connector and coach she offers a relatable and “Frank” approach to all aspects of life. Through her blog, Frankly Speaking, Lisa shares her insights, guidance and outrageous (but true) stories about career and life topics with plenty of humor, humanness and candor. Follow Lisa on LinkedIn or Twitter (@LisaBFrank) or visit www.LBFStrategies.com.

 Shira Grayson, professional job-dater, travel enthusiast, and active adventurer, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, class of 2014. She has enjoyed living, working (and constantly networking) in the Chicago area for the past 2 years.

Pre-Counteroffers: Why All of Your Best Employees Should Be Getting Them

There is no doubt about it. The job is market healthier than it’s been in years and hiring is HOT. You are likely feeling the pressure to wine, dine, and roll out the red carpet for the best talent you can find out there.

But while your company is out there, hyper-focused on scouting and recruiting fresh, new, top talent, are you overlooking the players you already have on the team?

You very well might be, until your “most loyal” employee catches you off guard with her two-week’s notice. Then you start scrambling to give her whatever she wants…more money, title promotion, flex/work-from home days, more vacation, a new boss, a new client. Whatever it is, you need to give it to her because you can’t live without her – she’s a reliable key-player!

And then you realize, you are too little, too late.

Most savvy candidates are fully aware of the no-no’s of accepting counteroffers. Just plug the term into any search engine and you’ll find a plethora of articles, posts and resources advising against them.

Perhaps you should’ve given her a pre-counteroffer when you had the chance.  

Yep, that’s right.  An “I’m a step ahead of your future offer” move that’s so great, they wouldn’t need to entertain the idea of leaving in the first place.  For example…did you put them on a path to reach their career goals, discuss their wants/needs during their last review, or present creative ways to keep them challenged, interested and enthusiastic? Did you truly reward them for their excellent work and loyalty to the company? Did you invest in them, proactively?

According to Gallup, only 33% of employees are engaged in their work, and more than half of all employees (51%) “are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings”

If you have been resting on your laurels with your current fantastic team and assuming (or hoping) that they’ll just stay forever because they are loyal, appear to be happy, or are compensated “well enough,” think again. It might be time to reassess your retention strategies.

Don’t wait for them to come to you with a resignation letter.  Get out in front of it.

  • Listen: Talk with your employees.  No, not at them, with them. And not just during “review” time.  Check-in to see how things are going, or if there are things you can do to make their employee experience better. Are they getting what they need/want?  Do they have concerns or issues that you can work to alleviate? Do they need more/different mentorship or direction? Do they want to work on new projects? Do they just want to be heard? Their issues, requests or concerns might be small and easy to fix to you, but to them they might be the motivators for a new job or new company. Even tiny tweaks go a long way!
  • Watch, Recognize, Reward: Notice the employees who are putting in the long hours. Acknowledge small success AND big wins. Say thank you. Order in lunch. Give spot bonuses. Offer a spontaneous day-off after a big project.  Give well-deserved promotions and healthy salary increases before they are requested. Keep investing in them, and they will invest in you.
  • Evolve: Money and title aren’t everything. Today, benefits and company culture weigh just as heavily when people decide where they want to spend their many working (and waking) hours. Do you offer flex schedules? Are you all work and no play? Do you respect boundaries during non-working hours? Do you encourage your employees to actually take their allotted vacation time? Do you have open, collaborative, work environments? Does purpose or meaning have a place in the work they are doing? Stay on top of the ever-changing work culture trends, and implement a few when you can.  Your employees will appreciate your efforts, and your best employees will be that much more invested and productive.

Frankly Speaking: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Of course, we can’t always prevent employees from moving on and taking new opportunities. Sometimes we just aren’t equipped to offer them what they need to excel, catapult forward, or to feel fulfilled on their own paths. But, by staying ahead of the game and being more supportive of and in-tune with their needs and interests, we can, at the very least, give it our best shot.

updated from 2015

Dear College Students: The 3 Most Important Lessons I Learned After Graduation

By: Katie Lopes

Congratulations on making it to the day that you have been working toward for the past four years (or more)! This is an emotional time full of big questions about what you should expect as a new graduate – now, finally out in the “real world.” Whether you are already committed to a certain career path, or you are graduating without a clue about how you will transition into the workforce—don’t fret, you are not alone! The journey after college certainly has many unknowns, but that’s also what makes it so exciting and full of possibility.

Just a couple of years ago, I graduated from college with a great education and a diploma, but unsure about how I would translate my skills and experiences into a career path that was right for me. Now, as I reflect on my journey, I’d like to share a few valuable tips that I hope you will also find helpful as you enter this next chapter of your life.

Prepare to Make Mistakes… Lots of Them

First off, you are going to make mistakes, and that’s ok. Whether it’s forgetting about an important meeting, poorly negotiating your starting salary, or accepting a position that turns out to be a bad fit, the lessons learned from these mistakes will become your most valuable tools during your job search – and your life, in general. It is important to take time to recognize your “victories” (big and small), and push through the tough times by being cognizant of your goals. It’s also more than ok to ask for help along the way, and this does not show weakness. I needed help refocusing and creating a detailed plan of action to set and achieve my goals. By working with a career coach, I was able to break up my career search process into more manageable steps, and eventually, land my current job – one that challenges me and stimulates growth. Some days are definitely going to be more difficult than others, but if you focus on goals that are bigger than your fears and doubts, you can achieve anything. Remember, you’ve already made it this far!

Life is Unpredictable

Understand that life is unpredictable, and embrace it. When I started college, I thought I wanted to go into medicine, then, I shifted my focus to health and wellness, and now, I’m in programmatic digital advertising. I never could have predicted this path as a college Freshman. Everything I’ve done up to this point has taught me something more about my capabilities, my passions, and my future career goals. Working as a cashier right out of college seemed ignominious. However, two months after I started that job, the company relocated me from Texas to support a new market opening in Chicago. Moving to Chicago was a huge adjustment with its own fair share of ups and downs, but, through it all, I have gained new business management skills and learned more about myself. No matter what job you accept after college, take advantage of every opportunity to learn because all of these experiences will be applicable to future jobs and industries along your journey.

Always Be Approachable

It is very easy in today’s world to put on your headphones, tune out the world, and let your cell phone, tablet or laptop dictate your life. Instead, I encourage you to strike up real conversations with the people you encounter each day. You never know who you’re going to meet, what you might have in common, or what they might teach you about life. There have been many instances in my life when the kindness of strangers has turned my entire day around.

Remember that career coach who helped me to clarify my career goals? I didn’t just Google “oh-no-I-just-graduated-and-I-have-no-clue-what-I’m-doing-who-can-help-me-in-Chicago?” I was introduced to her while chatting with one of my regular customers, day after day. Eventually, this customer opened up to me about her unique career path, and how she also experienced some difficulty figuring out which next career steps to take before meeting Career Coach, Lisa Frank. As soon as I started working with Lisa, she helped me to identify a vision for my career. She offered valuable insight into what hiring managers are looking for (based on her experience working as a recruiter for many years), and she offered suggestions about practical next steps to help me reach my goals. Most importantly, she helped me realize my own strengths and learn how to apply them in many ways.

Learning about other people’s journeys has helped me to realize that patience and persistence are both crucial skills in achieving goals. I’ve also recognized that it’s okay if your route is not always the most direct, because there is so much to uncover, learn, and enjoy along the way.

Frankly Speaking: Take this time to get to know yourself. Be confident, take risks, work hard, and have fun. Take responsibility, stay focused, and know when to give yourself a much-deserved break. You are about to embark on a new chapter that will, without a doubt, continuously challenge you and shape you to become the person you want to be.

Katie Lopes is a graduate of the University of Texas – Austin, and is now living, working and loving her life as a young professional in Chicago.

Networking Nerves? How To Make New Career Connections With Ease

What would I do in a room full of strangers? How would I meet anyone? What if nobody talks to me? If they do, what would I say? What if they aren’t interested and they walk away? Then I’ll be standing all by myself. How awkward. I don’t have a lotof free time. Maybe it’s easier to just email people in my network – they already know me and I’m sure they will help. 

Sound familiar? 

Networking. Everyone is telling you to get out there. You know you have to do it, but just the thought of it gives you heart palpitations and sweaty palms. 

According to former Wall Street CEO, Sallie Krawcheck, “Networking is the No. 1 unwritten rule of success in business.” And, if you’re looking to make a career change, the statistics still say that finding a new job is highly dependent on “who you know.”  

If the whole idea of “networking” makes you anxious, you are not alone. But, you are likely missing out on a lot of career and business opportunity.

While there are tons of resources and “how to’s” available to help you become a more effective networker, here are some tips to help you feel more prepared and confident – walking in the door!

Recruit a Wingperson: No need to go at it alone! Bring a friend or colleague, ideally someone who has experience in (and enjoys!) a networking setting, but who won’t overshadow you. A person who knows about your goals, and is there to support and encourage you. While it can be tempting to hang back in the corner to chat with your buddy, remember you are on a mission. You can always grab a drink afterwards!

Strike a Power Pose: Hop into the bathroom before you go in, and stand like a superhero for two minutes. Not kidding –this one is scientifically proven! According to Amy Cuddy, author of Presence, Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, posing like a superhero can actually make us feel more confident, present and less anxious! “If you feel like you shouldn’t be somewhere: Fake it. Do it not until you make it – but until you become it,” she says.

Wear the Nametag: Consider it a conversation piece. It might be corny (and unfashionable), but it’s a natural ice breaker. It’s so much easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger when you’re already on a “first name basis.” Note: You only have to wear one if offered – no need to bring you own from home.

Make A Game Of It: Challenge yourself to meet five new people at every networking outing you attend. Yes, 5! Find out their names, exchange pleasantries, find out what they are doing there, what they do for a living, exchange cards…maybe even plan a future coffee date! And, don’t forget to follow up with your new contacts when you get home!

Ask, Ask,Ask! A wise woman (my mom) once told me that if you’re feeling shy or nervous about being in a new social setting, come prepared with questions. She’s right. People love to talk about themselves! When you’re the one asking the questions, it takes the spotlight off of you, and you get to learn about someone new! Just don’t forget to actually listen, too!

Frankly Speaking: Taking time to meet new people and cultivate real relationships -live and in real time – is invaluable to your career. Put your phone down. Stop tweeting, snapping, ‘gramming, and just talk. Of course it might feel unnatural or awkward, but don’t get in your own way. Nothing extraordinary ever came from inside a comfort zone.

‘Tis the Season: How To Maximize Your Job Search During the Holidays

“Jingle Bell Rock” is playing on every station. Your neighborhood is decorated with plastic snowmen and dazzling lights. And, talk of vacation, gift giving and celebration is everywhere you turn.

“‘Tis the season to be jolly.” Perhaps. BUT, it might not feel so jolly if you are trying to find a new job.

For job seekers, the end of the year also screams panic: fewer job postings, slower/rescheduled/cancelled interview processes, and depleted hiring budgets. Too many candidates throw in the towel once Thanksgiving hits, assuming that hiring comes to a halt until after the New Year. While it’s traditionally not the best time to land a new job – don’t let that fool you. The holiday season is actually a natural and ideal time to “up” your job searching efforts! 

Here’s how to make it work for you:

Invited? Say Yes!: Holiday time is full of partying and celebrations. Sometimes job seekers shy away from these events, feeling unsure or unsettled about their current situations. I challenge you to do the opposite! Say YES to every invitation. There is no better excuse to get out there and connect, reconnect and meet new people in a positive, informal and fun setting! Before you head out, practice a few ways to organically and positively answer the “What’s new?”, “What do you do?” and “What are you looking for?” questions so you don’t feel defensive or put on the spot. But, as it comes up, don’t be afraid to let people know that you are looking, and what you’re looking for. Not only will some offer to help…you never know who you might meet that could lead you to your next opportunity!

Lend-A-Hand: Especially during the holiday season, there are oodles of ways to give back to your community. But, how does volunteering actually help your job search, you ask? In 2013, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released its “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment” report. It found that “Volunteers have a 27% higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work, than non-volunteers.” What are you waiting for?

Make A Date: In the spirit of reconnecting and catching up, are there people in your network that you’d like to meet for coffee or a drink? Maybe those who haven’t had time in the past? While the holiday season can be super busy, some people actually have a little extra time on their hands – especially if this is a slow time at the office, or if they are trying to use up vacation days before the end of the year. Reach out and see if you can get a date on the calendar for some face-time. You might find that your contacts are more open to meeting and helping during this time of year.

The Big Family Dinner: This is the one you might be dreading the most. But, maybe this is a good time to come in with a new approach. Although your family might be dysfunctional (and you are already planning your early exit strategy), they probably love you and want to help you be successful at the same time. Your 99 year-old grandma might not have the best advice on this topic, but what about that cousin you haven’t seen since last Thanksgiving? A nice chat over good food and a little wine might turn into your best gift of the year!

Frankly Speaking: This time of year is all about being with friends and family, reconnecting with those you haven’t seen in a while, helping one another, reflecting on the months prior, and sharing plans for the New Year. Just because companies seem to be wrapping up– you don’t have to! Stay ahead of the game. There is plenty of opportunity to keep your search alive and going strong into the coming year.

 

Lisa Frank is the CEO of LBF Recruitment Strategies, an executive search & career coaching firm. As a recruiter, connector and coach she offers a relatable and “Frank” approach to all aspects of life. Through her blog, Frankly Speaking, Lisa shares her insights, guidance and outrageous (but true) stories about career and life topics with plenty of humor, humanness and candor. Follow Lisa on LinkedIn or Twitter (@LisaBFrank) or visit www.LBFStrategies.com.