Job-hunting season is almost upon us. I know the future seems scary, and all the uncertainty is sickening. Hopefully these tips will help you avoid some of the mistakes I made when I went through the process last year.
- Leverage existing connections. You went to all those networking events, collected those business cards, and kept in touch with those people for a reason. There's nothing wrong with shooting someone a quick note to say hello and ask them to keep an ear out for any positions coming available in the near future. The more eyes and ears you have on the prowl, the greater your chances of finding something.
- Keep your business to yourself. When my first few interview requests started rolling in, I was so excited that I told EVERYONE. Before I knew it, I had a trillion people calling me everyday asking if I'd heard back from this job or that one. And then, when the rejection emails started rolling in (because they will), and I wasn’t so excited, I had a trillion people to call and inform that I didn't make the cut. Listen, job hunting is stressful. And the more people you involve in the process, the more stressful it becomes. Find 1-3 good friends, mentors, or family members that can help you stay sane. As far as everyone else, just notify them when you get that offer (because you will).
- Don’t measure yourself by anyone else's standards. If I've learned nothing else this year, it's that everyone isn't built the same. What may seem impossible to one person, may be cake for you…and vice versa. I had so many people tell me that my salary expectations were unrealistic for an advertising major. My gut (and my research) kept telling me I wasn't crazy and that my goal was attainable, but for months I allowed everyone else's opinions to trump what I knew to be true. Ultimately, I ended up with 3 offers, all of which exceeded my expectations and proved everyone wrong. My point is that if you have a goal you feel is attainable, go for it. Don't allow other people to get in your head and cause you to question your greatness. Just because they can't fathom it, doesn't mean you can't do it.
- BUT Beggars can't be choosers. At the beginning of my job search, I had all kinds of stipulations…but no job, or even job prospects for that matter. If I came across an opportunity that didn't measure up to my conditions, I simply wouldn't apply. Dumb. Anywho, one day I was talking to a friend about all the criteria my future job had to meet and he quickly brought me back to Earth. If you have 8 different job offers on the table, by all means, nitpick all you want. But until you have something, you (literally) cannot afford to be Picky Patty and sit up on your high horse waiting for your dream job to fall out of the sky. Every interview, whether you want the job or not, is a valuable experience.
- Be self-aware. About 2 months out from graduation, I started to feel discouraged. I had had at least 10 different interviews and no offers on the table at that point. Did I expect to get an offer from every company that interviewed me? No, but 0-10 is a pretty sucky record. Rather than passively sitting back and shrugging the denials off, I decided that I was the common denominator in the equation and something needed to change. I sought advice from HR professionals and asked them to do mock interviews with me so that they could critique my interview style and offer suggestions on how to improve.
- Do your finance homework. Finding a job where you're going to grow and thrive is more important than making a whole lot of money starting out. But at the end of the day, a girl's gotta eat. My first job offer gave me the option to move to either Chicago or Boston. I knew I wasn't going to be joining The Money Team living in a big city with what they offered, so I wanted to make sure I was as well-informed, prepared and financially literate as possible. Two of my favorite money resources during my job search were CNN Money's Cost of Living (COL) calculator and ADP's Take Home Pay estimator. The CNN calculator allows you to input a salary and compare between 2 locations. For example, if I currently live in Columbia, SC and am planning to move to Chicago, IL, using the CNN COL calculator would tell me what my Chicago salary would need to be in order to maintain the same standard of life I had in Columbia. The ADP estimator is wonderful because it tells you what you really want to know - how much you'll actually bring home after Uncle Sam, your 401k, and benefits take their cut
- Ask questions. Sometimes we get so caught up in landing a job that we forget about everything that comes afterward. Like, the fact that we actually have to go to this place, stay there and do work for 40 hours a week. For that reason, interviews are a two way street - not only is the company interviewing you; you're also interviewing them. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions. Of course the company is going to sell you on its highlights, but as a potential employee, you have every right to know the lowlights too. My favorite things to ask in interviews are my interviewer's least favorite parts about the job/company, their take on the company's biggest weakness + what's being done to correct it, and what are the realistic opportunities for growth should I get the position.
- Almost nothing goes as planned, and sometimes life is better that way. It's great to have plans, but know that the world isn't ending if those plans go awry. Trust me. There'll be bloopers and unexpected scene changes along the way, but those changes will open your eyes to new lessons and possibilities, if you let them.