When you first enter the workforce (full-time, part-time or internship), looking for a gig can be an around-the-clock adventure. There may be a significant learning curve as you experiment with finding the best representation of your job seeker voice: the content and format of your cover letter and resume as well as your interview persona.
There are several mistakes that beginning job seekers often make in the process of searching for work. The following inclinations should be avoided so as not to add undue frustration (and time) to your employment quest.
Expecting that a job will automatically provide training as well as offering built-in opportunities for career advancement.
Except for the professional development opportunities afforded by the likes of companies listed on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For, most firms do not exist—in full or part—to help you build your career. A job is a job. You commit yourself to perform a bit of labor and at the end of a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly cycle you receive a paycheck in return. If you want to learn and grow during your tenure with a company, you’ll have to do that on your own time…by taking courses, attending industry events, reading books or by the proverbial keeping your nose to the grindstone (without the guidance or financial backing of your company).
Once upon a time, employers and employees may have entered into a pact to stay together. The world was made up of smaller and more isolated places back then. A manual worker over here did not have to fret too much about competition from over there. Employers had no choice but to invest time and training into the individuals working for them; likewise the employee who (usually) had a big family to support. Both sides entertained a mutual and vested interest in the success of their business.
Today, however, job changes are much more common, particularly early in a person’s working years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as cited in an article by the Wall Street Journal), 75% of workers age 16 to 19, and half between 20 and 24, have been with their current employers for under a year.
Which brings me to my second point:
Reaching out to new contacts on LinkedIn and elsewhere with an unpolished, informal approach.
Hey, how are you? My name is Tiffany. I’m looking for a job at Company X. You think I could call you some time to discuss? The recipient of this less-than-professional note of introduction is going to wonder a) if Tiffany is serious; and b) what exactly it is that Tiffany wants. When you need to reach out to a new contact—whether it be via email, phone or in person, you should try to understand who they are, what their needs are, and the reasons why they should be interested in making your acquaintance. How about addressing the following:
- What can you offer them
- What expertise can you share
- What assistance can you provide to help them reach their own professional goals?
When you merely hook up to some new contact blindly, without doing any research to understand needs or direction, there’s no way for either of you to know what elements of your background and experience will be of joint interest.
The name of the game in networking is relevance: Being able to draw a clear connection to your target and fulfilling both your aspirations in realizing solid gains.
Conducting job interviews without learning about the target company.
A combination of fear, anxiety and plain “not knowing” about interviewing often leads less-experienced job candidates to rely on the naïve assumption: “I can do this job if they just give me a chance”. They assume that because they know that they are hard-working and “nice” it will be so obviously apparent to anyone who meets with them. Such conspicuousness does not exist in the real world, however. You have to prove yourself an effective worker and attractive prospect to your target employer. You need to be more attractive than the other 10–20 candidates also being considered for the same vacant position you’ve applied to. Therefore, it is critical that you not only get to a place where you can speak intelligently about your own professional and academic accomplishments, but also feel comfortable in your knowledge of the company you’re applying to and be able to address its own challenges and goals.
The overall strategy is research. When you know the entity you’re dealing with, be it a company, an individual or an industry, you can bring insight and intelligence to your communications, both written and verbal. A career, by definition, is “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress”. Even if the meaning of a “significant period’ has changed lengthwise for the past few decades; you must still respect the rest of its meaning.