With countless college seniors about to graduate and enter the workforce, many are naturally beginning to sweat the process of landing that first, full-time gig.
Having addressed many student groups (and about to speak to two separate classes next week at the University of Vermont), I can tell you that interviewing and resume writing are top-of-mind for the business, marketing and communications students with whom I speak.
When I address them, I tell students to think of themselves as a discrete brand. Like a brand, they need to:
– differentiate themselves from competitors
– address their strengths
– connect and resonate with the end user
– provide a perceived value-add
College seniors can do so by creating what I call "the brand of you." This includes:
– writing a resume that clearly and concisely establishes a short-term career objective, lists any and all relevant work experience and suggests how you’ll be able to hit the ground running (waiting tables at the local TGI Friday’s isn’t going to land anyone a job).
– "connecting" with the interviewer by asking what business-related pain points are keeping him or her up at night (i.e. "What’s your number one business issue?"). Based upon classroom or real-world experience, suggest ways in which you might be able to ease that pain (i.e. If the interviewer suggests the firm hasn’t had much success connecting with prospective customers, suggest things you might have done in work-study/intern assignments or, suggest doing some research and following up with a few recommendations).
– develop three key points about yourself that, regardless of the questions asked, you’ll be sure to communicate in the interview.
– if the company has a blog, post comments on it. Even better, if the interviewer blogs, engage in a digital conversation with him/her prior to and following the interview. This approach has clearly differentiated job prospects seeking employment at Peppercom.
– send a hand-written thank you note. Everyone uses e-mail. Be different.
– write a press release about the firm having already hired you and send it along with the thank you note. It will get you noticed.
I’m surprised how unaware and unprepared most students are when it comes to marketing themselves. So, as I finalize next week’s 60-minute presentation for the UVM students, I’ll be sure to remember that, while they’ll undoubtedly be interested in my case studies and trends analysis, what they really want to know is how they can land that first, important job.