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.