Most of us go to college in hopes of landing a job. And not just any job, but a great job. Maybe even a dream job.
But here’s what no one told you: college isn’t career training!
There’s nothing wrong with learning about philosophy or calculus or western civilization, but simply having a well-rounded education is not enough to land the job you want. In today’s competitive economy, job hunting is more about selling yourself than where you went to school or what you learned there.
Here are five things new graduates don’t always know, but need to know for a successful job search.
1. Degrees don’t speak for themselves
Employers don’t care that you graduated from a great school. Or, perhaps more accurately, that isn’t all they care about. After all: employment isn’t a lifetime achievement award. Hiring managers don’t say “wow, John went to Duke? Let’s fulfill his prophecy by making him our marketing manager!” Instead, they want to know what you can do for them.
Savvy graduates know this and incorporate it into their entire job hunt. Everything from the companies they apply to, to the words on their resumes, to what they say during interviews is based on what the company wants, not what they want. The hiring manager comes away with a vivid portrait of what to expect from the applicant.
2. Employers care about two things
Growing sales and lowering costs. That’s it. Oh, sure: they still expect paperwork to get done, meetings to be held, status updates to be sent. And some companies are more vocal about the bottom line than others. But make no mistake: in the eyes of an employer, you are a rented asset. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is making the company more profitable.
Furthermore, the company’s relentless focus on profits applies to administrative staff too, not just sales. The office assistant may not be selling anything, but the efficiency with which they handle routine office tasks is part of what enables others to sell. Always be mindful of your relationship to (and distance from) the company’s profit-making machinery.
3. Companies know when you apply half-heartedly
One of the biggest reasons new grads struggle to land their first job is that no one ever taught them how. Consequently, many of us just “shotgun” the same resume to as many companies as possible, believing that eventually the law of averages will force one of those companies to call us.
Don’t do this. Hiring managers are extremely smart. They know when someone is just “applying to apply”. And if they have five other applicants who want to work THERE specifically (rather than just “somewhere”) why would they ever pick someone who shotgunned a resume to them?
Spoiler alert: they won’t. Apply only to companies that you have researched, thought about and identified as strong fits for your career goals. That’s the only way to stand out in your resumes and interviews!
4. Your network matters more than you think
Here’s a dirty little secret about job hunting: the best jobs are rarely listed publicly. They get snapped up by “connected insiders” (people who know a guy) while the unwashed masses fight over the scraps. It would be easy, upon hearing this, to complain about how unfair society is, how the rich get richer, the connected get more connected and so forth.
Instead, look at the silver lining. YOU have a network, too! Whether you realize it or not, we are all connected to people in positions of power, people who (more times than not) would be happy to help you. In fact, you will be much more appealing to a hiring manager if you are referred by someone they trust versus applying cold.
The secret to tapping your network? Ask them for help.
5. It’s a numbers game
Not every company you apply to is going to hire you. Even if you do everything right, there are a million reasons why sometimes it just won’t work out: the hiring manager is busy, the job went to someone internally, the company scrapped the position before you applied, etc.
It doesn’t matter. In baseball, a hitter is considered elite if he connects three times out of ten (which computes to a .300 batting average). Job hunting is a lot like that. In fact, it’s better. You don’t need three companies to say yes, just one!
If you approach your job search thoughtfully and strategically (instead of mindlessly “cold applying” to random companies) you will get hired eventually. The law of averages does work for smart job seekers!