Happy Grad Project

Congratulations. You’ll be graduating from college soon and you’ll have the chance to dazzle the world with your knowledge, skills, and talent. First, though, you’re going to have to know how to nail a job interview. Related: 5 Ways To Recover From A Bad Job Interview By this point in time, you’ve probably heard or read a lot about how to navigate an interview. There are some smart tips out there. You can also glean important guidelines from your college career center and, yes, even from your parents. But keep in mind that most of the info people provide tends to focus only on the first 7/8ths of an interview. If you want a job offer, you need to know how to excel at that last 1/8th, too.

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Networking is awkward – period. I used to stand around tabletops with resumes and home-printed business cards in my shiny new “work bag," eager to find just one person to connect with that would lead me to my first job. I had to convince myself not to walk out of almost every event I attended. I knew there was this thing called networking and I needed to do it if I wanted to secure a job. I just didn’t know how to do it or that it involved more than asking for employment. Related: 5 Quick Tips For More Confident Networking Like you, I thought I earned my right to have a career. I went to college, got good grades, and stayed out of trouble. As a result of my hard work, I deserved a job - a good paying, fun, brag-about-the-position kind of job. I graduated magna cum laude, completed an internship, and was involved in leadership activities. I did college “right,” but I was still unemployed after graduation. I faced the harsh reality head on that my degree did not entitle me to a job. So, there I was, “networking.” Or so I thought. Social media has completely refined “networking” and it's easier than you think. It’s something you are doing already and you're probably missing awesome opportunities right in front of you! So, it’s not that you don’t know how to network. In fact, you are a pro at networking. Every time you accept a friend, follower, or connection, the “net worth” in your network increases dramatically! You just need to activate your network. There is a theory called the Six Degrees of Separation, developed by Frigyes Karinthy. The theory suggests that we are only six introductions away from anyone else in the world. Think about it, right now you are six introductions away from your first job. That sure sounds a heck of a lot better than applying to hundred more jobs!

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This article was written by Fred Cook, author of Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. This year, 3.2 million US students will graduate from college. 85% will move back home. 22% won't be able to get a job. Of those who are lucky enough to find employment, more than half will work as waitresses and baristas. Related: 3 Ways To Avoid A Minimum Wage Job After College To make matters worse, companies are more selective than ever in choosing new recruits. In this challenging economic environment, they’re looking for candidates who bring new perspectives, ideas, and skills that will help them navigate a rapidly changing global marketplace. The competition for these coveted jobs has never been more intense and the applicants have never been more unprepared. Anyone hoping to succeed in this job market needs courage. Courage to try new things. Courage to ask questions. Courage to break the rules. And, most of all, courage to improvise.

Expose Yourself

People entering the business world today are a commodity. They’ve gone to the same schools, taken the same courses, read the same books, and watched the same movies. Meanwhile, companies like mine are desperately seeking fresh minds to help them navigate massive cultural and technological changes. Where are they going to find them? Growing up in a small town in southern Indiana, I led the middle-class life of Beaver Cleaver, until I was kicked off the high school tennis team. Then, my real education began. I replaced Harrison High School athletics with Arc Lanes, a modern entertainment mecca featuring 15 pool tables, where a faculty of dropouts and derelicts with names like Red Dog, Baby Pod, and Fat Beckham introduced me to a new curriculum of hustling, drinking, smoking, cruising, fighting, and sex. (I mostly audited this last class.) You need to expose yourself. Think of your life as a big magazine rack. When you’re standing in front of it deciding what to choose, resist the normal impulse to reach for People or Cosmopolitan. Instead, grab a copy of Inked, Guns and Ammo, or Bass Fisherman. Apply the same approach to movies, books and people. When you’re looking for your first job, you’ll benefit from exploring unusual ideas and engaging unconventional individuals.

Ask the Captain

Knocking on a captain's door opened a new world for me. While my contemporaries were graduating from college, I talked my way into a job as a cabin boy on a Norwegian tanker bound for Asian destinations I’d never imagined. In your career, you will encounter "ships" that can transport you to unexpected places. You just have to figure out how to ask the captain. Senior executives are intimidating to those just starting out. But they’re the ones who can have a real impact on your career. Stalk them in the hallways. Corner them at events. Drill them with smart questions. Ask for their help. If you want to be a captain tomorrow, you should start by asking one today.

Guide a Tour

Many job hunters worry they lack the necessary credentials. This is a legitimate fear, but it can be overcome. When you reach the top, everything you say and do will be scrutinized by the press and the public. Luckily, on the way up nobody pays much attention, which allows those of us who lack the standard business prerequisites to improvise. Absence of experience didn’t inhibit my pursuit of a career in the travel industry. I created a resume that reshaped my exploits as a cabin boy, doorman, and chauffeur to land a job as a tour guide. Then, I packed my suitcase with a dozen guidebooks about stops on our trip that I’d never visited. I discovered, with a little preparation and a lot of creativity, I could convince people of almost anything. Most people think improvising means making things up. I prefer a different definition—creating something special from whatever ordinary ingredients happen to be available. Improvisation is a mandatory business skill, because being a graduate is a lot like being a tour guide who doesn't know where he’s going.

Make the Rules

Most executives rise to the top by adapting to their company’s culture, meeting quarterly financial goals, and not getting fired. They follow a well-worn path that includes stops at an Ivy League college, Brooks Brothers, the BMW dealer, and the local country club. How does someone from outside the corporate fraternity get accepted into this exclusive pledge class? It took me 15 years to figure that out. At age 36, when I landed my first PR agency job, I volunteered for every boring assignment. Once I made myself indispensible, instead of asking for promotions, I asked for opportunities—on other accounts, in other business units, in other offices and, as a last resort, in other companies. Every offer helped me advance to the next level until I eventually became CEO. The business world is full of rules. Some succeed by following them, others by breaking them. You have to find the right balance. If you break all the rules, you may frighten people. But if you make your own rules, they may not notice.

Be Brave

It takes courage to improvise. In the beginning, you may feel shy, anxious, and intimidated, like I did. But every time you try something new you gain a little more confidence. Start by reading a different magazine, watching a foreign film or eating lamb vindaloo. Next, send a thoughtful email to your boss or an outrageous resume to a company you’re dying to work for. Then, launch your own social network. Life is a sum total of your experiences, not your promotions. Make it special.

Download Your FREE E-Book!

Graduating? Know someone who is? As a perk of the Happy Grad Project, we're offering a FREE download of our e-book, "The Recent Grad's Guide To Getting A Job." This e-book is JAM-PACKED with tips from experts and recruiters, videos, and additional help. Don't put off your job search any longer - Download our e-book today and get started!   Photo Credit: Shutterstock
This post was written by Jenny Yerrick Martin, author of Breaking Into The Biz: The Insider's Guide to Launching An Entertainment Industry Career, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. The very first blog post I wrote for my entertainment career site, Your Industry Insider, was called “The Art of Getting the Part.” It was about looking right for the job when you went on interviews, comparing that in-person experience to acting auditions. Related: How To Pay The Bills While Pursuing Your Dream Career “When actors go to casting sessions,” I wrote, “everything they do is geared toward convincing the casting director that they are perfect for the part. If they’re going in to play a street tough on one of those countless crime dramas on the air these days, they dress down, in leather jacket and jeans maybe, and slump and scowl in the waiting area outside the audition room. For the part of the town slut, the actress struts in wearing a micro-mini and halter top and gives a suggestive sidelong glance at the casting intern with the clipboard.”

Look The Part

I suggested that candidates for jobs think about their attire and behavior in job interviews the same way. The casting analogy might sound a little entertainment industry-centric to some of you, but stick with me. Though I have worked in the entertainment industry my entire career, and both hire for the industry and give advice to others on how to get hired in it, my advice applies to any job hunt and actually goes beyond your outward appearance and behavior once you land the interview. When you are looking for a job, every aspect of every contact you have with a potential employer communicates who you are as a candidate and whether you are right for the opening. Yes, there could be educational requirements for the position, but sometimes they are very broad and, beyond that, there is always the question of “fit.” As a hiring executive, I always want to choose someone who is “right” for the job. So, what does that mean for you as the job candidate? If you are looking for a receptionist job, think about what the ideal receptionist would be for the places where you are applying. Beyond tailoring your resume to highlight experience the duties of the job, such retail and server jobs, use your cover letter to actually tell a story about you that makes you seem like the perfect candidate. In your letter, mention that you were voted “most likely to start a conversation with a total stranger” in high school, or that your college debate team coach told you repeatedly that even though you made good arguments for your side in matches, smiling throughout those arguments was effecting the team’s ranking. Tell me that you were always chosen to check VIP alumni in for events at your school because the organizers knew that no matter what the situation, you would handle it tactfully. Even when you had to turn people away, they walked away smiling. And then, once you are going in for an interview (of course, I’m going to want to have you in for an interview after hearing about your alumni event experience), dress professionally and conscientiously, be friendly and confident, make eye contact, smile, convey ease... You want me picturing you at my company’s receptionist desk, in this case, or in a cubicle in the finance department, or sitting outside the marketing executive’s office. As I concluded that first blog post on my site back at the beginning, I’m not saying you have to wear glasses to get the job as the librarian… but it can’t hurt.

Download Your FREE E-Book!

Graduating? Know someone who is? As a perk of the Happy Grad Project, we're offering a FREE download of our e-book, "The Recent Grad's Guide To Getting A Job." This e-book is JAM-PACKED with tips from experts and recruiters, videos, and additional help. Don't put off your job search any longer - Download our e-book today and get started!   Photo Credit: Shutterstock