Just Graduated? Answers To Your Toughest Job Search Dilemmas
Original article by Dawn Graham, Forbes
As a new college graduate, you have your whole career ahead of you! And, while your university career center has likely helped you spruce up your resume and social media, some of the toughest career dilemmas may still be weighing on your mind.
How can I compete if I didn’t do an internship or don’t have direct experience?
Every graduate has experience, and it can come in many forms. If you only focus on paid roles or formal corporate gigs, you’re overlooking a lot. Think more broadly about leadership or entrepreneurial roles you’ve had. Did you have a side website development business? Maybe you had a leadership position in your sorority or volunteered as the campus tour guide every year. Perhaps you were a student athlete or musician who traveled the globe? These activities make you knowledgeable, adaptable and relational, which are key skills in any workplace. Your job is to communicate these qualities in a way that shows how you solve problems for the company. For example:
Participating in the competition orchestra as a violinist gave me the opportunity to travel to 12 countries, plus several domestic locations during my four years, which enabled me to experience diverse cultures. These experiences taught me how to adapt my communication style to different audiences and also to be agile. As you can imagine, frequent travel comes with unexpected challenges, so I had to be resourceful. One example was when our group landed in Brazil and our ground transportation hadn’t been coordinated. I was the only person in our group fluent in Portuguese, so I was able to speak with airport officials to get a chartered bus arranged. Situations like this were common, but we were expected to perform impeccably with jet lag, lost luggage and other mishaps while maintaining a B average in our coursework. This has taught me how to prioritize, deal with ambiguous situations and perform under pressure, which I believe will make me an excellent customer service agent at your company.”
While internships certainly help, don’t get discouraged. Be determined and find employers who value what you bring to the workplace. Many entry-level skills can be taught, but a can-do attitude, the willingness to go above and beyond and a desire to excel are rare.
What if I can’t get a job in my major – should I settle?
Research shows the majority of graduates don’t start off with a job directly related to what they studied. Certain majors don’t have many entry-level roles available or require graduate-level education. Other fields are very competitive, and some liberal arts majors don’t lend themselves to a specific role.
A useful stepping stone might be to take a different functional role in the industry you’re pursuing. For example, if you want to work as a public relations rep, start as a receptionist or assistant at a PR agency. You’ll learn the industry while building the network that can help you get on the right ladder.
Another option is to look for contract or temporary work. This is an overlooked path into great careers, especially as you’re starting out. Usually there’s less scrutiny in the hiring process since the role is temporary, however, once you’re in the door, you have the chance to shine! Good talent is hard (and expensive) to uncover, so if you’re able to prove your value, chances are the company will find a permanent place for you once your gig is over.
If unable to get a role in the industry or through a temp job, look for roles that develop the skills your dream employer is likely seeking and the contacts that can help you meet people in the field. If you’re building your resume and network, it’s not settling!
Is a brand name company important?
When you’re just starting out, the answer is “yes” to an extent. Recognizable companies on a resume have been shown to help with future hiring, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail if your early jobs aren’t at household name firms. In fact, with start-ups becoming increasingly popular, many fantastic companies are no longer household names. What’s most important when you embark on your future job searches is that you can communicate the value that you deliver to a company or clients through the work you do every day in a way that makes sense to the audience. That’s a mouthful, so allow me to explain with an example.
Let’s say you work in a small company that creates wearable technology that helps individuals with diabetes manage their symptoms, and your role is to collect and analyze customer survey data. What’s most important is that the work you do permits the company to be profitable and grow their customer base. Those are likely going to be important outcomes to your next employer as well, even if it’s in a different industry. So instead of introducing yourself as a data analyst at HealthWerx, you might say:
I work for a growing start-up that uses nano-technology solutions to make it easier for individuals living with diabetes to manage their symptoms. My role is to gather and analyze customer input from our over 420,000 customers and to partner with product management to enhance the design and usability of the devices. During my last two years at HealthWerx, our customer base tripled due to our ability to uncover new markets with the data I’ve cultivated.”
Brand name companies may be initially eye-catching, but your professional brand will be what lands the job!
Should I go for the best job or the highest pay?
This will depend on your long-term goals and current financial situation. While many new grads are tempted by higher salaries, sometimes making the sacrifice in pay now will catapult you on the right path later. Also, base salary and bonus are only part of the total compensation. Commute time/expenses, 401(k) and company paid benefits, tuition reimbursement and training dollars should be factored in to understand how much is actually ending up in your pocket. Intangibles such as promotion opportunities, an engaged boss, a good culture fit, and flexible schedule can all contribute to overall satisfaction.
Another important factor is the people you’ll meet. Having a network of ambassadors is the key to career success, so the ability to build strong connections should be factored into your decision. Often it’s the people we know (not the jobs we’ve had) that help us get the next great opportunity. Cash is important, but connections are gold!