At some point in undergrad, someone told me “it takes six months to find a job.” While there are exceptions to every rule, in my case, this was an accurate estimate of the time commitment it took to securing my first full-time job. It should be your standard, too. I began my initial search in January during my last semester of undergrad, and I secured my current position at BBR Creative the same week I was handed my diploma (Actually, they just handed me the diploma folder. My actual diploma came weeks later in the mail. Whomp whomp). I highly encourage any job seeker to begin the search with the mindset that it will take months to land an offer.
Here are some of the nuggets of advice I would offer to anyone job seeking, especially those who are taking the plunge from college graduation into their industry of choice.
1.Resume: Beef that shit up! I had different professionals tell me what they think of the resume structure. This is how mine is structured: List professional/work experience first, then your education information, followed by skills and organizations/awards. If you’re an upcoming graduate looking for full-time work, an employer is going to be looking for what field experience you’ve had over your undergrad career. But hey, if you’ve got a 4.0, flaunt it. Make sure that each line item is not just “I worked as a sales associate for a retail company.” Convey the skills you learned and earned with each previous role. Use action verbs to describe your processes and skill set. Use numbers and statistics to give potential employers specific measurements of success. You did the work, so brag about it! Attend resume building workshops if they are available near you. Ask your professors for their input. Constantly revise your content. You can always send me your resume, and I can give you suggestions from a peer-perspective.
2. Research: I set time aside (between 3-5 hours) each week to do research on companies, cities, industries and job descriptions. I reviewed countless company websites, reading each and every line to learn what they did, how they did it and for whom they did it. Up until now, most of what you have learned in school is theoretical. By reviewing actual real-life examples of these theories in practice, you’re slowly bringing your theoretical knowledge to life. Research industry trends and advertising campaigns that catch national attention and keep a running list of what you interests you. The more you know about the industry you’re trying to bust up in, the better off you will be with writing cover letters and explaining your skillset in relation to the job description. You might even impress a potential employer by teaching them something! Another thing to consider in your research is what you don’t like. A peer of mine, Whitney Woods, set up time to meet with people in different types of positions to see what it was like in their shoes. She says this was beneficial because she “ended up taking a lot of options off the table,” even some that she originally thought she would “for sure like.” Long story short: Do your homework so you don’t find yourself in a job that you really aren’t jazzed about.
3. Resources: Pull your network. Another great nugget of advice I was told in my job search was “tell people what you want.” When people ask what you want to do, shoot big. Tell them you want to be the public relations director for a nonprofit. Tell them you would love to own a chain of frozen yogurt bars. Tell them you love fashion and want to work in NYC for Ralph Lauren. You just never know who has a friend, cousin or ex-roommate who might have a connection worth pursuing. I asked my siblings, cousins, professors and classmates if they knew anyone in public relations or at a creative advertising agency, and almost everyone was able to offer a name. This led me to another Google search and more hours of research and perfecting my resume and cover letters. In general, people are willing to help out those who are starting out, most likely because someone extended a helping hand to them, too. Ah, the circle of business life.
4. Request more information: Or an in-person job shadow. I see this as a new trend in young people who are approaching graduation. Requesting a job shadow day from someone in the industry or at a company that you really admire will shed some light on a typical workday that might spark an interest you never knew you had. Asking a company to send more information about what they do will put a foot in the door, which is less stressful than sending your resume out without a clear intention. This is what Louisiana State University senior, Julia Hebert, says of her shadowing at BBR:
“I honestly didn’t know much about how advertising agencies ran before I was there for those few days. The most important thing I learned that I wasn’t aware of before was the importance of teamwork. Each person in that building had their own job that would all later factor into the main goal.”
Once you shadow at a company like BBR, it might inspire you to pursue something that you hadn’t thought of before.
5. Respect those around you: While this should go unsaid, it’s not the world we live in anymore. Taking the time to write a nice Thank You note really goes a long way these days. Thank the person you met with/spoke with for taking the time out of their day to speak with you. Tell them something you learned from your conversation and wish them well in their endeavors. This may not land you a job, but it will sure leave that person with a smile (and the memory that you were a nice person, who they would possibly want to help out in the future ie: #3).
6. Record your experience: I may be a nerd but, by keeping a separate notebook and journal for my job hunt, I was able to keep track of research, people’s names and titles, past interview questions and my answers to those questions. By continually reviewing my process, it was almost like studying for the next step. Often times in interviews or during research, books or articles were recommended to me, and I have them all collected in one place. Journaling about the process also allows you to release some of the anxiety or excitement that comes with searching for a job.
7. Relax: As Rumi said, “what you seek is seeking you.” If you take these tips and apply them, you are already eliminating half the stress by being proactive. Don’t take any rejections personally, and try to learn from each experience. Focus on what you can do better for your next cover letter, email or interview. It takes some practice and time, but in the end, it is well worth it.