At 9 Lives for Women I talk a lot about the fact that women of all ages often need an extra dose of what I call “Vitamin C” or Confidence. No matter how many A’s you got in college, the first job search process can be a confidence-sapping experience. To ward off any insecurities, here are 15 healthy doses of Vitamin “C”:
- Believe that despite your age and relative inexperience, you’ve got the power to find a job. Your fate is not in the hands of the economy, the media reporting of the job market, the state of your desired industry, your location or any ambiguous “powers that be”. Your job search success will depend primarily on the quality and intensity of your efforts.
- Don’t obsess about the fact that you’re still unemployed. Instead tell yourself that you actually have a full-time job. That’s because finding a job isn’t something that you do for an hour here and an hour there. It’s something that you start when you get up in the morning, and then (with some breaks, of course) end just before you fall into bed. When you consider it a job to find a job, it takes on a much more professional level of action and results.
- Capitalize on the fact that you’ve got the time to find a job. It’s hard to find a new job when you’re still hard at work at your old job. But when you’re looking for your first job out of college, your calendar is wide open and free. Most recent college graduates also do not have families of their own—so you don’t have the stress of searching for a job while you’re searching for time to make dinner or take toddlers to the park.
- Climb out of “the black hole”. Don’t be one of the zillions of “automaton” job seekers who spend hours trolling job boards and sending their resumes to every email address they can find. A rare few do get jobs via internet job postings, but most land jobs through people, not computers. A job search is not a “numbers game”, it’s a strategic initiative fueled by an increasingly wide network of connections.
- Adopt a new definition of “connections”. In the job search world your connections are not always like the Facebook friends you actually know. Sure, it’s great to get a foot in a company door through someone who is a close family friend—but these personal connections are usually few and far between. In this digital age, casual connections (those you meet through networking or through social media) can be very powerful, too.
- Learn the networking game. If you have already approached all your parents’ friends, your networking is not over. With the help of technology, there are hundreds and hundreds of people willing to help you. Don’t forget about Linkedin—the Facebook for grown-ups. You could spend entire days researching companies and networking contacts on Linkedin. Most people on Linkedin do in fact like to “link in” and help others. They’re especially kind and helpful to young people who need that first foot in the door.
- Get over the idea that networking is awkward and weird. You don’t have to invite anyone out for lunch or coffee. Some of your personal connections might invite you to their offices to show you around. Even a few casual connections might suggest a coffee shop chat. But generally speaking, you can get a ton of information gathering and overall networking done via email—the busy professional’s communication vehicle of choice.
- Consider your high school, college and graduate school alumni associations lifelong clubs. It’s another great door opener–most people like to help those who share the same alma mater. Search Linkedin for fellow alumni, join the site’s alumni groups and count your college career services and alumni offices as very valuable resources for networking connections, too.
- Line up as many telephone or in person “information interviews” as you can. It’s a great way to get the 411 about what it’s really like to work in certain industries and the types of jobs you would be considered for and enjoy. Try to schedule 15-minute conversations with particularly friendly personal or casual connections.
- Promote your internships and summer jobs. Don’t just list them on your resume—really think hard about all the business skills you learned and used. Practice talking about your growing skill set. And since you haven’t yet had the chance to “produce” for any significant length of time at a company, it’s also equally important to show that you listened, observed and gotten insights to the way departments, teams and businesses overall run. You may be able to position some summer jobs almost on par with the more basic entry-level positions.
- Line up at least three great references who can vouch for your work attitude and ethic. Tell your references what you’re hoping to do–and the skills you need for the job—and they can tailor recommendations they deliver by phone, in writing or on Linkedin.
- Mind your P’s and Q’s. Everything your parents taught you about manners will come in handy. Your job search becomes a web of interconnected people, and the more you introduce yourself, “shake hands” in person and via the internet and send thank you notes to everyone who helps you along the way, the faster you’ll get a job.
- Use the sales skills you’ve honed since your toddler years. Just as you found 50 ways to convince your parents that you should be allowed to do this or that, you can capitalize on the same tenacity and sales skills to deliver a persuasive, convincing case that you have the current skills and future potential for the job.
- Look the part. The tasteful (not off the charts “trendy”) appearance mantras you’ve heard from your parents will keep your interviews moving in the right direction. Even in offices that do not require formal business attire, employers gravitate toward candidates who look polished and professional.
- Know that the worst work is behind you. You’ve already survived at least four years of the hardest work of your life. Even though professional work can be very demanding and extend far beyond 40 hours a week, most people will tell you that there is nothing worse than three exams and two papers that converge on the same day. —KAS
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