Since kicking off my career a year ago, I have been asked countless times how I landed a salary paying job. People think it was easy for me or that I was lucky, or possibly a suck-up. I certainly had some luck, and I may have done a little sucking up, but landing a great job was certainly not easy.
I was patient and proactive.
Set Goals and Have a Clear Vision
Before you start job searching you have to know what it is you want in a job (I know this is easier said than done). But, blindly applying to any and every entry-level job isn’t the right approach. What happens when you are asked, why do you want this job? Where do you see yourself in five years? If your vision and goals don’t match up to the employers, you’re not going to get past the first conversation. Oh… and “I’m up for whatever” is not an answer.
Do Your Research
If you need help clarifying what type of job you are after, do your research. Use social media. Search LinkedIn for people with 1-2 years experience in your desired field. What are their titles? Search for companies that you are interested in working with. Find their employees on Twitter or LinkedIn. What are their past experiences, titles and how long have they worked there? See what you need to do to be qualified for that position.
Once you’ve found a few people that have the job you want ask them to lunch, coffee or for an informational interview. Tell them you are new to the field and you’d love to pick their brain about working in the industry. Please don’t tell them you are desperately looking for a job (that only turns people off).
When you meet with them, ask them about themselves. Don’t blab about yourself. Some great questions:
o How long have you worked for XYZ Company?
o What do you like about your job?
o What advice would you give to yourself five years ago?
o How did you get started working in this industry?
o Do you like your co-workers?
o What quality do you value in your colleagues?
The key is to continuously network. Follow-up and email anyone that you’ve ever met in the industry. Ask them if they know of any openings. Thank your coffee dates for their time and remind them that you’re interested in any opportunities they might know of in the field. You never know when a job opportunity may arise at their company.
We’ve all heard about the benefits of internships. You may have already done one or two. They are the best way to exhibit your skills.
I did FIVE internships. Yes, five. I started the first summer after my freshman year of college. I wanted to make sure PR was the right path for me. After one internship abroad and multiple unpaid opportunities, I ended up taking an internship in Austin after graduation. Of course, I wanted a salary paying job right off the bat, but the business world is just so dang competitive nowadays and that is not always possible. You need to get your foot in the door.
Tip: Don’t ask if there is potential to be hired at the end of the internship. Make it clear to your hiring manager that you are in the process of looking for a job. Say you are interested in the experiences you’ll gain at this company, but will be keeping your eye open for other opportunities since you’re in the market for a full-time position.
Find a Mentor
When I started my internship in Austin, my goal was to get hired as a full-time employee, but I had a lot to prove. On the PR team, there was a lot of talent. I was extremely lucky to have a team that took me under their wing. They realized I was eager to learn and this wasn’t just another resume-builder for me. I was there to prove myself worthy. All of the team members significantly impacted my growth as a PR professional, and I am beyond grateful.
My advice would be to find a mentor in your industry. It could be someone from your internship; it could be a person you’ve networked with or a second party that has your best interest at heart. You need someone who knows the ropes, and can help guide your career.
Work Your Ass Off
Ask your boss what he or she is looking for from a successful intern and then execute on that. Prove yourself. Be quick, competent and concise. Show up early and leave late. Speak up. Take initiative. Go the extra mile.
Don’t be pushy, but if you feel like you’ve grown at an internship, be bold and ask how you can find a permanent spot on the team. Ask if it is a possibility and if so, ask what you can do to prove yourself worthy.
Always, Maddi B.