The diploma came in the mail last week. The event that I had been waiting for over 17 years had come true- my son was a college graduate. I stared at the degree in awe of what he had accomplished…coupled with a slight disbelief that “we” had made it. “We” because I was in it every step of the way- not physically or mentally of course, but emotionally. It is a big deal to watch your children grow up and (hopefully) mature into adulthood. It is an even bigger deal to let go as they venture forth into the world beyond college- the world of work. It is a harsh cold fact- my son needs to find a job. And finding a job today can be a tough proposition. Just because there is a college degree involved, there is no guarantee.
So time for him to hit the job seeker treadmill in a brave new world to him. What on earth kind of advice do I give him? I give him the only advice I have- my own experience.
- Don’t assume that you know what you want to be when you grow up. I am in my 50’s and still learning. There is nothing wrong with trying a few paths to get it right.
- Answer every call and attend every interview you can- even if the job doesn’t sound quite right. Practice helps you to be more comfortable with the process and with your own interpersonal skills.
- Always dress for business. First impressions are key- well-groomed and mannered speaks volumes. Shave that stubble and get a haircut. And wear decent shoes- tennis shoes with a suit just don’t work.
- Use who you know- connections are key to getting into the right job. You have parents, friends, college professors, and even grandparents that would love to introduce you to the working world.
- Handwritten thank you notes can really make an impression in this email culture. Even though your handwriting is not entirely legible, it is the effort that counts. Back up an email with a handwritten note when the interview went particularly well and you want to be invited back.
- Do your homework. Prepare for an interview like you would a first date. Do the research and know what the company is all about- their leadership, culture and your possible fit.
- Be very intentional- with each opportunity, stay present and focused. Don’t be thinking about your dinner plans or your weekend adventures- only about the person talking to you right now. It could be a life changing opportunity and you don’t want to be off on a ski vacation in your mind and miss it!
- Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Today’s jobs are not the lifetime jobs of generations past. If something looks good and feels like a good experience, try it. It will be what you make it.
When it comes right down to it, I have only one wish for my college grad and any other new job seeker- do something of significance- something that means something to you and has impact on those around you. Significance can be the best way to define success. Figure out what you do well and do it. This is your time to write your story. And what a great one it can be.
One day, I will tell you mine.