Diary of a Working Girl

Apr 29, 2011  |  By Sarah Michelle Matley  |  

Spring is here and that means thousands of new graduates will soon be celebrating the completion of their college degrees. Amidst the excitement is also the fearful grumble in the back of all upcoming and recent graduates’ minds, “What do I do now?”

We’ve all heard how difficult the job market is right now and how tough the economy is. And we all have the same questions: “How can I stand out from everyone else?” “How can I get a job that requires 1-2 years of experience when I have no experience?”

As a recent graduate who has also had many a discussion with said fearful grumble, I know all too well that sorting through the answers and advice to these questions can be overwhelming. Here are some tidbits of wisdom that I have found to be true and beneficial in finding my first job.

1.Be yourself. If you spend hours before your interview trying to rehearse a new professional personality to present, you will be stressed and uncomfortable the entire interview and make it hard to connect with your interviewer. Try talking to yourself in the mirror. It may sound silly, but once you are comfortable interviewing with yourself, you will be more comfortable interviewing with someone else. Once you’ve rehearsed, stand up straight, put a smile on your face, and don’t forget to breathe.

2.Be professional. Do not under any circumstances wear jeans and flip flops to the interview. Regardless of what position you are applying for, dress to impress. It is much better to overdress than under dress. Even if your interviewer is in shorts, they will take notice of your dapper appearance and it will set you apart. Avoid filler words like “like”, “umm”, and “I guess.” Remember professionalism starts the second you walk through the front door. Don’t save it for the CEO, start with the receptionist.

3.Be bold. The job hunt can be a terrifying process, but as Seth Godin (www.sethgodin.com ) says, “Don’t wait for someone to pick you. Pick yourself.” While protocol may tell you to submit your resume/cover letter online or via snail mail and let it be, your resume will be collecting a lot of dust in the HR office before you ever hear anything. If you want a job, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Be careful not to cross the line into stalker, but be sure to follow up. If you can, physically take your resume/cover letter into your desired career location and introduce yourself. Intimidating? Yes. But out of any advice I have ever been given, this has definitely proved the most fruitful. My success rate of interviews and call backs increased by over 85% in those offices I physically visited. If you act as a timid recent grad with no experience waiting to be picked, you will be perceived as just that. If you act like a knowledgeable and competent professional who knows what you want to do, you will most likely be perceived as such. You are far more likely to get want you want if you ask for it. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Tell that fearful grumble to take a hike, and go get a job.

4.Be around. Three words: network, network, network! And be nice to everybody. You never know who will be connected to whom and where that connection can take you. Start networking while you’re still in school. Go to events. Read and respond to blogs. Make business cards and make it a goal to hand out at least 3 cards each week. Make a LinkedIn account, set up a professional portfolio, and start showcasing your work. Introduce people who you think could benefit from knowing each other, and inevitably the favor will be returned to you. Remember in grade school when your mom would tell you that the best way to make a friend is to be a friend? I don’t think that advice changes much as you get older. Sometimes, mom knows what she’s talking about.

To all those soon to be and recent graduates, Congratulations! Remember that you worked hard to earn that degree. Remember that you have been preparing for this your whole life. And remember to breathe.

Additional resources:

Cover Letter


Recent Graduates

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