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So, You Want to Get a Job

You’re heading into senior year ready to live up your last two semesters of college, but in the back of your mind you know you ought to start thinking about post-college employment.

To be honest, your path started long ago, years back, hopefully. The resume-building began around your freshman year, and from that point on you secured meaningful internships which slowly grew toward a career. If you really did it right, you landed an esteemed internship the summer after your junior year, you performed flawlessly, and you were offered a full time job upon graduation.

But let’s suppose you are not one of the lucky few who will be kicking back for the whole year. Let’s suppose your internships weren’t completely linear, and you took a barbacking job after sophomore year rather than something more “prestigious.” Let’s suppose you still need a job come next May. Well, from a guy who did it all wrong and had to attend graduate school because he couldn’t get a job, here’s what I learned:

1. Start Early. The longer you wait to look, the more positions that will fill. Some companies have already posted jobs for next summer. You don’t have to pour over your computer for hours at a time, but if you can spend twenty minutes a day, you’ll have a huge head start. Most people won’t heed this advice. I didn’t, and I ended up jobless. So I urge you to start now.


2. Make Connections. This is such a broad statement. On the surface, it’s entirely unhelpful, but when approached properly, this is the MOST important aspect of getting a job. The phrase “it’s all about who you know” is trite yet entirely accurate. A friend of mine who works in wealth management said that of the ten interns her company hired this summer, all of them knew somebody already working within the company. My problem when I began searching for a job was that I didn’t know anyone. Who’s fault was that? Probably mine. The good thing is, you can get to know people.

I graduated undergrad from Brown University. Far later than I should have, I discovered BrownConnect. This platform allowed me to find alumni in my field. I emailed them in the hopes of “chatting about their career path” and learned that people are surprisingly willing to help—perhaps the older generations remembered floundering like I was. The key was to be persistent. People get busy and forget to respond to their emails. If they didn’t get back to me in a week, I sent a gentle reminder. If they didn’t get back to me after three tries, well, I knew when to give up.

3. Learn From Every Connection. In conjunction with the last point: you will not get a job offer from your first connection. You won’t get a job offer from the first ten people you speak to. In fact, you might not even get a job offer from the first 50 people you speak with. But don’t consider these calls failures. Learn from each one of them; take one thing away that can help you for the future; build friendships so that you might one day reach back out. I recently got a job interview because I made an initial connection with someone through BrownConnect. They referred me to a colleague who happened to have gone to Brown as well. This person referred me to another Brown graduate who then referred me to a friend who had a job opening. If you’re wondering, I didn’t get the job, but the experience of the interview was worth having.

4. Create a List of Keywords. Just as hiring managers have a list of keywords they seek in your resume, you need a list of keywords to help narrow your search. Don’t waste your time slogging through a massive amount of job postings. Learn which words pop up frequently in your sector and use them when surfing LinkedIn or Indeed.

5. Get Help With Your Resume. It took me way too long to get help on my resume. Like way, way too long. Like I-didn’t-get-help-until-last-month long. But boy does it make a difference. Aided by my friend, I no longer “coached soccer at a summer camp in China.” I was “chosen from a pool of over 600 United States college students as 1 of 40 selected students from prestigious universities. I worked as a program leader for an intensive English-immersion summer camp in 3 major Chinese cities writing curriculums for daily coaching sessions in tennis, swimming, soccer, and English for the Chinese children attending the camp. I showcased fundamental public speaking skills by leading 16 children per session ranging from ages 5-12.”

This isn’t cheating. This isn’t even embellishing. It’s simply being artistic. You might know the basic rules for a resume—keep all verbs past tense, don’t use the word “I” (I only did here so it read properly), put work experience in chronological order—but there are other things to learn, like formatting and the order of headlines and the types of phrases companies want to see. Many schools offer free resume help. I urge you to accept it. A good resume makes all the difference on an application.

Credit: University of Idaho

6. Attend Job Fairs. The best way to make connections is in person. I never went to any job events in undergrad and look how that turned out for me—not well, to say the least. It’s so much easier to sit on your comfy sofa playing FIFA, but if you really want a job, dress sharp and head to that one-hour job fair.

7. Keep Trying. I offer this last piece of advice because at some point, you’re bound to get depressed. Unless you’re exceptionally gifted, you’re going to get rejected, and probably a lot. Between internship and job applications, I’ve been rejected over a hundred times in the last few years. Sure, I don’t have the most experience in the field, and sure, there are always going to be more qualified people out there, but I knew I would do a good job if someone gave me the chance. Yet no one seemed to want to. It got depressing, but I realized I had two options: give up, or keep trying.

I don’t even know what the first one would entail. Climbing into bed and laying there until I became petrified? Telling my parents I’d be living in their basement for the next fifty years and they’d need to feed me? Jumping into the ocean and swimming until I reached the Caribbean where I’d start a new life? I don’t know, but I did know that I wouldn’t be choosing the first option. That meant I had to pick option two: keep trying. If you care enough, if you work hard, people will recognize that and will give you a chance.

All I have to say now is good luck. Oh, and have fun. You’re only a senior once… unless you fail your classes in which you might be a senior for two or three years. But try to avoid that.

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