Lately I have read a bunch of articles that address the same topic.
Most of them begin with the same sad story: “I’m a recent college graduate. Why won’t anyone hire me?”
Every time I read an article like this I feel a little more disgusted at the recent graduate.
Sure, I remember how it felt to be fresh out of college and to think I owned the world now that I had my degree.
More importantly, I also remember the day I woke up and realized that employers are not really impressed with that piece of paper called a diploma.
It was only when I realized my degree was practically worthless that I began to see some progress and then actually figured out how to get multiple job offers.
Jose’s article reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write an answer to those recent graduates.
Based on my experience, here’s what I would tell a young relative if they were to ask for advice;
My dear niece/nephew,
Your problem is that you have no relevant experience and so far you have shown no initiative to do anything to get out of your rut.
You’re doing exactly the same thing that every other recent graduate is doing. You need to find a way to stand out.
Here is a 10 step plan that will assure you stand out from the crowd of other applicants:
1) Decide on an industry direction that makes sense for you, because of your passion, your vision of your future self, or your interests.
2) Research that industry until you know it inside and out. Become at least familiar with the names of all the companies within it, and become expert on the top few companies in that industry.
3) Decide on the one company that you think best fits you.
4) Thoroughly research that one company. Find websites that have the transcripts of investor calls. Understand how they make or lose money. Read all their blog entries. Read what competitors write about them. Read all the customer reviews that you can find. Go to Glassdoor.com and look them up. Read everything you find there on your chosen company. You really can’t go too far with this research step. You should know the company better than most of their employees do.
Look at what Jack Welch, former CEO of GE had to say:
“Not long ago, friends of ours got very excited when their daughter landed an interview in the HR department of a well-known company. She was about to graduate from a good state university with a business major, and she spent an hour or two boning up on the best way to describe her resume highlights.
On the appointed day, after the usual niceties, the interviewer looked our friends’ daughter square in the eye and asked, “What’s our stock price today?”
And that was that. The interview was done.
Look, your job interview is not just about you. It is not just about you going on and on about your classes and internships and how much they taught you. It’s not about you claiming to be a team player who’s an outside-the-box thinker with high integrity.
No – your job interview is about how much you know about the company you are hoping to join, its industry, and its industry’s dynamics. So prepare for your interview as if it’s most important test of your life. Google your brains out. Go in with ideas and knowledge and fresh insights.”
It’s hard to argue with that advice.
5) Run a search on LinkedIn using their Advanced people search and find all the employees of that company you can.
6) Learn as much about each of those employees as you can by searching social media for each of them.
7) Zero in on one employee you have something in common with, or who has done something noteworthy (make sure not to pick the mail clerk – needs to be someone with authority to hire or recommend).
8) Create a resume that’s tailored to the company and the job you want but be sure to make it a human-voiced resume (Google it).
9) Write a personal letter to this employee.
Yes, I am serious. No, I haven’t lost my mind. A letter will have much more impact than an email.
In your letter, reference whatever they did recently that you have in common. Ask to buy them coffee, lunch or breakfast to get their advice or pick their brain. People are flattered when others ask them for advice. Ask to compare notes based on your own experience. Include your direct phone number, and the human-voiced resume.
10) Print out your letter and resume and put both in a regular mailing envelope. Hand write the person’s name and the company’s public address on the outside and then drop it into mail.
Repeat this process for every company you would like to work at. Do this as many times as you can in a short time period.
I’ll promise you this – if you follow these steps you will be contacted. Once they call, over-prepare for every interaction. When you meet, don’t be afraid of small talk, but remember your research when talk turns to the company.
Put yourself in their shoes — Ask yourself these questions and try to figure them out before meeting — What is the company’s biggest pain or pressure point right now? and What does this person really want/need to allow them to do their job better/more efficiently?
If nothing else, they likely want someone who will out-hustle everyone else and you’ve already done a lot to demonstrate that you are that person.
Call your three best references and just to confirm that they feel comfortable serving as a reference for you. Be absolutely sure to spell their names correctly and include their best phone number and email address. Give them a copy of your resume so they will be able to see what the caller is referring to. Be sure they are ready and willing to field any calls to talk about you.
Repeat this process with different companies until you are employed.
Note: Although a job will pay your bills and fill your belly, I don’t recommend long term employment as your ultimate means of achieving financial independence. If you handle it correctly, a job can provide you with a financial platform that will enable you to begin moving toward your ultimate destiny. As they say, “Use the job don’t let the job use you.”
And here is #11
If the steps above don’t work for you (doubtful), do the following:
Find the company that you really want to work for and then volunteer to be an unpaid intern/apprentice with the key decision makers.
Send a letter directly to them telling them what you love about their company. If you live in a small or rural city, this might require you moving. In a bigger city, you can certainly find a job waiting tables at night until you get your plan rolling. You may have to work fewer hours at your “main” job and cut your lifestyle back. Think of it as an investment in your future. Don’t be afraid to tell the prospective company exactly what your plan is.
If you land a position, do the best job possible and be a sponge, learning about everything you can and asking questions about everything.
Find one thing those decision makers don’t like doing and volunteer to take on that task or project. Do that one task very well – so that you become invaluable to them.
Look for mentors within that company and approach them about imparting their wisdom to you but also sell them on what you can do for them.
Within a few months, if you do a good job for them, they’ll be more than happy to hook you up with their network (if they don’t offer you a job themselves). If working as an unpaid intern just doesn’t work for you, look into temp agencies. Really good employees don’t remain temps very long.
I know – all of this is HARD work for little to no pay, but what else are you going to be doing in the meantime?
Sit around feeling depressed? How much does that pay?
What have you got to lose?
Do something that sets you apart from every other Jenny or Johnny and I guarantee you’ll see results.
I wish you the best recent graduate – but get to work now!