Get a job

I wrote this a while ago, shared it recently with a young job seeker, and thought others might benefit, or have a daughter or son who would. Here are my top ten steps for getting a job.

Step #1: Figure out what you want to do. I can’t tell you what that is, but make it something you enjoy. There’s nothing worse than working with duds, accomplishing little of consequence, and having no fun.

Step #2: If you’re a humanities grad, many will say you’re fit for nothing. I say you’re fit for everything. You can research, write, talk, and analyze. Those are wonderful qualities. People at your new workplace will show you all you need to know to be able to function there.

Step#3: Get three people to act as referees. They don’t need to write a letter, just let you use their name. If a letter or a phone call is required, you can arrange that later. And, while you’re asking for that backing, see if they’ve heard of any jobs for which you might be suited.

Step#4: Use every avenue to get the word out. Join LinkedIn. Fire off tweets. Do blogs. Make a list of people you know who have jobs at places you’d like to work and contact them. Think about family members, friends or the man in the bar last week, and ask for help. You’ll be surprised how often they will help.

Step#5: Make a list of places where you’d like to work or people you’d like to work for. Then parcel them out to yourself at the rate of three or four a day and do serious research on each. You can’t just show up and hope for the best. The key in any job interview is to talk about how you will use your skills to accomplish their goals. The interview is not about you – it’s about them.

Step#6: Cast the widest possible net. Don’t assume you can just send resumes then wait for job offers. No one will reply. Knock on doors; ask to meet specific people. It’s easy for potential employers to hide behind voicemail or delete an email. Dealing with an actual body on the premises is far more difficult. You may spend a lot of time in reception areas, but if you can get a one-on-one meeting with a decision-maker or find someone who will advocate for you, then you’re way ahead of all those folks whose resume is buried in some forgotten pile.

Step#7: If you have an interview that’s a dead end, before you hang up or leave that room, ask, “Who can you recommend I can talk to about a job?” Most people will offer names just to get rid of you. Then you can say to that new contact, “So-and-so said you might have a job for me.”

Step#8: Dress for success. I know it sounds hokey, but it’s true. You don’t have to buy new outfits, but wear your best. You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Step#9: Be prepared to negotiate. I’m not a fan of unpaid internships, but what if you’re with a potential employer who says, “I want to hire you, but I just don’t have the budget right now.” If this is the place you really want to be, then say, “I’ll work free for three months. Then, if you don’t like what I’ve done, I’ll walk out the door.” If the interviewer agrees, nine times out of ten you’ll be on the payroll after one month.

Step#10: Persistence and hard work pay off. People who hire for a living pay the most attention to those who demonstrate both qualities because that individual is the most likely to be successful in life. Good luck!


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