The 4 Secrets To Starting A Career After College
Even after five and-a-half years of chaos to complete my BBA, I still had zero idea of what I was going to do next — maybe that sounds familiar? Kelowna isn’t exactly a great place to start a career, but I wasn’t ready to depart from the Okanagan (if you don’t know of this place, Google it, visit it, drink the wine produced here — it will blow your mind). I felt quite content in my job as a server and hadn’t put much thought into a career at all. One day — about a month away from graduation — I decided to take a look at the job postings and found only one position that intrigued me. I applied with my resume and a cover letter. Those documents landed me a phone interview, followed by a writing assignment and face-to-face interview. Much to my surprise, I got the job. If you are interested, I work at this crazy cool place called Cheeky Monkey Media, and love every minute of it.
Recently I was asked to give some insight and guidance into what it was I did to get hired in a very competitive job market. I realize that my success in securing my current position was probably a combination of effort, timing, and luck. By no means am I an expert in the area, but I figured I would share my process — if one person was interested, maybe more are as well…
1. Know Yourself and What You Want
Not every job available will be right for you. If you want to succeed, set yourself up for success — ask yourself the questions your interviewer will ask you, and know this shit like the back of your hand:
What makes you different (these are your greatest strengths)?
I am quick on my feet, determined, resilient, personable, and a bit “weird”. (The word weird has negative connotations, but I believe this is my biggest asset, and am drawn to other weirdos. Own it.)
What type of environment do you thrive in?
I thrive in an environment that promotes individuality, creativity, and growth. I like to be trusted as an employee to do great work, and will crumble under micro-management. I aspire to always leave work happy and never struggle to get out of bed to go back.
What kind of people you work best with?
I perform best under management that leads by example and offers guidance when needed. I want to be inspired. My ideal coworkers would come from all walks of life. I want to learn from differing perspectives, work with people whose strengths balance my weaknesses, and form relationships that go beyond a typical colleague.
Are you prepared to move your life to a new location?
Today I am not prepared to move from the Okanagan, but it is a very attractive option I would be willing to look to in the future.
What are your weaknesses and how are you working on them?
I am an emotional person and I take things personally. The good thing is I know these faults. I constantly remind myself to step back, look at a situation, and think about how to react in an objective manner. Often I will ask my boyfriend if I am being too sensitive.
Of course those are just the tip of the iceberg, but by simply being aware of who you are, you will narrow down your job search significantly. More than that, you will be far more likely to get hired for a job you actually want and will enjoy. Accepting a job you aren’t right for is a waste of your time and your employer’s resources — I have learned this the hard way.
2. Know the Position and Company You Are Applying For
So, if you’ve narrowed your job hunt down and matched yourself up with companies that you can truly envision yourself working for, tell them. Don’t send out the same mass resume and cover letter to each of your prospects. They will be able to sense how much attention and effort you put into these documents, so don’t take shortcuts. From here on out everything you create, say, and do represents YOUR personal brand — again, DON’T TAKE SHORTCUTS. Let your prospects know that you know who they are, what they do, and how you can add value to their unique organization. Make them very aware that you want to work for them. Express who you are through the tone you write with. Make it personal and friendly — after all a real life human will be reading your material.
For Cheeky Monkey Media I did not write a typical cover letter. I wrote a short story that captured who I was and why I would add value to the company. I used humor, emotion, and lots of adjectives. I did this because that is how the company presents itself online. I wanted whoever was reading my cover letter to know that I would have no problem fitting into the office culture. It worked.
My resume was a bit more difficult. Because I had no prior B2B sales experience I did my best to outline how my past work experience shared certain skills needed for the job I was applying for. For example, as a server my day was filled with customer interaction, upselling certain dishes and beverages, multitasking, and staying organized - all of these capabilities are very relevant to a Sales Development Coordinator position. I did the same for three previous positions I held.
3. Interview the Interviewer
The interview process shouldn’t be a one-way interview. You should have done enough research to at least have a few questions for your interviewer. Trust me, they will appreciate it. It proves you are invested in your future and care enough to ask. If you can’t come up with any on your own, Google will come up with some for you.
Some of my questions included: Is there room for growth from the position I am applying for? Is the company growing, and where does it see itself in the next five years? How do I play a part in that? Who will I be working with directly? When does the company expect me to start meeting sales quotas? ETC.
4. Some Words from My Boss - Don’t Make ‘Em Wait
“From your writing you seemed to be somebody that would be fun to work with. Quite frankly, I don’t think I spent that much time on your resume — rather I focused on your written stuff (cover letter and writing assignment). The icing on the cake was your responsiveness to my emails and calls. When I emailed about the first phone call, you responded very quickly — you didn’t make me wait which was good. Then your phone personality did the rest.”
I am aware of the frustrations that many face when job hunting, how it seems the experience you have is never enough, and how discouraging it can become — trust me, I’ve been there. I also know securing a job you love is the most fulfilling feeling there is, but it will not come easily. Don’t get discouraged. If you end up working on a golf course, serving in a restaurant, traveling, or whatever you do before you find a position that is best for you, don’t be ashamed. Do what’s best for you, work hard, enjoy life, and soon enough all that time you spent in school will pay off.
Thanks for reading,
A previous version of this blog originally appeared on Lizzy's Medium blog.