So you’ve graduated and your last four years of classes, exams and essays seem exciting next to trying to find your first job. Your resume is blank aside from some previous retail or serving stints, and you don’t know where to start.
Sound familiar? If so, fret not, I was once there too, and there’s also a whole lot more who are in your exact position. The good thing is, you’re just a stepping stone away from building the next layer of bricks to your foundation, of creating your career and hopefully one day, your dream job/position/role.
Here are a handful of tips that I learned along the way that I hope will provide some helpful tips:
Go get experience. Period. Unfortunately, an education is no longer a competitive advantage, it’s table stakes. Employers care about the skills you’ve acquired in past jobs that can be transferred and leveraged for your their company’s objectives. Don’t have any? If you’re still in school, do a co-op program. If not, suck it up and do an internship or volunteer. Everyone has to start somewhere. The value when you’re starting off is not the money – it’s the experience.
Brands matter. The fastest way you can make yourself appear credible is align yourself with credible brands. Try to volunteer or intern at companies that are well known in the industry you want to get in to.
Leverage what you’re naturally good at. Generally speaking, people tend to enjoy doing what they are good at. If you’re an extrovert, creative and artsy, you probably don’t want to invest in a career full of analytics and numbers. Also, understand that “glamourous” jobs are not what they appear to be. Every girl wants to be a fashion buyer, dreaming of a work day full of fashion shows and picking out pretty dresses. Research, and ask around and you’ll be surprised that buying consists of 70% number crunching.
Be realistic. Shoot for the stars, why not, but be realistic at the same time. No, simply writing down what you want and chanting positive affirmations taught in The Secret will not score you that killer job and high pay. Set your goals and break it down in to steps on how to get there and understand that it takes time to build. I’ve noticed that when someone asks me about career advice and I ask what they field they want to get in to, the answer is either Marketing or Fashion. If you’re in Vancouver, I have to caution you – the ratio between the amount of jobs in these fields compared to those applying is quite vast. I’m not saying to give up your marketing dreams, I’m in marketing myself, but be open to explore other industries and roles. Check out Monster.ca and other job sites to know what’s on the market, what jobs are in abundance and other fields out there that you may never even thought of.
It’s who you know. Networking matters. People knowing who you are, liking you, referring you and thinking about you when an opportunity comes up is something that can open big doors. Being a likeable person and an effective networker is not something you’re born with – it’s an acquired skill that takes practice and reflection. Meet people with the thought of “what can I do to help this person” versus, “what can I get” and you’ll be amazed at how people gravitate towards you. Or, get a mentor to get you jump started. The Forum of Women Entrepreneurs have a popular mentorship program.
Support. There are many organizations out there that can be a valuable resource for you. YWIB (Young Women in Business) is a network that connects young women from a variety of careers and industries. They have an upcoming event called Beyond Pink on Nov. 19 – 20, a two day conference where 250 females will listen to a line up of successful business people, network, and take away real world skills.
Dress the part. How you present yourself matters. Dress for the part you want. Don’t dress like you’re going to a nightclub and don’t wear fake eyelashes or 4-inch pumps. Don’t wear flip flops, loungewear, yoga wear (unless you work at Lululemon) or sittin-on-the-couch wear. Don’t pitch your voice squeaky high and end every statement like you’re asking a question. Why? Because that makes you look unsure and not confident. Instead, exude confidence and if you don’t got it, just fake it like you know what you’re doing (hey, many of us are still just faking it half the time anyway!). Stand tall and try to stay calm.
There you go, that’s what I’ve picked up along the way in a nutshell. I’m not a career counselor nor do I know the secret recipe for getting the dream job. But, what I do know is that reading a ton of books on human behavior, sales and marketing and writing down goals with plans on how to achieve them has helped me. I can’t take all the credit, I owe it to a lot of people who helped open doors for me along the way, and I’m extremely grateful for my supportive community. But that, takes time, effort and energy to build too, and if you are sensed as insincere, a social climber, a name dropper or a wannabe, people usually will stay away from you pretty darn quickly. So be nice, offer value, and do random acts of kindness and service. Vancouver is small, so watch what you gossip (and mean things you say on your social media networks) and a big no no to drunk club pics for the world wide web to see!
Happy job hunting!