Monday, April 23, 2012

5 tips for new grads; start by ignoring the headline in today's papers

Today the front pages of The Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times ran an article on the grim future for new college grads.  It was the same Associated Press article.  This drives me crazy because it lists the issue and no solution.  One 23 year old described "months of fruitless searches........graduated in 2012 with a creative-writing degree."  What was really telling was his comment, "I don't even know what I'm looking for." Then the article gets career help from a Harvard economist! URGGGG.   Careers aren't numbers--they are people first!  Numbers are the results of what people do.

So here are 5 tips to help you experience a springboard, not a cliff,  when you graduate:

1:  WORK:  Internship, part time jobs, seasonal, volunteer:  Get some experience, get some references, get some discipline.  The internship will give you experience in something you may like or love or even realize you don't like!  All that is useful information as to what your career path will look like.  I realized after a government position that I didn't like it.  It didn't seem like I mattered.  I had a great office and hardworking boss and co workers but overall--what did we really didn't matter to anyone (at least I couldn't see it)--so I went to private industry.

Internships, part time jobs and seasonal work will give you people who will provide a reference as to your attitude and your skills.  I worked at The Old County Busch Gardens one summer.  It was hard work.  Lots of walking in the park, selling high end imports in my story.  I met great people and learned about processes in a business--from customer service to closing out my cash drawer to display marketing.  I grew up in a family business and I was surprised how much I learned growing up that was true in this business too!

Volunteer where you can meet business owners.  There are loads of charities who would appreciate your ability to apply your marketing skill, your creative writing, your financial knowledge or your organizational skills.

What about discipline?  No one fires you when you don't make class.  You need to know that you need to get to work on time-ready to work.  That doesn't mean excuses for traffic.  You work through headaches. You become part of a team and understand what it means to contribute to something bigger than yourself.

2.  Practice engaging in a conversation!  Ask your parents' friends and ask employers to help you interview.  What are your strengths?  How are you working on your weaknesses?  Pick 5 companies you admire and talk about why you like them?  Research them so you can ask questions that are intelligent-not questions that can be answered by Google.Go to a free networking event. Practice chit chat.  How do you start a conversation?  How do you end the conversation?  Make eye contact. Remove piercing hardware, cover tattoos and practice your handshake.  ( of course if piercings and tats are integral to the job-show them). All are part of a good impression.  Read one of the top business books or biographies.  It will give you something to discuss.

3.  Put pressure on your college career center.  Hey, I love talking about "fixing the world" especially with a good bottle of wine-but it doesn't' pay the rent.   Your career center should prove as an assessment place, help you explore firms, share search engines with you and sites that will give you insight into a company.  They should teach you how to read a basic profit and loss statement so you can decide if a company is good or bad-financially.  Alums should reach out to the career center first.  If you wouldn't hire a grad-why should people hire you?  Parents and students need to get more from their career centers.  They should be the facilitator and the catalyst.  A good career center can show off the degree and  the powerful alumnae network.  And for the college/university it is an investment--the sooner the new grad is making money the sooner the former student will have money to give back-especially to a school that prepared him/her.

4.  LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn--and this is not a commercial.  This is where you spend your time on line.  Understand the relationships people have. Read job titles.  Read the summary of what people have done in those jobs.  Post articles of interest in your field.  Are you leaning towards photography?  Let people know about a cool article on the latest HDR technique.  Join groups so you will get to know those people. You can join up to 50! Ask questions; build relationships.  Too many times I see-"I need a job." or "Can you tell Mr so and so about me and send my resume."  Are you kidding me?  This isn't about you.

People hire people who will solve their business need. What is the business problem you solve?  The world does not owe you a job--but you owe yourself a job.  You are missing out on the great feeling of contribution and pride that comes from doing a great job in whatever you do.

5.  Writing!  Have a killer resume.  Your resume should include a profile or summary at the start which includes what you know as well as how you work.  For instance:  "Bi-lingual proven leader with an economic degree.  Experienced in customer service and retail financial operations.  Known for dependability and initiative."  List your experience and then your education.  Your resume should have a section on your Honors and Awards (like Dean's list), a section on Leadership (like Swim Team Captain) and a final section on Community  (participant in Relay for Life).  Your resume should stay the same but your cover letter should change to  address a particular job.  Research the firm.  Be sure your language mirrors the language of the firm.  For instance if one of their company values is entrepreneurial spirit-talk about your  experience from your record breaking Girl Scout cookie sales to the fund raising at the sorority.

And here is a bonus tip:  Take the assumptions being made about new grads to your advantage.    Summarize in your interview and cover letter something like this:  "Some people believe that new grads are so busy texting that we don't know how to work.  I do know how to work; I do know how to apply what I have learned in my jobs and I have references who will share why I am a good employee.You aren't taking a chance on me because I am a proven example of a good employee."

Okay, hope some of this helps you or a new grad.  If you want  more help for your student (you did hire him/her an SAT coach or  a soccer coach) then call me(813-920-9030).  Give a graduation gift that is an investment in your new grad.  That first job will set the stage for their future earnings.  Don't let your student be a victim.