The most read post at the Tim Sackett Project is: How To Get An Entry Level Job. Check it out, if you haven’t already. It’s my advice to a new college grad about how to get that first job. That grad is Christina Hart, and I wanted to do a follow up to the original post to see if my advice worked, or if it’s just B.S. like the rest of the stuff I write! Here are the questions I asked Christina and her responses, unedited:
(Tim) What worked in your job search in finding your first entry level job after graduating?
(Christina) “When we spoke a little over a year ago, I was just in the process of picking up and moving to New York City. Before that point, I had been applying for full-time jobs while working a few part-time jobs in my hometown in Michigan. I knew that NYC was my desired location, so I made a commitment to move and give it a try. It was a struggle to get interviews before that point, because many companies were looking for individuals who were already in the NY area, and could come in at little more than a moment’s notice. For me specifically, moving to NYC made all of the difference. Within 24 hours of being in the city I had a job, and it’s highly unlikely that I would be where I am without having taken that step first. My first job in the city was temping as an administrative assistant, which lasted about 2 months, and from there I was offered a great full-time position at that same company.
The temping agency route is something I never really considered, a somewhat atypical path for most graduates to think about. That being said, it got me in the door and from there it gave me an opportunity to prove my worth. I networked within the company, which led to a career sponsor, and my current role.
At the end of the day, the thing that worked for me was taking that giant risk and moving across the country to the city I wanted to be in – even without having a job first. I think for graduates who have that same mindset with being in a certain geographical region, the best thing really is to just go, and once you’re there, network like crazy.”
(Tim) What didn’t work?
(Christina) “I tried a lot of different things when I was looking for my first entry-level role. Some of which, seems silly looking back. I remember seeing a lot of students who were doing social marketing campaigns for themselves on twitter or starting websites dedicated to hire so and so dot com. I had one of those websites. I was on just about every website at the time to create my personal brand. I had an about.me, a website, twitter, facebook, blog, and personal QR code – and most of it was redundant. While it’s still incredibly important to be cognizant of your online presence, quantity does not equal quality. I was hyperaware of every social platform and making sure that I was on each and every one. I don’t think that’s necessary, nor helpful in your search. I think you need to be very aware of what you want your social brand to reflect, but at the end of the day the company is not going to care whether you have 3 or 10 sites dedicated to such. Most of them are gimmicky anyways, and that’s often not what’s going to get you ahead. My advice to myself looking back, focus on understanding a few platforms really well and showcase that, instead of spreading yourself over every trend at the moment (like those hireme websites).
Continuing on the topic of social, I did a ton of online networking while looking for my first job. I participated in a ton of twitter chats, reached out to lots of people on LinkedIn, and applied online to every job imaginable. Looking back, I’d tell myself to get off the computer and get to every in-person networking event I could. I relied on social too much. I think it’s pretty typical of students now to rely on those indirect forms of communication (that’s how we communicate, right?) – but business and relationships still need to be nurtured in person. Go to networking events just to talk; talk to anyone you can. Don’t always greet that person with your pitch, instead try to form an authentic connection and from there people are more willing to help.”
(Tim) What advice would you now give someone graduating and looking for their first job?
(Christina) “Intern. Take a volunteer or part-time internship in the area or field you want to work in. You’re going to need it.
Customize your resume for each job/company. It should be tailored based on the job description and should include key words relevant to that industry. If you don’t know what those key words are, do a quick Google search and chances are you’ll learn pretty quickly. If the position says it’s looking for someone who knows Radian6 or CSS or WordPress – make sure those words are on your resume.
Speaking of platforms and programs, if the job or industry you want to be in requires knowledge or expertise in those areas – learn them. Take a class. Teach yourself. Make yourself an expert.
Get offline. LinkedIn is still my most successful and important networking tool, but turning those relationships into real life ones was the most important thing I could do. Go to large networking events or meet people for coffee. It doesn’t matter what size, as long as you’re talking. Show your value, so that people will remember you when they hear of a job. Make sure you’re the person they remember.
Nurture those relationships. Check back in every so often. A relationship is two ways; make sure you’re not just taking.
If you want to work in a specific industry or at a specific company reach out to people in those areas and get to know that industry. Use LinkedIn to ask people to share their expertise. Use informational interviews to find out what it takes to succeed, and what skills you need to have. Don’t be afraid to be concise in what you want. Tell them you want to work in X and ask them how to get there.
Everyone has to start somewhere – if you want to work at a company or in a certain industry bad enough, take whatever job will get you in. I know we all want to be running the company from the get go, we want the prestige, but you’re only going to get there if you get in first. Be the low man on the totem pole and use the opportunity to learn from those above you. If you work hard you will go far, no matter where you start. Humbleness, and a strong work ethic, will show through.
Find a career sponsor, and a few mentors. Know the difference between the two.”
(Tim) What was the hardest part of your job search?
(Christina) “Realizing the skills gap exists, and also that I didn’t want any of the jobs that were typically associated with my degree. I was applying for jobs and industries with which I had no expertise. I expected people to see what a great candidate and person I was, without the credentials to back it. We all assume a liberal arts education from a good school will get us a job, in reality; technical training and internships are imperative.
I’m introverted in nature, so learning to utilize my strengths to my advantage was a struggle. Working a room a large networking event was difficult. Learning to define what makes me the best candidate and how to describe my qualities took time.”
4 Big WOW items I got from Christina’s Experience —
1. Commit! If you want a certain job, certain industry, certain location, certain company – y0u have to commit 100% and go after it.
2. Get in anyway possible. Christina took a temp job into the industry and location she wanted. People shit all over the idea of temp work, but the reality is, most companies frequently hire on temporary workers who are awesome into full-time roles. It’s hard to find great talent, when a ‘temp’ proves themselves as ‘great’ talent, rarely do they get let go!
3. Get Experience. I have so many HR friends who hate that I say this, but you need to do an unpaid internship if you can’t get a paid one! For the betterment of your job prospects you have to get some experience. Many times that experience will come in the form of an unpaid, volunteer professional type of a position. It is the reality of many companies today that they can’t afford to have paid interns, but would love to have interns. Go offer yourself up for free.
4. Have Lunch! You have to network with ‘real’ people, live, face-to-face. Social has a part in this — initial networking, follow up, etc. But nothing replaces the good old sit down and talk one on one type of networking. It takes time, but it’s the best way to spend your time. People can ignore you on social media, they have a very hard time ignoring you when you’re sitting across from them!
This is great advice. I often find that college grads dismiss networking as unnecessary or maybe just too hard! Just getting to know people in the industry you want to be in, whether they have a job for you or not, is the most important thing you can do – it teaches you how to compose yourself, what the “right” answers may be, what people in that industry are looking for, and, if you’re lucky, who else to contact to get closer to your goal. If nothing else, it’s just great practice!