This is the second year of young adults graduating college during a pandemic. The 2021 cohort has it a little bit better than last year’s graduating class, but both groups face unique, unprecedented challenges. For this year’s graduating seniors, I’d like to offer practical, actionable advice from a recruiter’s perspective who has placed thousands of mid-to-senior level executives on Wall Street.
To manage expectations, don’t worry if it takes a long time to find a position. The job market has greatly improved, but it’s not perfect. Companies are still figuring out their hybrid, remote and in-office work models.
This takes them away from hiring and onboarding new employees. When there is uncertainty about the future, like we have with the Delta variant, companies slow down the pace of bringing aboard new employees. It’s also challenging to train and get new hires acclimated to the corporate culture when their first job is a remote role.
The first part of the job search is to narrow in on what you’d like to do next. It’s easier to focus. You can add on other areas as time goes by. Prepare a résumé and detailed LinkedIn profile. If you’re not sure what to do, reach out to professional career coaches and résumé writers who specialize in these matters.
Craft an elevator pitch. This is a concise, under-a-minute-long way to tell your story to a hiring manager. The goal is to sell yourself by showing how your academic background, internships, co-ops, jobs and other activities and experiences make you perfectly suited for the job you’re interviewing for. Keep practicing your pitch to the point where you can do it on autopilot. Say it out loud, as it always sounds better in your head than when you first do it out loud.
Once you’ve already spent your parents’ money on tuition, apartments, books and other necessities, you might as well spring for a LinkedIn Premium account and buy InMails. Like it or not, LinkedIn is the go-to social media site for white-collar professionals. A premium account gives you better access to directly connect with the appropriate people you want to get in touch with for your job search. You might want to also take a look at TikTok’s new career section that offers video résumés.
Look for and apply to relevant jobs online. Most people stop here. This shouldn’t be the only thing you do. A cool hack that takes a little courage is to find someone at the company that you may know. Having a contact at the company who could give you a solid reference and recommendation is one of the best ways to get noticed, cut in front of everyone else and procure an interview.
Most experienced professionals are uncomfortable reaching out to people for help. To succeed, you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Building a network of people that you can turn to for help is important. There is no need to go it alone.
If you can’t find any familiar faces, get in touch with your friends, college alumni, family, neighbors and folks in your community that could introduce you to someone at your target company. Highly desirable companies receive thousands of résumés each day. Having an internal employee vouch for you makes all the difference.
Searching LinkedIn and other job boards, I’ve noticed the trend of “entry-level” jobs requiring two or three years of relevant experience. Don’t get discouraged. It’s the age-old conundrum of, “How do I get experience if nobody gives me a chance?” Keep trying. All you need is that one door to open.
Just because you went to a top school, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll automatically get a high-paying new job right away. You can’t take anything for granted. If you come across as arrogant and entitled to the job, it may rub the interviewer the wrong way. There is a lot of competition and you will need to stand out in a crowded field.
You will be interviewing with people considerably older than yourself. They may not be familiar with your lingo, memes, cultural references and preference for texting. It’s not reasonable for a hiring manager to alter their personality to suit you. Therefore, you need to be aware of the generational differences and try to forge a common bond and build a mutually respectful relationship within the interview process.
Treat the interview process like you would a rigorous college course. Do your homework by studying the company and check out the backgrounds of the people who you will be interviewing with. Make sure you read the job description. Match up your résumé to the requirements. The more you know about the company, its mission and the managers you are meeting with, the more confident you’ll become. Demonstrating confidence and an understanding of the role will help you stand out.
Since you’ve been on Zoom and other online video platforms, you’re probably comfortable with the medium. For interviews, make sure the lighting is right, the sound works well, internet connectivity is strong and you look directly at the interviewer. It’s acceptable to ask them questions too, as interviewing is a two-way street. If you are interested in the role, let them know. A bold move is to ask the interviewer how they thought of your candidacy and what the next steps will be.
The companies may ask for a large number of interviews. In between, they may cut off communications. Stay strong, in the face of rejection or ghosting—on the part of the companies. It is easy to become dejected and give up or take a job far below what you deserve. You need to remain emotionally and mentally strong and keep trying.
I’d also like to share an unpopular piece of advice. After completing your degree, consider moving back home for a while. Now that you’re likely heavily in debt, you can save on rent, food, utility bills and everything else. You need to think long term. When you get a job, save as much money as possible. You can invest it, buy some real estate or start a business. It adds up quickly. Soon, your invested money will offer a second income.
Almost every commencement speech echoes the sentiments of changing the world. It’s nice lofty thoughts. However, before you change the world, you have to get your own life in order. Focus on yourself first. Decide what you want to do with your life and career, think of what will make you happy and how you can also earn a living doing it. Once you get your act together, obtain some stability and build a strong foundation for your future. Then, you can save the world.