Over the years, I have often given career advice to young people. And, as my older daughter is now a senior in college, I find myself talking with more and more college seniors and recent graduates. I wanted to share my career advice more broadly, and I hope you find these comments helpful in finding professional happiness.
Summary: You will find a great job. You really will. Relax and just know you will find a really great job. Too much anxiety and worry is unproductive. However, you will need to work really hard in order to find that great job. It won’t just appear!
My hope is that the following gives you an easy-to-follow manual for finding a meaningful job.
The best way to find a job is NOT to ask for a job! Yes, never ask for a job!
Instead ask people to suggest you to other people who may offer you a job. This gives you a wide range of people to talk with. This also creates the easiest connection with people. Say to people “I am asking you for advice and suggestions for people to talk with.” That is an easy ask — everyone can say “yes”. If you ask people for a job, they may prefer not to talk with you versus having to say “no”. By the way, if they do indeed have a job for you, they will be able to say “Well, yes, I could offer you a job!”
Start a notebook. Yes, a physical spiral bound notebook. Note all of your calls and names on the page. Put the date on the top of each page. You need to work on your job search every day!
Daily Job Search:
Pick three areas of interest. Set up a career call / interview with people in those industries / areas:
How do I find someone to talk with?
- Family / Friends — cast a wide net. Let people know what you are interested in
- College Alumni — visit your college career office and find alums who are willing to talk
- If you are on an athletic team or extracurricular club, network with recent graduates (seniors when you were a freshman)
- Internet Research — Google and Google and Google
You are trying to generate a list of 5-10 names. Then start setting up meetings:
I am a Senior at XYZ College, and I am interested in learning more about ABC industry.
I have worked / interned/ (job experience) or College Club / Extracurricular activity.
Do you have time for a 15 minutes telephone career conversation?
I would really like to learn from your experiences and get your advice.
Please let me know when you may have fifteen minutes to talk. I will make myself available.
Thank you so much in advance for taking the time to talk to me.
What you should talk about in a career interview:
- Explain your background
- Describe your ideal job or work environment
- Ask them to explain their job and how they arrived at their position
- Simply close and ask them if they can recommend anyone else for you to talk with.
Five questions about their job:
What is it that you do?
What is the substance of the job? Data/ analysis? Heavy writing and research? Etc…
Who do you work with?
All MBAs? Only high school graduates? Big or small teams? Or do you work alone in a remote office?
Who do you work for?
Is the company driven by the client? By the boss? Who is the leader of the organization? Who is your direct manager?
What is the culture of your company?
What type of culture is there among the employees? How do people get along? How do they communicate?
What are the lifestyle implications?
Is there a lot of travel? Long late hours? Are there a lot of last minute surprises? Or is it very predictable and steady work / life balance?
Then for your career advice:
What is the best advice that someone gave you early in your career?
BASED ON MY BACKGROUND, DO YOU HAVE ANYONE TO RECOMMEND THAT I SHOULD TALK TO?
This is the key question! You want to get more names for your note book to follow up with!
Write a thank you note to the person for taking the time. And, keep in touch with them. Be sure to follow up with them after you have spoken to the person they suggested you call. Keep them informed. They are now part of your broader community of career advisors and cheerleaders!
- Preparation for a career call
- Follow up
- Keeping in touch
- 30 minutes per day
Prepare your resume. There are a lot of resources for how to write a resume. My only addition is to make sure you have an interesting and authentic personal comment at the bottom. Explain your interests — gnome collecting, writing new recipes, or juggling. It may really create a connection with the interviewer. Share your heart. Look to make a connection. For example, I really love gnomes, and I talk about gnomes with almost everyone I meet.
Letter of Recommendation
At the end of an internship, job, or other professional opportunity, be sure to ask for a letter of recommendation. This way, should you require a letter for future endeavors, you won’t have to worry about how much time has passed since the end of your employment. If you wait a few years and then ask for the letter, chances are, your supervisor may not remember much about your specific duties and accomplishments. By asking for the letter in advance (or drafting it for them and submitting it to them for approval), you ensure that you’ll have a substantive, specific, and genuine letter to use in the future. It is also good practice to update your resume and review the section with your employer to ensure the accuracy and consistency of how you represent your experience.
Attitude, Aptitude, and Effort
These are three key qualities. You cannot adjust your aptitude. You are born with certain abilities. However, you can greatly impact your attitude and your effort. You can be more positive and work harder than others. These are ultimately more important than your raw intelligence.
Persistence. Patience. Polite.
You need to be really persistent. In my first job search during business school, I had a very strong introduction to the CEO of a company. Nevertheless, he never returned my phone calls. I called his assistant over thirty times until he finally returned my call. I was patient and polite to his assistant. When he finally returned my call on a Monday, I interviewed on Wednesday and he offered me a job on Friday. When he was ready, I was ready, willing, and able.
Rejection and Resilience.
Rejection is an inevitable part of every career. There will be jobs you apply for and do not get. It is alright to be disappointed, but it is crucial that you don’t allow yourself to become discouraged. The key to success is not in avoiding rejection but in having the resilience to bounce back from it over and over again.
My daughter Lucy once applied to a job she really wanted and was rejected. I wrote her this letter to help put this rejection in perspective:
I am sorry that XYZ Company rejected you today. It is truly their loss. However, I want to make sure that you understand how it can truly be your gain.
As you pursue a career in business, rejection is a constant. Employers will turn you down. Prospects will turn you down. Investors will turn you down. Candidates will turn your offer to join your company down. However, none of these rejections should turn you upside down.
Resilience. Resilience. It is as important to me in business, as tradition is to me in celebrating Judaism.
I have been rejected countless times in my career. For jobs, by investors, by employees I have tried to hire. Nevertheless, I have been resilient and rebounded each and every time.
What is my secret that I want to share with you?
Persistence, Passion, and Patience.
As you have seen in the meeting you attended with CUSTOMER A, we failed in our initial effort. It was truly one of the worst meetings I have had in my career. Did that stop me? no, never, no how! I just got back up, brushed off my knees, swallowed my pride, healed my ego, learned and reviewed and thought very very carefully.
As you can see with our recent CUSTOMER A success (thanks to your role and contribution), we have persisted and succeeded.
Lucy, you are a rock star! You will do amazing things.
I am so so proud of you beyond words.
Soar like an eagle – Don’t squat like a duck! How I learned to stuff envelopes…with pride!
My first job was an unpaid internship working in Washington, D.C. in the House office building for Congressman Beau Boulter from the 13th district of Texas. I worked as a House intern during my high school senior spring semester. I had been accepted to Harvard and was excited to help the congressman change the world. I was full of ideals and energy but was somewhat surprised when my first job assignment was to stuff envelopes for his constituent mailings. Nevertheless, I recalled the advice I heard from Pat Riley the former All Star / legendary coach of the LA Lakers, Miami Heat, and NY Knicks who gave a lecture about “soaring like an eagle and not squatting like a duck”. Pat Riley described his experiences on the road during the NBA season when he stayed at various hotels. Although the ingredients were the same at each hotel — check-in/ check out, bed, towels and soap in the bathroom, and occasional room service. The experience at the hotels that Pat stayed varied widely! Some hotel staff made these basic ingredients so spectacular. And, some hotels made these elements mundane and disappointing. Pat Reilly said that you have the choice to soar like an eagle or squat like a duck.
When I looked at my monumental pile of envelopes to stuff, I recalled Pat Riley’s advice and could immediately feel the wind rushing past my ears as I soared like an eagle. I immediately figured out the most efficient way to stuff envelopes. I also learned to watch C-Span so that I was fully informed of the current debates on the House floor. My co-workers were amazed at how quickly I could stuff envelopes. They were also impressed with my understanding of the topics being debated on the House floor. Due to my energy and commitment to being the best envelope-stuffer on the House office staff, I was soon promoted to other tasks that required a broader set of responsibilities. For me, no task was too small or mundane. I was determined to exhibit my very best with whatever task/assignment given to me. My highlight project of my internship was writing a speech for my congressman which he read from the House floor. My promotion to write words that his lips read on the House floor was only possible because of my initial efforts to lick constituent envelopes with my tongue.
How the Economic Machine Works
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