Advice to the Graduating Class of 2021

First of all, for you soon to be graduating college students, I am sorry your last 3 semesters really sucked. No other delicate way to say it. Life has sucked for all of us, but college years for many are the best years of one’s life, and the last 3 semesters have been less than swell. Remote learning, masks, and a deadly virus are not fun. And the terms social distancing and college life don’t even belong in the same sentence, except on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

And what’s more for the forthcoming grads, now you need to get a job. That’s how it works after college. So exactly how’s that going to happen? Remote interviews? Oy vey. Yup, but that will reduce somewhat over time.

Here’s some advice I had given those looking for a job pre-pandemic. It is still applicable and as the pandemic fades, more “in-person” interviews will happen again. But this advice applies in the Zoom era too. Hope the advice is helpful.

If you are going to serious look for a job to start your business career, here are 6 things to keep in mind:

1. Be specific about the job you seek. 

Your job objective should match the position. In my former life I never hired anyone who “wanted to work at an ad agency”. They needed to be passionate about account management, PR, media etc. It’s OK not to be sure, so have a separate resume for each job you are applying for.

2. Do not spend all your effort applying to positions online only to hear nothing. 

When you apply online 99% of the time you fall into a black cyber hole. People hire people. Don’t depend on your ability to magically rise from the massive pile of electronic resumes unless you are truly a rock star. And even then….

3. Find a person to contact. 

It needn’t be HR. Reach out to a senior executive and write a powerful note that gives them the “x reasons they should hire you” And pay attention to this–the reasons should link your skills with the company’s needs. Talk about them more than you. Ask the senior exec to merely provide a roadmap and to forward your cover letter and resume to the appropriate person. If you write well, there’s at least a fair chance that it will be forwarded probably to HR, with a note something like, “Maybe we should interview this person”. Then miraculously whose resume goes to the top of the pile?

4. If/when you have an interview, be super prepared. 

Do tons of homework on the company and to the degree you can on the people you will be meeting. Engage them in conversation. You should look to demonstrate your knowledge of them and the industry. Furthermore, you should not be reluctant to ask them questions about the company. Many people look to see what kinds of questions you have as a way to evaluate you. Ask intelligent ones.

5. Go for the close/Ask for the job.

If you are talking to the hiring manager, it’s OK to say something like, “From everything I’ve read and heard, I am very interested in working at x. If I was fortunate enough to be hired, I would do a great job”

6. Cast a wide net.

Be thorough and increase your odds by having more at bats. Yes, it’ll increase the number of rejections, but so what. Be thorough with your reach out. It’ll take time, discipline and organization.

The world will be changing in the next few months to a version of normal. Since you are graduating, part of normal is a first job and a “workplace” even if there’s a remote component. BTW, get your body into the physical workplace as fast as you can. Remote work doesn’t help newbies learn the company and make an impression.  

Finding a job is a job. Take it seriously. Go get ’em.

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  1. KS says:

    Great stuff, Lonny. Best job-seeking advice I ever heard is “don’t wait for your resume to do all the work for you. You have to talk to people.” I’ll go one better: cultivate *effective* relationships. Don’t just helicopter around collecting LinkedIn contacts like dinner rolls at the buffet table. Show genuine curiosity in the problems your future employers are trying to solve. Listen between the lines and ask good follow-up questions. And don’t be afraid to describe a time when something didn’t work out; I love hearing failure stories because they demonstrate tenacity and character. When I’m interviewing folks, these traits are what I remember more than any portfolio, resume or cover letter.

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