New Grad & No Job Offer? Make Your Summer Count

So you haven’t landed your dream job yet. Last time we established that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you can’t justify your break forever. What can you do to improve your chances of getting the one you have your eye on when you embark on that career search again?

First, let’s review the obstacles you encountered.challenges

You only applied for one job. But, hey, it was the one and the first two interviews went really well. How were you to know they’d offer the job to someone else? Bad move. Take advantage of all the money you invested in college and visit Career Services. They have relationships with tons of employers and can give you some referrals.

This time, make sure you cast a wide net. Where do your interests lie? Is it only nursing, or do you also enjoy physical fitness, social work or other fields where you’d be able to help people? Or you might be interested in some totally unrelated fields—aviation and IT and law. Personally, I am not only interested in recruiting, but finances, writing and philanthropy. Since few jobs would incorporate all of these areas, you will have to satisfy some of your interests outside of the workplace. Just make sure you tailor your resume accordingly when applying for jobs. Don’t send your aviation-related resume in for a programming career at Microsoft.

Do some research to find out if you’ll need more education or a certification for your desired career. If so, consider it—the cost, the time and what sacrifices you might have to make. Perhaps, with those qualifications under your belt, even more avenues will be open to you.

You bombed the interview. It happens. Use it as a learning experience. You will live to interview again—believe me. I walked into an interview for a sales position my senior year in college. Back then I was extremely shy. (Shocking, I know.) Much to my horror I found myself facing five—yes, five—interviewers.

It did not go well. I filed it under the category of Things I Don’t Speak Of. If interviews make you break out in hives, this is another area where Career Services, local organizations like the Urban League or other job centers can help. Take advantage of a mock interview (or two) or a resume critique and get some feedback on where you can improve. You’ll walk into your interviews much more polished than you were in March.

Lack of experience 

If this is the case, is there something you can do over the summer—volunteering, working part-time, taking a course—that can help you gain that experience? Let’s say you applied for an accounting position but you never had an internship. Why not try to obtain one over the summer if a company is open to hiring graduates as interns? If that doesn’t work read some entry-level accountant job descriptions. Will the company accept banking as related experience? If so, head over to US Bank or 5/3rd and fill out an application. You’ll not only gain cash handling experience, you’ll gain customer service and sales experience as well. You might even qualify for promotion into their accounting division after a few months of proving yourself.

This is the best way to gain experience—hands on, and it’s what I personally like to see on a resume. But there are also other ways which I’ll cover below by order of preference.

 

Honing Your Skills

Do not take a random summer job if you can avoid it. Choose one that will help you gain new skills. If you were turned down for a communications position and re-apply for the position in the fall with the same resume you’ll more than likely get a similar result. And I’m not sure you can sell your parents on taking another three months to find work.

Previous jobs

As I mentioned, I love to see real life experience on a resume. Because I hire for a sales & management trainee position I am even more drawn to candidates who held leadership roles or who met goals. So if you work in a department store and there are no sales goals established by the company, and you would like to get into sales, set some goals of your own and highlight the results on your resume.

Volunteer/Organizational

Rotary, relay for life, habitat for humanity, missions trips just to name a few. This is also solid experience because it involves real situations. Don’t settle for showing up at organizational meetings and filling in where needed. Is there an opportunity to take the helm for a project? Conceptualize and plan events? I am so impressed by candidates who can organize and motivate teams to accomplish tasks. Why? Because so few recent grads have that experience.

No too long ago I hired two candidates who had been on missions trips. They had to raise money (sales/persuasiveness/resilience), set appointments (communication/self-starter) and organize Bible studies and outreach (time management, leadership). All of this while in school (flexibility/adaptability).

Classroom — This is impressive when you have had the opportunity to present solutions to an actual company who decided to implement them. However, classroom experience is typically hypothetical or simulated. While it gives students an understanding of what happens in a company nothing beats that face-to-face customer encounter you had as a server where you were able to turn him into a repeat diner at your restaurant. No theoretical idea can take the place of the organizational process you implemented at your last job to help keep track of inventory that was later adopted by three other divisions.

Years ago I interviewed a solid guy for our internship program and asked him to tell me about a time when he had a leadership role. He was an Assistant Manager at a car wash but for some reason he started telling me about his classroom project. I interrupted him and said, “If you tell me about your capstone… You were an Assistant Manager! Tell me about that.” We both laughed, but he got it. He went on to describe some of his responsibilities, the number of people he managed and even how he was able to impact the bottom line. I brought him on board and after he graduated we hired him full-time.

Check out this link for even more ways to gain experience:

http://education-portal.com/articles/10_Ways_for_New_College_Graduates_to_Gain_Job_Experience.html

Transferable Skills

Let’s face it, there is only so much experience you can gain in three months’ time, so what’s an alternative? I guarantee many of you already have valuable skills you never even considered—transferable skills.

Some of the most beneficial skills include: leadership-ability to motivate a team, communication—written & verbal, flexibility/adaptability, teamwork, time management, self-starter, problem-solving, organization, creativity, resilience, results driven

Recent grads often discount their “college jobs”, but don’t sell yourself short. Server, Sales Associate, Laborer (warehouse, landscaping), construction and athlete are all job experiences that will add to your skill set. Think about the skills you’ve gained and ways you can highlight them on your resume and, once you land the interview, what specific examples you can share that prove you have that competency.

Job   Title Experience   &Transferable Skills
Server Multi-tasking/adaptability, customer service, sales,   leadership–ability to oversee a process
Athlete Leadership, work ethic, tenacity, resilience, teamwork,   dedication, goal-setting, problem resolution, results driven, time management   (school, practice, games/meets & sometimes a job)
Landscaping/Construction

(bonus points for crew leader)

Self-starter, ability to meet deadlines, teamwork;   entrepreneurship if you started your own mowing business, leadership
Tutor Planning, training, teaching, motivation (with proven   results), communication
Resident Assistant Leadership, customer service, planning, problem resolution,   organization, creativity, sales if you had to persuade other RA’s to accept   your ideas, budgeting
VP of fraternity Event planning, leadership, creativity, able to motivate a   team, sales—ideas or fund-raising activities, budgeting

Job Shadow

One final suggestion for your summer. You think you’d like to work in a non-profit, but you’re not entirely sure. Why not tap into your network this summer for a connection in that field? (Networking is a topic all its own that I will cover in a future post.) Perhaps you can shadow someone a few days a week or even volunteer. This will give you insight an interview might not offer and you could discover you’re not as interested as you thought or it’s the perfect fit for you.

Remember, just because you haven’t landed your first job is not a license to take it easy this summer. Take advantage of some of these tips and, after you get a few months’ experience under your belt, get back out there! Everyone had to start somewhere. Make that first step pay off in the long run.

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New Grads: Making Good Financial Choices

Hopefully you took some time to track your spending over the past week or two. Any surprises about where all your money went? Did anyone get angry enough to do something about that albatross around your neck? I hope so.

I get it. You just graduated college. How were you supposed to do that without racking up some bills? Well, it is possible but what’s done is done. Don’t despair, though, you can make some better choices from now on.

Budget

First things first.  Again, employers might run credit checks to see how you take care of your own finances and for an indication of how you’ll take care of theirs. If you’re a manager of a store for instance, like I was, you are more than likely in charge of a million dollars or more in inventory. A company doesn’t want to take a risk on a manager who doesn’t keep track of costs and spending and doesn’t make wise financial decisions.

If you find yourself in an interview where the hiring manager tells you they’ll be running a credit check and you know your report will be less than stellar don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best, be up front about it. Companies will take good explanations into consideration.

For instance: “I was out of work for several months and got behind. You’ll see that my mortgage/rent was paid but my credit cards fell behind. I felt it was more important to keep a roof over our heads than pay my credit cards.”  If this is true your credit should reflect that. There shouldn’t be any frivolous bills (recent collections from NetFlix or the cable company for instance) or companies listed who have run checks so you can get more credit cards or you’ll lose credibility. Instantly.

Divorce can affect your finances. So can unexpected things like lawsuits or medical bills that might be in dispute by your insurance company. By sharing this information, even though it might be uncomfortable, your honesty and integrity will give the recruiter a chance to fight for you and perhaps justify making you an offer.

Making Better Choices

Here are some ways to keep your credit sound, or, if you’ve already fallen behind, help it improve over time.

budget2

Make a budget. (Check out www.mint.com to help you with this.) And keep in mind you aren’t going to sit down and whip it out one time. It will take a few months before you get it down pat and you still might find yourself making occasional adjustments. This is a challenging process, so build a little bit of fun money into it. If you’re serious about kicking those bills to the curb that will mean going out 1-2 days a week—maybe even every other week (gasp!)—instead of 5.

Set aside an emergency fund. Start with $500, just $50 a paycheck if possible. When you reach that goal go for $1000. That way when life happens—a flat tire, a hike in rent, a new transmission—you won’t go into a tailspin.

Move if you have to (& keep driving the ugly car). Or get a roommate to spread the cost. Your rent shouldn’t eat up the majority of your take home pay. If I hadn’t made the choice to move out of my fancy apartment to free up $150 each month and to keep driving my, shall we say vintage, automobile longer than I would have liked to in order to forgo a car payment it would have taken me much longer to climb out of debt.

A professional look doesn’t have to be expensive. Your new job has a professional or business casual dress code, but all you have are jeans. If you’re graduating this month and someone asks what you want for graduation, by all means ask for a suit! Beyond that, be creative to extend your wardrobe. Ladies, instead of buying a ridiculous amount of new clothing when you’re just starting out, select a couple pairs of slacks and a couple skirts, 5 blouses in different colors, maybe a print one to wear every 3 weeks or so, some inexpensive jewelry and mix and match like a bandit. Guys, get a couple pairs of pants, and a few inexpensive shirts and ties. Don’t rule out consignment shops. You might find brand new clothing with the original tags still attached or some things that have barely been worn.

Don’t skip bill payments. You might even consider calling your credit card companies to work out a payment plan. Do not give them access to your checking account. Get the agreement in writing and make the scheduled payments on your own.

Use your debit card instead of a credit card. Real time spending will keep you from getting a shock at the end of the month when the credit card bill shows up. And you’ll think twice about making that purchase. Do you really want to buy the pizza from Pizza Hut or can you buy the frozen one from the grocery store and save $8? Just remember to subtract what you spend on your checkbook register, excel spreadsheet or whatever method you choose.

Don’t put off thinking about retirement. If your benefits at your new job include a retirement plan-401k, 403b, profit sharing, stock options—take advantage of the opportunity to save early. The sooner you begin to put money away the better. Waiting even as little as 5 years to start investing can make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, by the time you retire. At the very least put enough in your 401k to take advantage of any company match that is offered.

There is much more to learn about finances, but these basic tips can help get you started. Fifteen years ago I had no idea how to climb out of debt. I only knew I did not want to spend the rest of my life owing money! If you have the same desire and determination I had learn as much as you can. Search the internet. Read books like The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber. Financial freedom doesn’t have to be an impossible dream. Implement these tips today and you’ll get there much sooner than you’d imagine.

No Job Offer? It Might Be You-Part 4

Long-term goals

I admit, as someone who changed majors three times in college (undecided, chemical engineering—I am as surprised as you are—and marketing), this is a tough one. Very few people know exactly what they’d like to do career-wise, but you should at least be able to tell the recruiter what responsibilities you’ve enjoyed on past jobs. For instance:

“I’m a very competitive person and I love meeting sales goals. I also like to teach others what I’ve learned and help them advance in their careers. I’m the type of person who needs to be busy throughout the day and I love solving problems. It’s great to turn unhappy customers around.”

When asked about the responsibilities you would like to have when you come to work every day, “Anything you need me to do” is not a good answer.

Why not? Once again, it doesn’t give the recruiter any detail to help determine if the job she has to offer would be a good fit.  It also sends the message that you would take any job that came your way and you’re just marking time until something better comes along. If that’s the case, you’ll cost that company a lot in training, benefits and time.

Tick Tock

Long-winded candidates can talk themselves right out of the job. If you’ve hit all the points of the S.TAR method (see It Might Be You-Part 2) go ahead and wrap up your answer. The key is to be engaging without rambling or sharing questionable information. Don’t get me wrong, as a writer, I love a great story. Just make sure you share it only if it naturally fits into the conversation and only if it’s appropriate. If in doubt, leave it out.

Q & A

Make a list of questions to ask the recruiter. You don’t know everything about the job even if you think you do. Ask about dress code, benefits, timeframe to advance, opportunities to advance, mandatory relocation or anything else that might be of interest. Having no questions makes us feel you aren’t really interested.

Ask for the job

This does not mean, “Please give me this job!”.  Reiterate the reasons you feel you’re the best fit or ask about the next steps. If you’re brave enough, ask the recruiter if there is anything that would prevent her from recommending you for the next interview. But also be prepared to hear the answer.

Final Thoughts

Professionalism

Do not: bash previous employers, chew gum—or mints, use foul language (including cursing or distasteful words/phrases like crap, screwing over, etc.) or answer your cell phone—which should be on silent or vibrate, by the way—during the interview. Trust me, it has happened.

Lasting Impressions

It’s always a good idea to send a polite thank you by email or snail mail if you receive a rejection letter. Who knows, another job could open up that would be a perfect fit and you want the recruiter to remember you. Just last week I called a candidate who had made a great impression on me when she applied for another position that we ended up filling internally. I thought she would make a great fit for a new opportunity. Turns out I was right and she starts this week.

Now that you have your game plan, let’s go for that career!

No Job Offer? It Might Be You – Part 3

During the Interview

The Arrival

At the risk of stating the obvious, this meeting is for you and the interviewer, so please don’t take your friend, spouse or your parent(s) along. Yes, I speak from experience. Nothing kills an interview faster than a candidate showing up with an entourage. If you get a ride for whatever reason, simply have the person wait in the car or somewhere nearby so they can show up quickly when you call after the interview.

From the time you walk through the door treat everyone with respect. Even the receptionist. She might not seem important to you, but she could be the hiring manager’s right hand woman. If you choose to snub her that information could get back to the people you deem to be important.

When the recruiter comes out to greet you give him a firm handshake and look him in the eye. Chat about some neutral topics to break the ice: the weather, last night’s game, the traffic on the way to the interview. Do not mention any personal information that can be considered discriminatory (i.e. age, politics, religion). These topics can make people uncomfortable in any setting, let alone an interview. The exception, of course, is if you have worked in the political arena or a religious organization and are drawing your answers from that experience.

The Questions

One of the questions will most likely sound something like this:

            “What made you apply for Marketing Frenzy?”

The recruiter isn’t asking why you applied for the position—don’t get confused (although that question will most likely come up as well). He wants to know what you’ve learned about the company. It’s important to convey that you didn’t just apply to a random companies, but that you actually took time to be selective and his organization is on your short list.

Take the time to visit the company’s website before the interview and think about what will motivate you to work there every day. Job stability? Revenues? Growth? Opportunity for advancement? If you can’t answer that question, you could be setting yourself up for a bad match.

You should also be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. Take note, most recruiters are familiar with the following cliché weaknesses:

“I work too hard.”

“I’m a perfectionist.”

“I’m the only one who ever steps up to the plate in a team setting.”

Hmm.. At best, these answers lack originality. Remember, it’s important that you stand out in that sea of interviewees. My advice? Just tell the truth. Pick something that your previous employer actually told you to work on. BUT, make sure it’s an area where you have already taken strides to improve.

For instance:

“When I was first hired at X Company I was required to give an update for my department in our monthly meetings. At first I was very nervous and just didn’t have the confidence to do it well. So I started preparing my report a couple more days in advance then I would rehearse with a co-worker. She would give me tips and I would tweak the report. After that the meetings went much better because I was able to answer questions and show I really knew the material. As a result my manager recommended me to present at our next company retreat.”

Ahhh! Much better. And genuine. A quality every employer wants in an employee. Not only did you demonstrate that you’re willing and able to improve, you showed that your manager also recognized that in you and rewarded it.

More to come. Stop back next week for my final post on this topic. In the meantime, have great interviews this week!

No Job Offer? It Might Be You-Part 1

There is no such thing as a perfect candidate or perfect hire because people are…well, imperfect. But there are certain things that are red flags for us recruiters. If you keep them in mind you just might clear that first hurdle and land a spot in the interviewer’s chair.

First things first. We all know you only get one chance to make a first impression. There are some things you just can’t recover from in the interview process, so make that first impression a good one.

Your Resume

Your resume has a tough task. It has to grab attention quickly and be set up in such a way that the recruiter will keep reading. This might mean having multiple resumes for different jobs. But make sure the resume you submit speaks to the job of interest. Receiving a resume for a marketing job with absolutely no marketing experience listed leaves us scratching our heads. Similarly, never send a resume to Bob’s Building Materials stating in your objective or cover letter that you’d like to obtain a job with Michael’s Mechanics. The only thing you’ve shown us at this point is a lack of attention to detail.

Second, if your resume extends beyond a page, your experience should warrant that. Two to three jobs under your belt does not fall into this category. Concise is key. Remember, we really don’t need to know every single task you performed, only those that are relevant.

Job hopping

Moving from job to job–averaging less than two years–is a clear sign you have no idea what you’d like to do for a living. This might not be an issue if you’re searching for another ‘job’, but if you’re searching for a career recruiters are leery you’ll stick around for the long haul. Be choosey about where you decide to apply. Is it a place you can stay for a while and move up the ladder or even make a lateral move? If not, it could be wise to keep looking.

The exceptions for what may appear to be job hopping are, of course, lay-offs, summer jobs and seasonal jobs. In recent years, however, some people have been using the term “laid-off” instead of what really occurred on the last job: termination. These are not synonymous. One is a result of performance and the other is beyond your control. Be up front about a termination. If it comes out in the interview the recruiter is going to be skeptical of hiring someone who is dishonest.

Written Communication

Professionalism doesn’t stop with the resume. Spelling counts on the application and any follow up emails. An email like the one below is not going to get you moved on in the interview process.

            Thx so much for the interview i feel i am a good fit. I look forward to hearing from you.

Punctuation and the ‘shift’ key are your friends. If you have to have a friend proof-read an email before responding to the recruiter it is well worth the time.

Verbal Communication

What will the recruiter hear when he calls you for an interview? Trust me–we’re not hoping for Bieber or Beyonce. If it sounds like anything other than a good old fashioned ring it’s time for a change. In addition, ‘cute’ voicemail messages—‘At the tone, you know what to do.’—(yikes!) have no place in a job search.

Okay, you’ve made it through the application process and phone conversations and now you’re scheduled to meet with the interviewer face to face. Here are a few more points to remember to ensure at least a good start to the interview.

Tardiness

Let’s face it. Life happens. So if you show up late, after greeting the interviewer your next words should consist of an explanation. ‘I got a flat tire on the way here’ or ‘there was an overturned tractor trailer on the highway’ might be acceptable excuses. ‘I overslept’ or ‘I wrote down the wrong time/address’ probably aren’t. In order to avoid this, check out the location in advance and leave home early. If you find you’re running late pull over and give the interviewer a call.

Body Language

This includes posture, expressions, fidgeting, eye contact and your handshake. I’m sure your palms are sweating as you read this. Don’t over think it. These are all nervous habits. The good news is, if you practice before the interview there is no reason to be nervous. (More about that in Part 2.)

Attire

Wear something that can become business casual in a hurry—by removing a jacket or even your tie. If you opt for khakis and a polo there is nothing you can do to magically change them into a business suit. I have seen jeans, Ugg’s, and white sweat socks with dress shoes in interviews. Believe me, no matter what you say in the interview after falling so short in your dress, there is little chance of recovery.

Congratulations, you’ve made it into the interviewer’s chair. More on how to ace the interview in my next post.

Didn’t Get the Job? It’s Not You…

You got the interview. And then you got the rejection letter. This is why you shouldn’t take it personally.

When you’ve needed a job in the past it was usually to pay the bills, so you took whatever came along. Fine. Suffering through a tough job or two builds character. Plus, it can help you figure out what you do or don’t want to do for the rest of your life.

(My character-building job was quite a memorable experience at an insurance company where I stared into a machine for 5 hours a day searching for medical claims copied onto microfiche. Fun times.)

But now it’s time for a career, and that’s a whole different ball game. This is the place where you’ll be spending 40+ hours a week for the next few years of your life. Trust me, you don’t want to do that shaking your fist at the heavens every morning and gritting your teeth.

We recruiters make decisions daily about who to bring onboard which means, inevitably, candidates get turned down in favor of another applicant. We can tell you that at some point—perhaps even weekly—we’ve received the following email:

Can you please tell me how I can improve or be a better candidate for this opportunity in the future?

A valid question perhaps, but consider this: sometimes the position just isn’t the right one for you. There is no class to take, nothing to practice and no magic wand to wave and change your personality. It simply isn’t going to be a win-win situation. For a company and employee to have a happy marriage so to speak, you should be able to meet the company’s goals and they should also be able to meet yours. That’s right, you’re interviewing them too!

Often times what you’ve envisioned the job to be doesn’t come close to the reality. Trust that the recruiter knows the job and, therefore, after having an interview we know if you’re a fit…or not.

If you want to be a teacher and the company is hiring accountants…it might be a bad fit.

If you want to work weekdays only and the position requires that you work weekends…it might be a bad fit.

If you prefer to finish Task A, before you move on to Task B and the position requires you to multi-task on a daily basis…it might be a bad fit.

If you don’t like people and you have to resolve customer complaints…

You get the picture.

This doesn’t mean you should try to snow the interviewer. Telling us what you think we want to hear (aka lying) could land you shoveling frozen cow patties in Antarctica because of your stellar, yet embellished, answers. We can only make the right decision when we get to know the real you.

By all means go to a mock interview at your college or local career center, have your resume reviewed and think about your answers before you go to an interview. But be honest. In some cases, if we get to know the real you, another job could become available where you’d be the perfect fit and we can reach out to you later on.

No, you might not get into your dream career right away, but in choosing, at least pursue a job that will help take you in that direction. If you’d like to be an Outside Sales Rep, take an entry-level job in retail where you have to meet sales goals. You’ll learn some selling basics and might even find out if you love (or loathe) selling. If you want to be a Sports Commentator, take a job in ticket sales for a sports team and learn the business from the ground up.

It all boils down to this quote: Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

So choose wisely.