Over the past few years as the economy has gotten tighter, I receive up to three inquiries a week from job seekers new to the workforce or in the limbo after their first “real” jobs. These young professionals are all working towards the same goal – full-time employment. I applaud this new generation of the workforce for working at temp jobs, part-time gigs and almost anything that will keep them afloat. In our nation’s capitol, it’s especially trying for the younger crowd to meet rent, food and entertainment quotas on hourly wages. I’m especially sensitive to their plight as I came to DC in the 90’s with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket, a suit, resume, borrowed car and a backpack. It all built character!
On the long trek to where I am now, a small business owner with big business clients, there is comfort in 20/20 hindsight. So here is the limited wisdom that I impart job seekers here in DC and anywhere else in the US. I’m always happy to add to this list of highlights, so feel free to drop a line or a comment and add on.
1. Get connected. Even academics say so – there is a new study out confirming that it’s all about who you know. It’s very true. I got one of my first jobs because a CEO recognized my drive and skills through our interactions in a networking organization. If you want to be in a certain industry i.e. government, marketing, technology, then the best bet is to find networking opportunities and dig in. I tell most people to go find a Meetup.com group and start there. Are you shy and don’t know what to say when you get there? Just remember that not everyone knows each other and you’re not the odd man out. There are always new faces at every event.
2. Speaking of not knowing what to say…I always advise developing a 10-30 second statement about who you are in case someone asks. The worst scenario is not being able to sell yourself! So get a few sentences together that tell your story and what you’re looking for, then practice in the mirror. Memorize. The next time someone asks, “what do you do?” it won’t be paralyzing.
3. Use new online tools and clean up the old ones. Take down or make beer pong FB pics from college private in some way. If you have a Twitter stream and its personal then you might want to lock it. LinkedIn is generally for the over 35 crowd and this is *good*. It’s where seasoned pros and decision makers dwell online. You want to be found here, so put up your full resume and give yourself a title. I’m “communications strategist” as it’s really a broad explanation of what I do. Simple.
4. Get feedback on your resume from people in and outside of your field. A few perspectives never hurt. Watch the grammar and punctuation – they really do count. Create an eye-catching cover letter that shows who you are and how you bring value to their business.
5. Finally, don’t be afraid to be unique. For example, I had one of the best interviews with someone who described an antique tea pot collection in the “interests” section of their resume. In addition to her great skills, it showed that she was well rounded. She got hired.