We know we haven’t been giving you as many updates as we would like to this year, and we hate to disappoint. But, we’ve been up to some things that we think are going to make our presentations and online materials even better, so hold tight and check back soon.
Why make any changes at all? Well, if you’ve ever been in the audience for speaker who had a solid presentation but seemed out-of-touch with the real world, or read a book full of really great ideas that had zero chance of succeeding if you actually tried them, then you already know how important it is to shake things up once in a while.
Joe is currently taking on some new projects and challenges that we think will add some interesting dimensions to the things we do. He will still be giving a limited number of keynotes and presentations in the coming months, but the new posts, updates, and articles aren’t going to be coming along as frequently.
If you have a question to ask Joe, or want to check the date on the calendar, feel free to reach us via phone or e-mail. Otherwise, don’t forget to take advantage of all the free information on the site, check out a copy of Joe’s book for some unconventional job-search tactics for students, check back soon for some exciting new material!
Last week, I added some notes about the recent debt crisis and its subsequent effects on the job market for new graduates. If you have not read it, feel free to go back and take a look, but my main point is that new and upcoming graduates should not worry so much about what the economy is doing, instead they should focus on their own skills and job search.
With that being said, however, I will add one little caveat: when you do find a job – and if you follow the advice in my book and blogs – be sure not to get over your head in debt.
It is easier to do than you might think; many credit card companies like to issue lines of credit to new graduates who have recently found employment, knowing that they often need things like professional clothes, furniture, etc. But with the economy remaining soft, job security lower than it’s been a long, long time, and interest rates on consumer credit reaching new highs, it is a prescription for headaches you do not need.
Learning to live cheaply, at least in the beginning of your career, is a vastly underrated skill. The more you can avoid that, the less you’re going to be affected by changes in the economy as a whole, and the fewer worries you will have later on life.
Recently, a few students and new graduates have asked me how the recent debt crisis in Washington DC will affect their chances of finding a job, or whether the fight on Capitol Hill should be any consideration at all.
There are a couple of ways to look at this: the continuing battle over government spending, and the resulting damage, seems unlikely to go away soon. In fact, a number of leading economists think it is likely that higher interest rates for all US citizens and businesses cannot be far off.
This is a bad thing for the US economy, especially at a time when we are either in a recession, or very close to it. Therefore, the short answer is that the debt crisis probably is not doing anything to help your job search.
In the bigger picture, however, I would contend that it does not make as much of a difference as you might think. When you are struggling to find that first position after graduation, everything can seem like very bad news. The reality, though, is that companies are still hiring, and that new graduates represent a very good return on investment as compared to veteran employees.
Therefore, the very best thing you can do for yourself is to not worry about what the economy as a whole is doing. Keep working every day to meet more people, build networks, enhance your social media profile, and make yourself more employable. Do not obsess about national labor statistics, or what economists think is happening to the government or economy as a whole – those things are not nearly as relevant to you as your personal actions and outlook are.
In other words, debt crisis or not, my advice has not changed: the economy might be tough, but if you keep doing what you need to, you will find a great first job out of college.
For some new graduates, the only thing that really matters about any company or position that they’re thinking of taking is whether it’s real and pays actual money. That’s understandable, especially given how tough a time a lot of Americans are having when it comes to finding work these days. But I encourage you to look a bit past that, since a handful of easy-to-make mistakes now can lead to all kinds of problems and dilemmas later.
Here are three things you should definitely know about any company that offers you a job before you expect it. They’re just the tip of the iceberg, but consider them the absolute minimum when it comes to things you should check out:
What current employees say about working there. Each year, companies like Forbes put out a list of the best businesses to work for. If they are on it, that’s great; if not, that’s no problem, but do a little bit of background research online and over the phone. Find out whether current employees are generally satisfied, or are in the midst of filing a class-action lawsuit. A little digging here could save you big trouble later.
The company’s financial condition. Obviously, you don’t want to be the last person to board a sinking ship. And yet, a surprising number of graduates don’t bother to see how healthy the company they’re thinking of joining actually is. The financial statements for every business are public, but a quick Google search should give you a lot of clues about how the business is doing in only a few minutes.
Where future opportunities lie. Does your potential employer like to promote from within? Do they have operations or offices in places where you would like to live in the future? Is it in an industry that you could see yourself working in for years, or even decades? You don’t have to have great answers to all of these questions, but they’re worth thinking about before you accept any position.
For most new graduates – and especially in this economy – I don’t recommend trying to go to too many great lengths to negotiate with someone who’s offering you a job. After all, your first professional position is likely to be in the door, and if it fits with the right company in the right situation, you’re probably just better off going for it and letting your work speak for itself.
Still, there are times when it makes sense to see if you can get a little more. This is especially true when you have more than one offer for employment, and the job you really like to take for your future pays a lot less. In that situation, it’s a good idea to remember that you might possibly be able to take less and still come out with more.
Here’s what I mean: for one thing, by accepting a “better” job, lots of great things can happen. For one, you can set yourself up for future advancement, or work with the supervisor and department that are more in line with your own personality and skill set. And for another, we all tend to feel happier and less stressed when we are doing work that we enjoy and makes us feel fulfilled.
But on a more “nuts and bolts” level, you still might be able to come out ahead. The key lies in three different factors. First, find out what the opportunities for advancement into a different position might be, how soon you could be evaluated for them, and what kind of compensation packages they come with. By looking a little bit down the road, you might be able to work yourself into a higher salary in six months or a year than you would have gotten from the other job.
Similarly, you can negotiate a higher salary, as well as other items that make you “richer” without putting more money in your pocket. Most managers, when hiring someone right out of school, have a limited budget they can work with. In other words, whatever they offer you, they’re probably not authorized to give you a whole lot more. But what they might be able to sign off on is a few extra
vacation days, or a daily work schedule (like 4 ten hour days instead of 5 eight hour days) that allows you time to fit in things in your personal life that you might not have otherwise had time for.
This is just an example, but the point is that you need to learn to think outside the box if you’re going to find a job, career path, and situation that are best for you. Remember that, as important as your starting salary is, it’s just one aspect of your first job after college. Learn to think beyond those initial numbers, and you might just come out ahead by taking a little bit less.
When you think of the Internet, or developments in business technology, the picture is probably pretty rosy. After all, if there’s one thing we love to show people in business classes, it’s that new machines and ways of doing things inevitably halve the bottom line and make us all just a little bit richer.
That’s undoubtedly true, but when you actually enter the workforce, another thing you’ll discover is that, when you’re actually in charge of producing the work, technology can be as much of a pain as it is a tool.
I’m not just talking about the times when things break down – although those situations will make you want to pull your hair out. What I mean is that every new development in technology, whether it’s improved software, new machine, or something altogether different, requires you to take time away from what you are already doing to learn and master it. And what’s more, upgrading technology will often mean increased job performance expectations… usually a little bit beyond what the new piece of technology can actually help you with.
So where is the advice in all of this? Believe it or not, it isn’t to run away from technology, but rather to get very good at implementing improvements quickly. Become a master at calling tech support and reading through manuals; learn how the different pieces of hardware and software in a company work together. The more of this understanding you have now, the less of it you’ll have to pick up later – and that means you’ll be able to benefit from tomorrow’s technology, rather than wishing you could just get back to doing things the way you did them in the past.
New graduates who try out temp work for companies usually view it as little more than a stepping stone. Even the name, temp, strongly implies that there aren’t many long-term prospects in nonpermanent, contract labor.
But could you actually make a career out of being a temp?
Probably not, at least in the way most people think of it. But that’s not to say that you couldn’t find a specific niche – and even a great career – doing project-specific work for big or large companies. In fact, of all the career choices out there, going freelance is becoming one of the most popular.
Why? Because it combines a lot of the things most of us look for and love in a great job: the potential to make lots of money, generous time away from your desk (if you want), the freedom to pick and choose your assignments, and the ability to walk away from difficult bosses at almost any time.
Of course, there are some downsides, too. For one thing, temp in freelance workers are responsible for their own cash flow and benefits. For another, the workplace usually isn’t as much of a social gathering point when a lot of the actual labor takes place in an empty cubicle, or on your kitchen table. Still, if you’re looking for a career choice that offers variety and flexibility, it might be worth checking out. Infact, I would recommend that, if you’re at all interested in pursuing self-employment, you get in touch with a few freelancers in your area and see if you can shadow them for a day, or at least take them out for a cup of coffee and asking questions.
Lots of new graduates pick up temp work as a way to gain experience and make ends meet, but who says you have to grow into a “real” job? Freelance and other contract employment situations can sometimes offer better careers, more flexibility, sometimes even more money than new graduates could find elsewhere.
I spend a lot of time, on this blog and in person, trying to motivate young people to take their job search seriously from the moment they arrive on campus. What they often don’t realize, because it’s easy to ignore in the hustle and bustle of college life, is that your graduation is coming sooner than you think. The more prepared you are to enter the real world, the less stressed out you’re going to be winning comes.
With all that being said, though, here’s another good piece of advice for those of you who are in your final semesters and don’t yet know where your career will take you: calm down.
Occasionally, I talked to some young people who are so overwhelmed by the job search process that it starts to cause them real psychological stress. It’s great that they’re concerned, but ultimately worrying too much doesn’t do you any good. Simply focus on the things you can control, follow the kinds of tips I lay out these posts about searching for work and making yourself a better candidate, and then let go.
It’s great to get off to a fast start in your new career, and it’s something that’s entirely possible regardless of where you are today. But in the great scheme of things, it’s not going to make a whole lot of difference five years from now whether it took you a few weeks or a few months to find your first job; it might not seem like it at the moment, but once you’re out in the real world these things quickly fade into the past. In fact, by waiting to get started, you might even learn or do something interesting, or make a discovery that changes the future of your career for the better.
The point is, no one knows what the future will bring. It’s fantastic to get your first job and I encourage you to do everything you can towards that goal… just don’t let it get to you too much if it doesn’t happen right away.
Finding a job after college has changed quite a bit since my generation went through the process. Not only are most open positions posted online, but one of the best ways to see about potential employers is by checking out social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
But not everything has changed. In fact, one of the most effective job search tools available any college student has been around for decades, and it works just as well now as it ever did: the telephone.
A lot of students cringe at the thought of calling up potential employers and asking whether they have any openings, but if you can get past your initial fear, you’ll find it’s a wonderful way to locate new opportunities. Why? Well, for one thing, a lot of jobs are never advertised. That is, they’re filled internally, or with recommendations, long before they end up on sites like career builder or
And for another thing, having the guts to call a recruiter on your own shows a lot of initiative. Let’s any hiring manager knows it you’re serious about finding work and aren’t afraid to do it takes. I have yet to meet a supervisor who doesn’t like that kind of attitude.
With that in mind, here are three things to keep in mind as you use the phone to look for a job:
Do your homework. Go online and find out everything you need to about who you’re calling, what sort of positions they fill, and even what’s going on with company. You want to leave the strong impression that you know what you’re trying to accomplish, not that you’re taking a shot in the dark.
Watch the clock. There are actually two points you made here. First, don’t call during a time when the person you’re trying to reach is likely to be busy and overwhelmed, like Monday morning. And secondly, make contact, explain why you’re calling, and ask if you can send a resume for them to look over. Try to keep the whole conversation under 5 min. If there’s an opening, they’ll invite you to follow up later, and the worst thing you can do is tie up the recruiter when they really need to be working on something else.
Follow up. You may or may not make a lot of progress on the first call, but don’t give up. Over time, the professionals on your list will recognize you as someone who has the drive to succeed – it won’t be long before they’ll want to hire you, or at least pass along your name to someone who does.
Imagine for a moment that I asked you to order a pizza with all your favorite toppings, pay for it with a generous tip when it shows up, and then throw it to the nearest dumpster. Probably not something a whole lot of you would do, right?
And yet, I do meet a lot of students who do waste their money – and fail to take advantage of some of their most valuable resources – on a regular basis.
This isn’t meant to pick on anyone in particular, just to point out something that I’m fond of telling students all the time: this is the absolute best time in your life to be looking for a job. Why? For one thing, because no one expects you to have one already (at least not one that’s a stepping stone to your professional career); and for another, you have a lot of tools right there at your disposal that are included with your tuition and student activity fees.
I’m counting presentations like the ones I give on college campuses, but also career centers, resume writing workshops, professional clubs and associations, and dozens of other activities available to students interested in finding a job quickly. There are few better places to be looking for work from than a college campus, so take advantage. Attend the workshops, see the speakers, get help from your career center, and otherwise do what you can to make the process clearer and easier.
As with most of the advice in this blog, this isn’t just going to help you find a job after graduation. People in all fields – and especially in your generation – are changing careers more often than ever. I promise that, if the day ever comes later in life that you need to find a job again, that you’ll be glad you took the time to learn how to get hired now.
You are already paying for help to find a great job after college… all you have to do is put in the effort to get your money’s worth.