26 May Shit, I Graduated. Now What?
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects 1,791,000 students at the bachelor’s degree level will graduate as the college Class of 2013.
Let me write it for you in long form just in case you missed that number. There are ONE MILLION, SEVEN HUNDRED AND NINETY ONE THOUSAND people graduating from College in 2013 in the U.S.
That’s a shit ton of competition. So you start looking for a job, except there is one problem: Looking for a job sucks.
Four things you never say when looking for a job out of college
- I don’t need to know why I didn’t get accepted for the job. It’s none of my business.
- Please don’t email me back for a few weeks at a time. I love being uninformed.
- I wonder what their 401k package is like.
- I will only get a job I’m passionate about and aligns with my values.
No, really. What the **** should I be doing with my career?
Before I dive into figuring out what to do with your life, let’s go over all the things that other people say to you that make you want punch a dolphin in the face.
“What kind of job do you want?”
I want a job that gets paid to punch you in the face. Is that a real job?
Why don’t you work at X company? I hear they are hiring.
Well, holy shitballs captain obvious! Why didn’t I think of that before? Let me just walk into the NYTimes office right now, pick my desk and let them know I’ll be starting next monday. Thank you for that life changing comment.
I don’t know about you, but when I was graduating college, the only thought that crossed my mind was:
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted a great job too. I wasn’t going to just pick the company that paid me the most money. However, my first goal was to figure who in the hell was going to pay me in the first place.
Once I figured out who was going to pay me salary, THEN I can figure out what job is better for me. I needed options and I needed them fast.
This guide will teach you how to get a competitive advantage in your job search, starting from job applications all the way to salary negotiations.
Dealing with depression
This is the feeling you will have when looking for a job and haven’t found anything yet.
There is nothing worse than your talent-less, slept through class, never did an extracurricular activity roommate getting a great job before you do. This is your first lesson.
LIFE ISN’T FAIR, AND FINDING A JOB IS EVEN WORSE.
Deal with it. It won’t be the first time this happens, and trust me it will happen 20 more times as you progress through your career.
The one thing I always advocate is to keep your options open. If you think it’s going to be easy finding a job, you are sadly mistaken.
To quote the awesome Best Western’s blog:
Girl, you must be trippin’ if you thought this process was going to be easy.
Application & Interviewing
I generally hate the word “apply” because applications never really work unless you applying for college. In this section, I tried to make as little assumptions as possible and guide you through every situation that would happen to you.
Where to Start?
- Identify 3-5 companies that you want to work for.
- Figure out when they are coming on campus
- Do research about them on their website and about the position they are looking for
- Talk to them at the job fair
- Give them your résumé, and wish for the best
That’s great advice, but it assumes one small, minor thing.
It assumes you KNOW WHAT THE F*** YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE.
I was going to use a picture for this one, but I already used the Spongebob one and I would hate to use the same image twice.
My advice is below in the form of “pro-tips.”
Your Goal: Get as many first round interviews as possible even for companies that you know you will never work at. It makes sense for many reasons which I mention later in this guide.
Do not turn down an interview ever. I feel like I have to repeat myself with this. Even if it’s for a job you know you will never do. Do not turn it down. Take the interview.
It’s a numbers game. The more options you have up front, the more options you will end up with. Once you have options, then you can be picky and start targeting.
EXPECT A LOT OF REJECTION. You will be rejected often. Except it’s the worst type of rejection. A rejection where they don’t tell you to your face that they aren’t going to give you an interview. It will come in a letter and in most cases, they won’t tell you anything at all. You will just sit around wondering why you never got a call back or even an email.
DO NOT get jealous of other people who got interviews or job offers at your “dream company.” This is a tough pill to swallow. Someone you know, that you believe is a lot less qualified than you got an interview or even a job offer for a company that you would cut off your left leg to be part of. This will happen and you can’t let this type of thing get in the way of your goal. This is life and this is just the start of your career. If you get mad at something like this, just wait until you get a real job. It only gets worse, trust me.
Campus Hiring Fair
A campus hiring fair is when companies come on campus to meet potential college hires. The bigger the school, the bigger the campus fair.
For anyone in college, this is a MUST to go to regardless even if you are a freshman on campus.
Generally the process goes like this:
- University advertises date of campus fair(s)
- Each company gets a personal booth
- On the day of the fair, students approach the booth’s with their résumé
- Each student has a talk with a person representing the company and review their résumé. Usually the conversation lasts 2-5 minutes.
- At the end of the conversation, they will usually tell you to apply for the job on their website or campus website
- If the conversation went well, you will eventually hear back from them to set up an interview
How to get a competitive advantage
If you only get 2-5 minutes with someone from the company, how in the world are you supposed to get a competitive advantage? This person doesn’t even know who you are. How do they even make decisions on who gets through.
There are some ways to get a competitive advantage that aren’t that clear to you.
The way to get a competitive advantage is to get to a face to face meeting with the recruiters who are in charge of the booth before the campus fair officially starts.
How? Many of these companies will hold a meet and greet the day before the on campus interviews start. 100% attend these meetings and get to know them and make sure they get to know you (which is the most important). These are usually smaller meetings and you will get to know them. Attend, be-friend, repeat.
REPEAT THIS TEN TIMES: ATTEND, BE-FRIEND, REPEAT
Anytime there is an opportunity to meet anyone from your desired company: ATTEND, BE-FRIEND, REPEAT.
Don’t try to convince a recruiter you are qualified for the job. Instead, convince them that you would be a great person to work with. I say this because they can generally tell right away if you are qualified for the job based off your résumé. The next question they ask themselves is if they can picture themselves working with you. Spend your energy on the relationship.
Attend, Be-Friend, Repeat. Whomever is the most consistent wins. Face time wins. The more they see you, the more they like you, and the more likely they will WANT you to work for the company.
Attend every single job fair that you can. The more they see you the better it is for you
Get professional help for your résumé. Seriously. Don’t do it on your own.
Use thick paper for your résumé. When a recruiter see’s 100’s of people a day, this will make you stick out. I’m still amazed that college students will just print it out on normal paper.
You’re in line, waiting to talk to a recruiter / representative at the booth
- You have done the bare minimum research on the company. You know what they do.
- You grabbed a pamphlet from their booth before you spoke with them.
Your First Goal: Get them to talk as much as possible. Seriously. The more they talk, the better for you. The more you talk, the bigger chance that you are going to f*** it up, and the better chance that they will like you more.
Find something in common between you and the recruiter QUICK. Take charge of the conversation.
Read this Forbes Article. It explains it better than I can.
People love talking about themselves especially their university alumni.
Sample Questions to establish relationship quickly.
You: Are you an alumnus of X university? (This question is your first attempt to get them to talk about themselves or their company. This is also your first attempt to see what you two have in common. Believe it or not, the less you talk, the better for you).
You: Do you happen to know X person? He graduated along the same time you did and works at the same company. (Again, this gets them talking even if they don’t know the person)
The Perfect Strategy
- Establish a Relationship
- Establish credibility (you are qualified to work at X company)
- Discuss next steps
What are they writing on the back of your résumé?
Man, did I hate this. I would pay money just to see what they wrote on the back of my résumé. Were they drawing giraffe’s? Were they ranking me on a scale of 1 to 10?
All that you need to know is that they are writing down a bunch of notes of what you are saying, but most importantly, they are writing down whether they like you or not.
Remember: They are just a filter. Their main goal is to get as many good candidates through the door. They know that the company will take care of the rest (background checks, more grueling interviews, etc.).
Get their names or business cards
Follow up a few hours later via email around 5/6pm. They usually pass back their decisions on who gets an interview that night or the night after. Make sure you get in one last “thank you so much” email.
The unfortunate truth
- Your GPA must be above a 3.0. If it isn’t you are a distinct disadvantage. This doesn’t mean you aren’t as smart as everyone else, it just means you’re at a distinct advantage
- The better the recruiter knows you, the more likely you are to advance
- The more similar you are to the recruiter (work history, major, organization memberships), the more likely you are to advance.
- It’s a numbers game. For every 20 companies that don’t like you, there will be 1 company that does like you. The more relationships you make, the better chance you have
What you need to know
- Assume that the hiring manager has no notes from any of the previous discussions and all they have is your résumé. All they know is that you passed the first round of interviews. What about the notes on the back of your résumé? Isn’t this why they took those notes? Ahh, yes. Welcome to big company land where not all information is transferred.
In Person Interview
What You Should Know
The one thing you should know is that the interview starts as soon as you walk into the company building. The secretary, the janitor, the receptionist, and even the people walking by you who already work there. They are all part of the interview. Be on your best behavior.
You are going to prepare for this interview, right? Your first goal is to get a competitive advantage through relationships
KNOW the STAR Methodology (PDF) in and out. I’m not big on interviewing methodologies, but this one is a no brainer and will set you apart from everyone.
If you look at the PDF you will see there are about 100 questions asking about specific scenarios. There is no way you can up with 100 different answers.
Think of 3 stories that have happened during a team project or work where there was drama. A partner not doing his work, you not getting along with a manager, or a team not agreeing on the best way to do a project.
A lot of people say “Well, I don’t really have any of those stories. YES YOU DO. You are lying to yourself. The conflict doesn’t need to end in a gun shoot, it could even be a really minor conflict.
If you don’t come prepared with these conflicts, you will not do well in these behavioral interviews.
Why only 3? In my experience, you can usually answer any of those 100 questions with 3 of those answers. Of course there won’t be a 100% match between question and answer, but you will be damn close and at least have something to talk about. NEVER EVER say “you know, I have never a bad team member”. YES, YOU HAVE. Think!
During the Interview
The time has come to go face to face with the dragon! Your #1 goal is for the interviewer to NOT read questions off of their boilerplate interview questions. The questions are usually a formality and not actually a requirement. You want to push for an informal conversation. The more informal it is, the better it is for you.
How do you know if the interview is going well?
Sometimes it is very clear if the interview is going well. Here are two signs that you know the interview is going well, or went well:
- If they are talking more than you are. This shows they are trying to sell you.
- If they actually tell you the next step is to get you talking to someone else
How do you know if the interview is NOT going well?
If next steps are that a recruiter will reach out to you, this usually means the interview is going bad. During good interviewers, the interviewer will make it clear if there are next steps.
Tips & Tricks
- Establish a relationship
- Establish credibility (you are qualified to work at X company)
- Discuss next steps
Should I Name Drop?
This is a little tricky and can easily backfire on you. My recommendation is to not name drop, unless you are 100% positive that the person is known by the interviewer and has a positive reputation within the company.
Usually interviewers will see right through this.
Handling no response / silence
In my opinion, not hearing from an employer for a job you desperately want is probably one of the worst anxiety buiding experiences you can ever experience.
So how do you handle an employer who said they would get back to you but hasn’t:
I hate to break the news to you, but silence is usually bad. NOT always bad, but usually bad.
Here is how you handle no response:
The normal way
Send a gentle follow-up email, asking for an update and mention how excited you are to work with them.
The risky last-ditch effort way:
This approach is your last ditch effort to get a response out of them. The way to get a response out of them is to put pressure on them and make them believe if they don’t respond, they will lose you as an employee to someone else.
Sample Follow-up Email (After 2nd interview and you believe they are close to making a decision)
Subject: My timeline regarding next steps in my career
I have an opportunity within ::current company:: and an opportunity externally that need an immediate decision from me. Taking everything into consideration my decision must be made by ::date 14 days from now::. Joining ::prospective company:: is still my number 1 choice at the moment, however my final decision needs to be made by ::date 14 days from now::
I believe we are still in a preliminary stage in our discussions, so I wanted to give you a clear timeline of when I will be making the decision on the next step in my career.
Regardless of the outcome of these events, I thank all of you for your professionalism and for your time during your busy schedules.
Protip: DO NOT wait for them to return your calls before you start applying for other jobs. KEEP meeting new people, and keep pursuing other opportunities. KEEP WORKING.
Protip: If you are referred within the company, try to get information from your inside referral on what is really happening behind the scenes. Is everyone really that busy, are they evaluating other candidates, or is the rejection letter in the mail? Keep in close touch with your referral.
Protip: If none of these strategies work, the final and last step you can do is to shut the door in a nice way. The best way to do this is to send them an email thanking them for their time and apologize for nothing be able to work out.
Subject: Thank You
Thank you very much for your time. I’m sorry we could not work out something regarding this position. The whole process has been extremely professional and I am hoping somewhere down the road we can figure out a way to work with each other.
Getting rejected is the worst possible outcome of this whole process. There are several stages within the process where you can get rejected. If you didn’t get a first round interview, you were essentially rejected. It can also happen during any stage of the interview process.
So how do you handle it when you get rejected?
What you need to know about rejection
- It’s normal
- Everyone will get rejected
- This is not a big a deal as you think it is
- This does NOT mean you can never work for this company ever again
- Take the rest of the day off and hang out with your friends. relax
- Come back stronger.
Whatever you do, DO.NOT.BURN.BRIDGES.PERIOD
Personal Story: I was actually rejected from Deloitte Consulting during campus interviews. It was actually the worst interview of my life. I was convinced the interviewer hated me. 3 years later I was working at Deloitte Consulting as a consultant. If I burned a bridge, this would have never happened.
Turning down an offer
Congratulations on getting an offer from the company. It’s validation that you did your job search right and that there are companies out there that are interested.
However, there are situations where you do not want to accept an offer.
Tips and Tricks
- ONLY turn down an offer when you have you accepted the other offer / took drug test, etc.
- If you have multiple job offers and this job offer is more than the existing one, you can use this for leverage
- 6 Salary Negotiation Tips for Recent College Grads
How to turn them down
- A personal phone call is always preference
- Don’t tell them it was because another employer paid you more
- Send them a personal thank you
Remember, you may need this company later. Just because you don’t want to work there now, doesn’t mean you won’t want to work there in 3 years. Add them on LinkedIn and say hello once in a while. They will like it, trust me.
Do not give constructive advice on how they can improve the process, unless they ask. If they do ask, don’t give too much information. It will be taken negatively
It’s an exciting time when you receive an offer for your real first job. Your first intuition is to take your first offer because you want to start off on the right foot, and you don’t want to make it seem like you are not appreciative of being able to work for this company.
Which brings me to my first rule of Negotiation Salary for College Graduates: ALWAYS NEGOTIATE, EVEN WHEN YOU LIKE THEIR OFFER. THEY WILL ACTUALLY THINK IT’S WEIRD IF YOU DON’T.
It’s simple. Good candidates negotiate pay and now their worth. Bad candidates will take any offer given to them. Not negotiating will actually give the recruiter / hiring manager bad feelings before you even show up because it shows how desperate you were for a job.
Negotiation is a standard practice and is not looked down upon. The worst case they will say no.
- The bigger the company, the more likely there is room to negotiate pay
- Negotiating pay is expected, and when it doesn’t happen it could actually look bad on your part (even for a recent college grad)
- The more work experience you have, the easier it is to negotiate
Accepting an Offer
This is fairly straight forward. Verbally accept the offer, then contractually sign the offer.
Do not turn down any other offers until the contract is contractually signed, they received your college transcripts, and you have been assigned a start date.
Who are the gatekeepers?
Gatekeepers are the people that stand between you and the first interview with the company.
The bigger the company, the wider variety of roadblocks exist for college grads. Since you don’t really have “experience”, it’s very hard to get a referral.
In this case, University Recruiters are the biggest gatekeepers
Protip: University recruiters often tend to be normal employees of the company and come back to their alumni university so they can do recruiting. Some of them have only been on the job for a year.
Find the people that are most likely to help you: These are people who work for the company you want to work for, graduated from the shool you are currently at, and majored in the same major you did.
How do you find them?
LinkedIn. LinkedIn is usually the answer when it comes to identifying people within a company. Here is how you find people that are most likely to help you.
- Go to LinkedIn and search for the company you want to work for / coming to campus
- Go to “see all connections”
- Filter by Your School
- Filter by your Geographic Area (if you want to drill down further)
See if you have any connections to them.
Finding a college graduate job is a lot of work. The longer you plan for this step in your life, starting from freshman year, the easier this becomes
You have a competitive advantage if:
- You know someone in the company that likes you and has the power to hire you.
- You have had at least one relevant internship
- You have had at least one part-time job
- You were the president of an organization
You have a competitive disadvantage if:
- Your GPA was not a 3.0 or greater
- You haven’t had at least one relevant internship
- You haven’t had at least one part-time job
- You were active in any organizations
Story: Accenture loved me out of college because I had a technology degree (3.07 GPA), worked 30+ hours a week during school, had 2 relevant internships (one with a brand name), and came to them with 4 letters of recommendation specifically for Accenture.
Why would Accenture like this? Accenture is known for a work hard / play hard type of culture. They want people that they know could survive the culture and survive the ambiguity of consulting. They need people that can adapt at a moment’s notice.
I matched that pedigree to the tee.
PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.