It’s never too late to begin your job search BEFORE you graduate! It’s February and you may be thinking I have MONTHS to decide where I’m going to work. Guess again. If you are only thinking about this now, you are actually very LATE FOR YOUR IMPORTANT JOB DATE! It’s not that I want to pressure you or anything, and it’s not like you don’t have enough pressure from mom or dad who are wondering when you’ll get off their payroll and onto your own! It’s not that we don’t love you (it is Valentine’s Day as I write this!) but, you really do need to get in gear if you are thinking you are going to want to do more than hit the movies, video game stores or soak it up on the beach come May or June.
By all means celebrate some of the most challenging four years you’ve had in school learning all that you can to ready yourself for your new career. Honestly, nothing could have prepared you for the next phase of your life-how to put mom and dad’s hard earned cash paying for your education to good use! Now it’s time to really buckle down because, unlike the competitive nature of your college days, the job market holds a landscape much like a war-field: there are land mines everywhere and no one is going to give you a map on where to avoid them. Not at least, until now.
Here are FIVE ways to prepare yourself for your first job:
1) Know What Motivates You. It seems like a pretty routine question but one I asked a recent college graduate who took me to lunch seeking career advice and he was actually “surprised” by the question, “What motivates you?” It’s not something I would imagine a career advisor or even your close friend might think to ask you. But when you really know and understand what motivates you, it will take out a lot of the guessing game when it comes to figuring out your career path than any self-help book or college prep course might offer. Figuring out if you are motivated by money, (and that’s okay if that is what motivates you) working in a collaborative environment, being independent, working creatively or just being glad to find work, will help you know what type of jobs, companies, work environment is best suited for you. So many times you find yourself taking jobs hoping to figure out what will make you happy and motivated only to find yourself jumping from job to job looking for something you can’t quite put your finger on. Think of how much easier it would be if you already knew what motivated you and all you needed to do was attract and focus on those opportunities that will truly give you the dream career you’ve been looking for? It really doesn’t have to be that hard if you give a little time to focus on what really drives you before you hit the career pavement and start the interviewing process.
2) On Becoming Independent. The hardest thing about growing up is learning when to stop relying on your parents, friends, relatives and companions to help you out of a situation. It’s important to have a support system which means, surrounding yourself with people who are “supportive” of your goals and not relying on people who will “support” you. Believe me there is a big difference! Becoming independent means being responsible for your livelihood and learning how to take care of yourself as quickly as possible. The sooner you realize how life works and that supporting yourself means being responsible and self-reliant, the quicker and easier it will be for you to go after and succeed at what it is you are aiming for in life. Some of us search our whole lives looking for the chance to become independent. Learning how to rely on yourself and make YOU your #1 best friend is a secret advantage they don’t teach you in school. Learning how to take care of yourself better than anyone else can take care of you will not only help build your confidence but will make you less concerned about whether you can fully support yourself once you move into the job world.
3) Building Your Plan. Every great career starts with a plan. That plan should include what motivates you and what inspires you towards greatness. Understanding what motivates you is the first step but knowing who and what you want to be when you grow up is the next step. Now that you have spent so much time learning about the world, now it’s time to start living in it. Armed with your superb educational experience, you are ready to conquer your dreams and your desires. The first step however, is mapping out what those dreams and desires include SPECIFICALLY and then putting your network into good use.
4) Developing Your Resources. Having contacts, relationships and resources to help you BEFORE you graduate is essential if you want to start your career off on the right foot. That doesn’t mean calling up everyone you know and asking them for a job. It does mean to be calculating, thoughtful and strategic about who you know, who can help you and how best to leverage the advise, counsel and relationships that will ultimately form the foundation of your career network. Knowing how to be resourceful and engage the help and advise of others will make you not only comfortable when it’s time to interview for a job, but will make you an invaluable resource when you are in a position to give someone else a job in the future. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be shy in asking people to help you secure an interview, internship or exploratory meeting. Remember your job search strategy is like planning out a war strategy-it’s competitive and you need allies so start building them now. People love when you ask them for advise so take advantage of that and make the most out of your resources.
5) Go Where The Jobs Are. So many people have taken well meaning courses in philosophy, art history, forensic science, etc but is that where the economy is building and investing in jobs? Think about how you can leverage your education to find work in areas that are actually employing people. It doesn’t mean that if you are in pre-med or law that you can’t switch to find jobs in technology, investment banking or other job sectors that are adding jobs and creating opportunities? Research what industries are hiring and creating and expanding jobs and make sure you follow that path. It might not be a dead-on match to what you studied in school, but it may open doors to areas you might not have thought of that might actually benefit you in the long run. Knowing where the jobs are takes the guess work out of looking for the job you want.
Remember your goal is to find a job, not make a career out of looking for one.
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