"It's just a first job, so who cares if it's not that great, right? Well unfortunately, wrong. A new study finds that bachelors degree recipients whose first job does not require a degree harm their career for years to come. In fact, they are likely to remain "underemployed" even 5 years later, and their earnings remain lower. So, it's important to get the best first job you can. While gaining knowledge in the classroom is important to succeeding in a career, job search skills are important to launching your career. You have to land the job before you can succeed at it! As with many things, "Three Ps" are key: Purpose, Preparation and Persistence.
Purpose: Don't just apply for or take a job because it's open. It needs to have a purpose on your career path. You're basically building a house-- throwing a random boulder in the foundation will not help it stand-up well. Developing a resume throughout college with relevant internship and job experience will help, not only for the knowledge you gain but also for the contacts. Ultimately the contacts you make, and the impression you make on them, will be the key factor in gaining both your first and future jobs. Along with the resume, while you're in college develop a LinkedIn profile, join relevant groups and attend trade shows and professional association meetings if possible.
Preparation: Develop a strong, results-oriented resume and cover letter, your "elevator pitch" and possible interview answers to highlight your unique abilities. Tweak them as necessary to align with your target companies and job postings and seek help editing and practicing until you feel comfortable. Also realize that even within a department, different types of jobs have different unspoken dress codes. Do your research and dress accordingly.
Persistence: Nothing of value comes easily, including a desirable job. Even with a tight job market desirable jobs will always be in short supply. Keep at it, set weekly goals, and realize that you are learning what works-- and doesn't-- with each step.
You have a lot of competition, so it's imperative to stand-out from the crowd. You need to go beyond the standard advice of college career offices, and customize both your search and your tools (resume, interview answers, etc.) to highlight your unique skills. Spending a few hours with a professional career advisor and receiving personalized help is a good investment in your future.
Three Tips for the Most Common Interview Question!
"Tell me about yourself." This dreaded question opens many interviews or networking meetings. Where do you start? Three tips will help you nail your response.
While it's obvious not to start with your place of birth and summarize your life to present, what do you say? Because you know this question is coming, it makes sense to be well prepared.
1) Be Focused. Frame your response in terms of the job and company for which you are interviewing. If it's a sales job, talk about how you loved selling Girl Scout cookies, Boy Scout popcorn or candy canes for a school charity. (If you didn't love any of these, you might want to rethink your interest in a Sales job.) Read the job requirements and think about how they fit with your skill set. For example, many jobs require administrative prowess, so in this case you could give examples that highlight your organizational abilities.
2) Let your personality come through. Your answers should be informative, but ultimately a company is hiring a person. Let your humor, love of travel, sports or another aspect of your personality show.
3) Try to mention an interest or passion that communicates a positive trait that your resume can't, such kindness, empathy or teamwork. Do you walk dogs for a local rescue? Stay after meetings to help clean-up? Be direct but low-key. For example: "Headlines get the buzz, but one thing that is really important to me is pitching-in on even the small things. I want to make sure people feel supported and the job is done well."
And of course, practice!
Your resume has made it through the screening process! Congratulations! Now it's on to interviews. Interviews are exciting but also somewhat unnerving. This week's post includes 5 tips to guide you towards interview success. Be sure to come back next week for additional tips!
1) Do your homework.
One of the biggest complaints of hiring managers is that many candidates know very little about the company they are interviewing with. Make sure any question you ask could not be answered by perusing publically available information such as the company's website. Look at the company's social media feeds as well.
2) Understand industry and general trends and think about how they will impact the company.
Create answers or suggestions for them that show you can think big picture, not just about the job for which you're applying. People don't stay in the same job forever, and showing your broader understanding demonstrates that you would be an employee who could advance and accept more responsibility.
3) Identify your unique "personal brand".
Consider what is unique or special about you, and how that adds value. Decide on 2-3 key points that you would like for the interviewer to remember and include them in your answers when relevant.
4) Prepare a list of likely questions and what your answers would be.
Be sure to understand the company's challenges (aka "pain points") so you craft answers that include the company's needs and how you would address them. Carefully read the job description to understand the skills the company seeks, then make a mental list with examples of how you have demonstrated them in the past. Don't just recite facts about previous projects or positions. Describe your thinking, what you uniquely added to the process, what you learned, and what you would do differently if applicable. Demonstrating a "growth mindset" will help you stand-out from other candidates.
5) Be positive, even when past situations were less than ideal.
Even bad experiences are learning opportunities.
Finally, remember to practice! Preparation shows, plus you will feel more comfortable.
Check back next week for more tips for interview success, and contact us for personalized resume, interview or help defining your "personal brand". Good luck!
What makes your company different? Unique? What qualities do people think of when they hear the name? In other words, what is your brand? And moreover, why does it matter?
At its core, your brand is your most valuable customer connection. It's a promise—a promise to deliver not only products and services, but also emotional benefits to your customers. Like people, brands have distinct personalities that either resonate, or don’t, with customers and employees. After all, why do consumers choose iPhone over Android or Google over Yahoo? Beyond the functional benefits, it is a matter of how people feel about the brand and what it represents. Brands are powerful. In a sea of alternatives, your brand and the things it stands for inhabit a unique spot in the mind of the consumer, creating an emotional connection that can last for a very long time. Thus, branding (creating a unique brand identity) is the best way to set yourself apart and grow your business.
So now what?
Do some research. The most successful brands thoroughly understand their customers' and targets' needs, interests and aspirations. Knowing what they value, beyond just what products or services they want, can guide decisions on branding, as well as messaging and marketing. With the prevalence of social media and online surveys, there is no shortage of ways to learn more about your current and potential customers and what matters to them.
Be unique. Branding requires standing for something distinct. It doesn't have to be revolutionary, but it does need to set you apart from the crowd. How is your business different? Are you a business that supports charities? Is environmental sustainability core to your DNA? Maybe your clients want to help their teens with skincare solutions and you're the perfect "mother-daughter" spa. Each approach has the ability to help you stand-out in the crowded marketplace and guide the kinds of services, products and promotional programs you offer. Most importantly, be authentic.
Have a brand strategy. Once you have established your brand identity, own it. Reinforce your uniqueness at every opportunity from your logo and color scheme to the content you post on social media and the names you choose for your services. Most importantly, be consistent. People develop expectations of brands just as they do with their friends, and undependability is not particularly welcome.
Once you have researched, decided upon a brand identity that sets you apart and built a strategy around it, keep going. There is always more to learn about your customers and ways to fine tune your brand to keep it relevant and part of their lives. A well-developed, consistent brand is a great way to build long term customer relationships and long term growth.
"I have always loved helping things grow. From gardening to new products, it has always been my passion. After successfully building many Fortune 100 brands and businesses, I am excited to blend my marketing experience and dedication to education, and help college and high school students and recent college grads create strong job, internship and college/graduate school applications that help them "Stand out from the Crowd".