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Landing the Right Job After College or Grad School

Preparing to Land the Right Job After College or Grad School by John Mattson As a former Director of Career Services at top universities – The Fletcher School at Tufts, The Questrom School of Business at Boston University, The Wharton School’s EMBA program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California – here are some recommendations for preparing for the right job after graduation. It's never too late to accomplish these goals as you pursue the right career tracks in life.

1. Get to know your campus career center and their career counselors. Take several career tests such as the Strong, Self-Directed Search, and/or the Myers-Briggs and discuss your results with a career counselor. Make follow-up appointments to plan career goals; speak with your academic advisor regarding coursework to complete.

2. Create a Career Matrix, consisting of 3 industries you want to work in, based upon your interests, for example: Entertainment, Automotive, and Technology. Then determine 3 jobs functions, based upon your 10 best skills, which you could perform in those industries. For example: Marketing, Management, and Finance. This Career Matrix can provide you with a framework for narrowing-down your employer targets. Plan to target at least 10 companies, or organizations, in each of your 3 industry tracks.

3. Before your Senior year, or after your first year of grad school, you should have completed at least two internships or jobs that you can add to your resume and LinkedIn profile. Cover letters and resumes should be only one page each. Most importantly, you should have a Professional Skills section on your resume, which comes directly after your name, email, and cell phone number at the top of the resume. Here you can list 6 to 9 skills that you are able to perform; you can change the skills to fit each job to which you apply. Your cover letter should focus on A) what you know about the company, B) why the company interests you, and C) why your skills are a good match.

4. Network, Network, Network! Most jobs are filled by people who have networked their way into a company. You can network with alumni from your college, professors, college staff, former employers, coworkers, family, and friends. You can also reach out to connect to professionals on LinkedIn; however, make sure you write a compelling email that indicates why you want to connect and mention what you may have in common with them, for example colleges attended, career interests, and/or hobbies.

5. In the Fall of your final year of studies, you should speak to your career counselor, your professors, and any other mentors to revisit and possibly revise your Career Matrix and target of at least 30 companies. Also, apply for jobs with city, county, state, and federal agencies as well as non-profit organizations, foundations, and universities.

6. Besides Networking, you want to learn about job opportunities through your career center’s online job board, such as Handshake, and websites such as Search by zip code, industries, and job functions. Once you see a job you like, make sure that you visit the company’s website to confirm that the position is still available. Apply online, but also identify a manager in the department in which you want to work. You should write to them, by email and/or priority mail, and let them know that you have applied online, but wanted to make sure that they had a copy of your application materials to review, as you believe that the position may report to them or a colleague. This two-pronged approach will increase your chances of getting an interview.

7. When offered an interview, you typically need to prepare for several rounds of interviews. The phone or video-call screening interview, the first in-person interview, and probably a second interview. Be sure to dress properly for all the interviews, have a list of 5 to 10 points about you and your skills that you want to mention during the interviews. Also, have a list of 3-5 questions you may want to ask interviewers.

8. Behavioral interviews are the most common type of interviews. The types of interview questions will focus on your behavior and actions in previous jobs, college activities, and/or internships. When you answer questions, remember the STAR acronym, which allows you to tell a brief story about the Situation you faced, the Tasks that you needed to complete, Actions you took to accomplish the tasks, and the Results you achieved. Talk about what you did, not what your team did on a project. End each interview with a closing statement about the duties of the job, how your skills sets are relevant to the position, and restate your keen interest in contributing value to the company.

9. Follow-up any interview with thank you emails to all the people with whom you met. Make sure to ask for their business card at the end of each interview and present your business card to them, which should have your name, cell number, link to your LinkedIn profile, and your email. You may also want to include the city and state where you live.

10. During your first six months on the job, which is often your probationary period, you want to make sure that you are fitting into the culture of the company, as you and your performance will be closely evaluated by your supervisor and other people.

1) Show-up on time to meetings; be well prepared, ask questions, practice active-listening skills, make intelligent comments.

2) Stay later at the office than your coworkers and boss.

3) Ask your supervisor if you can assist them on any projects.

4) Do not look like you are trying too hard, just be yourself and work hard.

5) When facing any challenges, ask a coworker for help, or approach your boss.

6) Socialize with coworkers over coffee, lunch, and at after-work gatherings, where you can showcase your brand and build your reputation in the firm.

7) Find a senior manager in the company who can be a mentor and who will give you advice on how to best navigate your way within the company.

8) Build a network of 10 diverse mentors outside of the company.

9) Keep track of your key accomplishments each month and review them with your supervisor, when appropriate. These key accomplishments may help you to negotiate a promotion and raise.

10) After a year in your position, begin thinking about your next career move, either within the company or with another organization.

John is a Career Coach and the CEO of in Riverside, CA

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