So I was recently approached about putting something together for people looking for a job. Ironically, I was asked by someone far outside my area of expertise, I was moderately surprised. And with my educational background as psychology major at Texas A&M (WHOOP!!!) , I initially thought I wasn't sure what I could bring to the table. Then the blacked out period from October, 2009 to this past March when I was recruiting for the Arrogant Ags came back from the dead. So while I am not an expert at getting my dream job, I sure as heck can tell you how to make good contact with people at a company, how to keep from getting your resume from being immediately discarded, how to perform in an interview, how to follow up post-interview, and how to handle recruiters. *Spaniard is literally dragging me by my feet to Sawyer Park right now; to be continued* Ok, I'm back 2 hours later...and 4 drinks deep...I'm here for you guys.
Initially finding a job you are interested in is not too difficult in concept. Most people have an idea what they are looking for, like I thought I did. I thought I wanted a job where I had a consistent place office to go to, could sit at a desk, and make $100k a year. Unfortunately those jobs are quite few and far between, and you sure as heck better have a very technical background. Not even that guarantees it, just ask the Sierra Nevadas. If you don't believe me, read my first blog (3 Drinks Deep Explanation) and about the 3 great influences in my professional life. Because of the actual difficulty in finding a job we actually want, I am going to skip this aspect. You, and only you, know what will truly keep you in a job.
1. Making Contact- So once you find a job you are interested in, there is no better resource than LinkedIn. Consider it a professional Facebook without Fan pages, Celebrity pages, and stupid bar foam parties no one actually plans on going to...except Nugget. LinkedIn provides a great way to get in contact with people at any company, and in an city. Even if you don't have "Connections," you can still send messages without paying to upgrade your account. The key is joining groups. For example, I have in about 10 Texas A&M groups (WHOOP!!!). When I went through my part time employment spell, I would send a LinkedIn message to anyone I could in a company. YOU NEVER KNOW WHO WILL BE ABLE TO DIRECT YOU TO THE RIGHT PERSON!!!! This is an example of the types of messages I would send:
I came across your information on LinkedIn, and noticed your experience at XXXXX. I graduated this past May from Texas A&M, and looking for a new job. I recently applied for an entry level position at XXXXX, and I’m hoping you may know someone for me to get in contact with regarding my application. I am sure you are quite busy, but I’m just looking for a little direction. Thank you very much for your time.
YOU MUST REMEMBER TO COMPLETELY CUSTOMIZE THIS TO THE COMPANY, POSITION, AND INDIVIDUAL YOU ARE TRYING TO GET IN TOUCH WITH. Also, it is very important to remember this....YOU MUST SEND THIS TO EVERYONE!!! You never know who has met who, dated who, is friends with, has slept with, or who knew who in college. Not everyone is on LinkedIn, but everyone knows someone who is. Follow up with all of these people is key. They will often ask questions such as "what is your background," "what is your GPA," "what is the position you are seeking," etc. etc. Be honest with them, BUT...NEVER SAY A NEGATIVE WORD ABOUT YOURSELF, turn everything that may appear a negative into a positive. The key is making that person believe you deserve to have your resume looked at...which leads to our next section.
2. Not blowing it with your resume- Resume writing is infinitely more difficult than it sounds. Grammar, punctuation, spacing, margins, dates, format, and EVERYTHING must be perfect, not to mention tailored to the job. Dates must be accurate and in chronological order, punctuation must be consistent, VERB TENSE IS HUGE. If it is your current job, use present tense, if it's a past job, make it past tense. You should see where I am going with all of this. If I am going for a sales job, then people don't need to hear about my ability merchandising. It is fluff, and does nothing but irritate recruiters (public and private). I cannot tell you how many resumes I threw out while recruiting, just because of a formatting error. When those people see an error that is an easy fix, they assume you can't do the simple tasks. YOU MUST APPEAR ABOVE REPROACH THROUGH YOUR INTERVIEW. If you are interested in having a copy of my resumes, or having me take a look at yours, I am more than happy to. But keep in mind, it will be a few days. I have two jobs, a good social life, and blog to keep up with...I can't believe I threw blog in there...
3. Performing in an interview- Most of this stuff is simple, but not easy. First and foremost, SHOW UP EARLY, around 10 minutes early. If that means you are 20 minutes early, but sit outside, then sit outside. If you show up late, you better be cover in grease, mud, AIDS, or a tire. Too early wreaks of desperation. Second, dress to the max every time. For guys, SUIT AND TIE, I don't care what the job is. Show you will not embarrass the company and you have a basic sense of what is going on in the world. I have no idea what the female equivalent is, if I could get a female's comment on what that is, it would be appreciated. Make sure you are standing when you shake everyone hand...did I mention SHAKE EVERYONE'S HAND yet? Just making sure. Give your first and last name to everyone in the room, most times it will just be one, but if it's a panel do it for everyone. The key to any interview is the questions. This is the single most important point of this entire post: ANSWER EVERY QUESTION DIRECTLY AND SPECIFICALLY, IF THAT MEANS YOU SHOULD GIVE AN EXAMPLE, THEN GIVE AN EXAMPLE. You will never be punished for talking to much in an interview. Do not say you can not do something. If you don't have that specific skillset in your background, give an example of something similar and then mention you are a quick learner. When leaving, repeat the introduction, and shake everyone's hand. I lost a potentially great job with an energy company (arguable the safest industry in the world) because I didn't address specific questions directly and with examples.
4. Post interview- I highly recommend sending a "Thank you note" to the person/persons who interviewed you. I will try to get one and post it below, but it is a pretty simple concept. You will likely get a business card, so send them an email saying 1. Thank you for their time 2. List how you believe you can improve their production 3. Look forward to hearing from them. Again, the key is nothing negative.
5. Handling Recruiters- Recruiting is ultimately a sales position. They get paid when they fill positions...THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU!!! A typical question you would ask is, "What is the position?" They will skate around the question with very generic answers. Make them tell you the exact position. Also, be very clear, you want to know WHO THE CLIENT IS. Do not go to an interview without knowing exactly who it. When I was recruiting, I was expected to recruit for a company called Eagle Rock. For those who are outside of the Energy Industry, Eagle Rock is a sweat-shop with poor benefits and terrible reputation. The typical recruiting response is "It is an upstream, oil and gas company." In Houston, that sounds like a great company, until you realize it is Eagle Rock. FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE GOING TO BE SUBMITTED TO. It is also important to know because if you are submitted to the same job by two different companies, you will immediately be disqualified. Your skillset doesn't matter. Recruiters have their place, but make them be honest and upfront with you.
Just a few quick side notes on companies and/or industries I would not recommend.
A. Recruiting- I'm just not a fan
B. Small companies- Right out of school, work for someone with an established training program with a proven track record. Basing it on someone else's format for success is not the same.
C. I personally do not think a true marketing career is a great path for success. How many people can you name who are truly in marketing and having a successful career? I can name 1.
D. If you have a technical skill/background/desire, GO FOR IT!!! Even if it doesn't have the highest ceiling, odds are it will be very stable (accounting, finance, programming, software developers, engineers, etc.)
Like always, I appreciate your read and your time. I know your time if valuable and I thank you. Please send me your thoughts/questions/comment/concerns. Your input is valuable. Next blog will hopefully be Friday...and Prince 2 gave me a good one.