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How to Get a Job and Start a Career (Part 2)

In Part I, I covered aspects of how to shape the beginning of a lasting career. I have found that the establishing the proper building blocks early in your career determines your ultimate success.

One of the keys to this achievement is getting solid work experience before you enter your career track – building a cache of references and collecting teachable moments to prepare you for the real world. If you do this correctly you will stand out in the crowd and get a major head start in the competitive working world.

Resume & Cover Letter

I see countless resumes and many are poorly written and contain typos. As we all know, this is the first point of contact for most jobs. So get it right. If you’re a new college grad, ask someone you respect in business to read and help you edit your communication. Try to find examples of good resumes in your field of study to use as a model. Then give concrete examples of things you have done and don’t be afraid to list your accomplishments (be brief and use bullet points). Also list charitable work, clubs, and sports teams (sports are important because it demonstrates teamwork). Pay attention to use of fonts, layout, and brevity. And finally, double and triple check for typos. When you have a typo in your communication it projects poor attention to detail.

Dress for Success

I expect all potential employees to dress in business attire. For men,  a suit and tie (this means no T-shirts)! I’ve seen college students show up in jeans. I once had a guy show up in flip flops – his resume went right in the trash. In my company, we dress business casual but when visiting with clients we always dress professionally. Our brand is to be buttoned up, and there is no better way to demonstrate this than to be tidy and fashionable. I expect the same for anyone interviewing with me for a job. That said, there is much written in the blogosphere about young technology companies that have laid back cultures and prefer you dress down. Personally, I found this to be rare, as I visit many companies of all shapes and sizes in my line of work. I suggest you research it thoroughly and if you’re not interviewing with the next Mark Zuckerburg in his basement, dress professionally. Dressing for success is rarely looked down upon.

Bring Extra Copies

Be proactive. When you arrive for the interview, come with extra copies of your resume, cover letter, references and work samples. This shows you are well prepared and ready to get down to business. I’m often surprised when people show up empty handed. The chances are you’re interviewing with someone who is very busy, so you are actually doing them a favor if they don’t have to scour their desk to find your materials. You’ll also be prepared if they decide to bring in additional people, as I often do.

Take Notes

Just because you have a college degree doesn’t’ mean you have supernatural recall memory. Come prepared with note pad and pen, because you’ll need the details later for follow-up. I recently interviewed several candidates for a very high level position within my company. The winning candidate (with over 25 years’ experience) took copious notes and then followed up over the next few weeks emailing me interesting articles continuing our discussion.

I always take detailed notes in all my meetings. I then date and keep these notebooks for years, often referring back to them to double check my recollection of events or decisions I’ve made.

Do Research On the Company

Yes, doing research on the company you are interviewing with is probably the most over printed advice ever given, but surprisingly not always done. Know what the company does, its history, interesting new products or services, and something about the person interviewing you. LinkedIn is a great source for bios and work history. You should also look for published articles and YouTube videos. Come prepared with at least two well thought out questions.

Beware of Facebook and Your Personal Information

Again, not rocket science, but I’m amazed how many people make this mistake. Never publish anything degrading or embarrassing on the internet. Potential employers can and will research you online.

Be Prepared for a Test

After making several bad hiring choices we designed tests to ensure our new hires have the skills we require. We now do a series of tests that screen for strong writing skills, high competency in computer software (Excel and PowerPoint) and as well as the ability to do mathematical analytics.

Don’t Immediately Ask For Time Off

Some people ask for time off for a planned vacation when they are hired. Once their career is established and that’s totally acceptable. However this same rule does not apply to someone just starting out. When a recent graduate springs this on a new employer, it’s a red flag for an employee with a “sense of entitlement.” This is a person who believes they deserve a reward before they earn it.

I once had a new recruit threaten to quit if I didn’t give her 2 weeks off to take a cruise with her parents, “a once in a life time trip” I was told. My response; “great, there’s the door, have a great trip, we’ve got others who want this job more.” That may sound harsh but consider there are many people at the company with more seniority who have followed the rules and waited the appropriate time to take their vacation. You have most likely been hired to help support them. Earn your vacation and you’ll also earn the respect of your peers.

Ask for the order

This is the oldest trick in the sales book and it works. Tell your interviewer why you want the job and why they should hire you. If you’re genuine, this could be the deal closer.

Immediately Send a Thank You

Send an email thanking everyone you met along with some observation from your interview, always the same day of your meeting (don’t forget to ask for business cards). Coincidentally, this is also important in new business pitches too. If you are one of a long line of people being interviewed, you will stand out for being proactive. It shows you really want the job.

Personally, I prefer an email, because regular mail takes too long and could get lost on someone’s desk. I once got a hand written thank you card from someone with such bad penmanship I thought the card had come from a first grader (I almost threw it out). It gave me pause that the author may have bad judgment – sending me something so poorly written. I hired him anyway and as it turned out he was not the right fit after all. Now I always follow my intuition on red flags like this, the little things do matter.

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