College seniors – the time for your career is now!

Attention College Seniors! I know you don’t believe me, but the time for your career is RIGHT NOW.

It’s August, you say. We’re buying books, going to parties and figuring out how to fit classes into our busy social lives.  Isn’t August beer time?

Ok, enough stereotype.  Truth is, just as many of you are holding down several jobs, juggling family and working toward your graduation where you will stand and show the world what you earned.

I’ve talked with many seniors who don’t want to plan for their career until after graduation when they start job searching.  After all, isn’t career planning all about updating your resume and applying for jobs by the dozen? This has to be how to do it, especially now that the national unemployment rate is down from last year and several employment sites such as Indeed, CareerBuilder and Monster are trending growth in leads posted. Anecdotal feedback from the front lines indicates companies are projecting growth. They are posting leads. They are interviewing. They are networking. And they are hiring the people who have worked hard to be ready to be hired.

So what hard work are you doing to be ready?

You may not have that degree until next spring, but read below for 5 things you can do in less than 5 hours to make sure you land where you want to be once that degree is yours.

First and foremost, Spend an hour honing your stump speech

Politicians have talking points – so should you. You need to know your strengths and a bit about the industry where you want to work. This should be a well-rehearsed 30 to 60 second pitch about where you want to go and should solicit advice when appropriate.

Three things to remember about this networking intro:

–       Keep it simple, focused: Name, degree, experience/relevant expertise, open-ended advice question.   Example: “Hi, I’m Jason Ortega and I’ll be graduating next year with my Bachelor’s in Communications. My passion is PR and I also excel in writing and editing. I write for our school paper and wrote a media plan for XYZ Company in my internship last year. What are your thoughts on what I can do to prepare for the professional communications market next spring?”

–       Hone this speech, and use it daily with professors and classmates, in networking associations and fall career fairs, and even in line in at your local coffee roaster.  Adapt it, make it conversational and make it yours.  Then start talking to people.

–       Listen and engage.  Listen to the responses and internalize what they mean for you and how you can implement relevant suggestions.

Doing this will help you meet someone to help you with the next thing you can do for your career…which is have coffee or tea with someone who can help you develop and hone your pitch and start talking – and listening – to others about your career.

While it really is that easy to get started, it is also a little daunting figuring out your best path to your career and going about finding the people who you think can have a great impact on your career.

That’s why Step 2 is easier – and makes things a little less formal.

While it may seem counterintuitive that you should relax with a beverage of your choosing (I suggested a couple, but you probably know of a few more…), that is exactly what you should do next to take charge of your career and maximize your results.

No, I’m not suggesting that you go and have a coffee to think about your career.  Thinking is good, but you need to interact. The point is this – you need to set some informational interviews.

Informational interviews are short meetings (to respect the time of the person you are interviewing) where you gather information about successes and suggestions on paths you may consider when making your own career plans.  That’s it – plain and simple.

Look at your pitch and identify your goals.  Now make a list of 3-5 people that accel in the field that are in your immediate circle of influence and who you admire and invite them to coffee.  You want to be an engineer?  Great!  Who in your circle may be a good person to invite for a 15-20 minute meeting to learn more about how they are successful?  A professor? A top classmate? The guy you met at the career fair who told you about future opportunities? Your local IEEE membership?

I love this brief informational interview article over at the New York Times on informational interviewing.  For a more in-depth look, go over to the Quint Careers site as they pretty much lay it out from start to finish.

This is probably one of the easiest things you can do to begin to identify some of the ways that you can be successful in your career.  Take the stories of others and identify what works for them.  Think about what you’d like to incorporate for you.  And then go and do that.

Step 3 of the 5 things you can do in 5 hours for your career right now is coming soon… make sure you are ready!

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The Courage to Do What You Want

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately.

There isn’t a lot of talk about courage in your career, but it is one of the foremost places where you need to have it.  Careers require stamina, hard work (yes, actually following up and doing the work instead of delegating or assuming someone else will handle it), risk and tenacity.  Many of the workplace advice articles I read have catchy titles about dealing with difficult co-workers, how to get a raise and advance your career and how to land that new opportunity all boil down to one thing: you need courage.

Even my own mantra about being a “marketeer” and building and selling your brand requires it.

What courage will you show today?

The courage to question and not accept everything that is told to you in meetings or by your boss.  If you even think you know of a better way – a    different way – question the process and suggest an alternative.

The courage to do the right thing – especially when someone is doing the wrong thing.  At the core, you know the right thing to do – for you, for your business and your career.  Don’t waver.

The courage to make things happen.  Compelling work doesn’t just happen, it is cultivated.  You can procrastinate, put off, slack, do a half-job and accomplish mediocre “wins” by just showing up.  To truly drive your work, you need to think, plan and most importantly – follow through.  That voice in your head that says, “I’ll just do this tomorrow?”  Shut it up by taking action and not thinking about it.

Most importantly, I wish for you the courage to do what you want. This does not mean sitting in front of your TV with a bag of Doritos.  Specifically, this means that when you get up in the morning you are making the conscious choice to want to do what you have to do.  It is a choice you make daily.

The Holiday Hiaitus (and why you shouldn’t take one)

The halls are decked and the shops are packed.  Job seekers everywhere are uttering the phrase, “I’ll just wait until the new year – no one is hiring through the holidays, anyway.”  Truth is, many major companies have begun to shut own recruiting efforts to close out the calendar year.  Well, maybe.

The real truth is that just as many companies are still looking to hire now.

Here are 3 compelling ways to continue searching during the season:

Network, network, network

Holiday happy hours and parties abound in the professional association scene.  This is an ideal time to go out and meet and greet as many people as you can.  Also, you may catch some members you’ve missed who have come out to celebrate.  Can’t afford to attend?  Contact the meeting host or president and ask for a guest pass or one-time discounted rate.  Offer to help out in return.  Then, practice your pitch before you go.  Think less sales-y and self-promotion and more toward sharing stories and how you can help others.

Apply Now! 

Chances are, your competition is taking a holiday hiatus.  This means that your error-free, tailored resume has a better chance of being seen by a recruiter.  This doesn’t mean you should apply for everything you see, but that you should continue to look and apply for those well-suited opportunities.  It also means that you can follow up a little bit sooner with the recruiter as they are trying to get positions filled before the new year.

Pay it Forward

Taking the time to volunteer is always a good idea.  One of the added benefits during the holiday season is that in addition to helping to pay it forward and giving back to your community, you will also be more likely to meet a different group of people than some of the  volunteers who regularly work throughout the year.  Also, it is important to note that you are taking the time to make a difference in someone’s life.  Sometimes we need to hear that when job search motivation and personal confidence is low.

No matter what your job search situation is during the holiday season, know that there is something out there for you.  Don’t lose hope and if I can help you in any way, please let me know!