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It’s graduation season. After the parties, it’s time to get serious about your career plan. Here are some quick tips to get you started.
- First, get specific about your goals. Take a moment to think of what your goals are – and not just in terms of salary. You’ll be ahead of most young job seekers if you can state clearly what kind of job title you’re seeking and what kind of company you want to be a part of. Please don’t fall back on saying, “I can do just about anything.” It’s not true – education doesn’t equal experience – and it makes you sound naïve about the job market. Instead, if you’re a generalist or unsure of where you’ll fit in, focus on your personal qualities and specific skills. “I am very organized, and know how to stay focused on tasks. My research papers in college always received excellent marks for their thorough fact finding and well-organized structure.”
- Think – and speak – of yourself in terms of results. People buy solutions, especially when hiring for a critical position. Be sure you’ve structured your career (even if it’s part time jobs) to achieve results you can quantify. When writing your resume, include lots of information on what you accomplished while working. Did you streamline processes? Make the most sales? Head up a team or get put in charge of a project? Practice talking about your accomplishments to get ready for interviews. Follow this sure-fire formula for great interviews: State the or situation or task you faced at work; discuss the action you took to solve the problem (be specific); and talk about the results you achieved. Practice a few of these success stories until you’re comfortable telling them succinctly. You’ll need them for questions that begin “Tell me about a time at work you…”
- Follow up thoroughly. In a competitive job market, your follow up skills can make a big difference. Part strategy and part common courtesy, good follow up can separate you from the crowd and position you for a job offer. First, follow up after applying. I know many job seekers whose resumes probably missed the cut, but who got interviews based on their follow up phone skills. Here’s a tip: call hiring managers early in the morning (7:00 – 8:00) or after 5:30 – you’ll be more likely to find them in their office and willing to pick up the phone. It may prompt the manager to seek out your resume in the stack and take a second look – doubling your chances at getting an interview.
Then, follow up after the interview. Position yourself as a class act by sending a personal note. Mention something you learned about the company or took away from the discussion, so the message seems fresh. Handwritten notes are rare enough that you’ll stand out from the crowd, especially if it’s well-written and has something interesting to say.
New graduates hit the job market each spring like baby sea turtles heading for the ocean. It can be hard to stand out. Planning for you (unlike baby sea turtles) can give you an advantage over your fellow grads.