I’ve been wanting to write about career-related topics for awhile now, but have never made the jump. My career is something that is extremely important to me and drives many of my life choices. I love attending events, networking, and reading more about business and entrepreneurship. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years of college, and even from when I was a teenager and had multiple businesses. So why not share this knowledge I’ve gained?
In this post I want to discuss the proper and improper ways of landing your first job out of college. Or landing a job even if you didn’t attend college! The idea of graduating and moving right into a job can be daunting, and for most people it doesn’t even work out that way. Many people are trying to scrap together interviews months after graduating, hoping some employer will hire them. I’m gonna give you some advice on how to avoid that rat race because I don’t think anyone wants to graduate not knowing where they’re going to be, what they’re going to be doing, or, most importantly, how they are going to be surviving with minimal or no income.
I want to start off by saying something so important. YOU MAKE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES. This is the biggest lesson I have learned throughout college and the beginning of my career. You can’t just wait for people to come to you and hand you what you want. There are few people that are lucky enough to be recruited into companies, but for the most part you need to seek these companies out. By seeking companies out I don’t mean simply hitting “submit” at the end of a job application and attaching your resume. This is the biggest mistake people make when trying to get hired. When you simply submit your resume on LinkedIn or a job-hunting site, your resume is getting lost in hundreds or thousands of applications. Nothing you do can or will stand out. You’re leaving it up to an algorithm to parse through key words on your resume and possibly spit it back to HR, IF you’re lucky. So if you want to have a job when you graduate, DO NOT depend on applying for jobs in this manner. Just don’t do it.
The key to anything in your career is simple. It’s networking. It’s who you know and how you know them. After all, we are all humans and looking to form genuine relationships. For this reason, someone is more likely to hire you when they have a personal relationship with you and can put a face to a name. Your face and personality is more likely to be remembered than some random words squeezed onto a piece of paper. People want to hire people that they like and want to surround themselves with in a work environment. You really can’t pick up on this through words written in Times New Roman font. So even if you submit a resume to a job posting and have everything that employer needs, that employer is more likely to hire someone they’ve met before and know they vibe with rather than someone they only know through a piece of paper.
Hopefully you understand what I mean by the importance of forming personal relationships. For this reason, when finding your first job, rather than putting all of your effort into applying to jobs online, go out and make your presence known. Attend local events in the area, job fairs, and even happy hours. I find all of the events that I attend on Eventbrite or Facebook. On Eventbrite you can filter through events by your city, keywords, and the range of dates. Sign up for events you are interested in attending, even if you don’t end up going. You are often added to the email list of the company hosting that event, a way to receive exclusive opportunities that could lead to a job. However, you should make an effort to attend most of these events in order to meet new people and grow your connections. You never know who you will talk to and what they could be looking for. When meeting new people at these events be sure to always follow up with a LinkedIn request and personal message. After forming this important connection, you will automatically come to their mind when they are recommending people for a position or hiring someone new.
So now you may be wondering, well, what if I HATE networking and talking to new people? I hate to tell you, but if you want to be successful in life then this is just something you need to get over. If you hate networking and avoid it at all cost, you are holding yourself back from growing in your career. This could mean never getting hired for a position that you love or never moving up in the company you currently work for. Believe it or not, going into college I also hated networking and introducing myself to new people. I would get so nervous that I’d make myself sick, but I stilled forced myself to do it because I KNEW I had to. 5 years later and it is much less daunting and has given me so many great opportunities (80% of them if we are being honest). Once you keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, it will feel normal and become second nature to you. I used to shake and stutter at these events because my nerves would overcome me. But never the less, I persisted in my networking endeavors and look where I am now!
With all great things in life, you need to work hard and push yourself past your points of comfort in order to achieve your goals. Do you think the woman who is CEO of her dream company stays inside, scared to go to industry events? Of course not! She is out pitching her business to investors, meeting top talent all over her city, and sharing her ideas with complete strangers.
Do you think the student who landed his or her perfect internship at a huge technology company earned it by watching Netflix every night? No! These successes take hard work and determination, and often cannot be achieved without putting yourself out there, talking to new people, and learning new skills.
So now for those of you looking for a job, specifically those still in college, start the hunt NOW. So many students wait until the last two months of school to start looking for jobs. This is a terrible move. Programs specifically designed for new graduates are already filled way before this point. The fall before graduation is the most critical time to be accepted into these programs. These post-grad programs are your best shot at landing a more-than-ideal first job. They are designed to slowly transition you into the company culture and expect for you to not yet be accustomed to the 9-5 life, leaving lots of room for you to learn from your mistakes. Not only this, but most programs are a guaranteed two years with many opportunities to network, grow your skills, and gain amazing experiences. Prioritize these programs when applying for jobs!
Throughout college I had many different internships, ranging from internships in marketing to fashion to information technology. I landed my second internship at a social media company from my cousin’s girlfriend. Networking! I landed my third internship by attending an event hosted by my school’s Career Center and introducing myself to the speakers. Networking! I landed my fourth internship by attending my school’s career fair and introducing myself to the company’s recruiters and then following up by connecting with them on LinkedIn. Networking! See a pattern?
Lastly, I earned my current job as a software engineer in Capital One’s Developer Academy by attending a Women in Tech Demo Days sponsored by Capital One. I signed up for this hackathon on Eventbrite, paying the $10 required fee to participate, and showed up to the event for a few hours. I distinctly remember almost not attending this event because my cousin was also in the city that day and I wanted to meet up with her. However, I still went because I knew it would help me transition to a job in technology after college. Little did I know I would meet a recruiter form Capital One and she would introduce me to CODA, a program designed to train post-graduates with an interest in tech (but no coding background required) to become software engineers for the company. Shortly after meeting her I began the interviewing process and eventually was offered the job. If I had never attended this event and met this recruiter, I would not have the amazing job I do today. I am being paid a full-time salary to learn to code! Does it get any better than that!?
Not only did I not even know about this program before attending this event, but if I did, my resume would’ve just been sitting in Capital One’s system with thousands of other applicants. If I had not formed this personal relationship with this recruiter, I would’ve been surpassed for the position along with everyone else who simply submitted their resume through LinkedIn. Now I have an engineering job for the next two and a half years with an amazing company, being paid to learn and grow in my technology skills.
If you’ve taken anything away from this post, I hope it’s the importance of networking and forming personal relationships with people. You never know who you can meet until you put yourself out there. Nobody gets anywhere by closing themselves off from all of the endless opportunities available in the world. So go on Eventbrite, find some events that interest you, and take the initiative to go! You never know the opportunities that could come from simply showing up.