It's been a bit frustrating for me at work reading resumes of late. I'm seeing a lot of actual applications from the class of May/June 2012. I've got *one* entry level software engineer opening. But here's the thing: we need someone that can start *now*. Not in January. Certainly not in May or June. So, class of 2012, unless you are looking at bona fide internships, let me 'splain something to you about jobs and recruiting.
Those companies that you meet via your campus career center? They have what is called a campus recruiting process. Campus recruiting teams start hiring for candidates starting a good six-eight months out. Their organizations have built out what is called headcount (anticipating future hiring needs by budget and by actual future openings) to include the new hires fresh out of school (both undergrad and graduate students.) These are usually larger organizations that have robust businesses and the resources to train, onboard and mentor new graduates. And believe me, new graduates are a huge investment of resources for any organization beyond just "getting you in the door." You lack business savvy in addition to the training needed for your immediate job. It isn't that you aren't a valuable employee, it's just that you need to learn about business as well as the job for which you are hired. Your education has given you *theoretical knowledge* which is geared for a perfect work situation, which rarely exists. Those of you with internships are a bit ahead of the curve, but two or three months in one job still isn't the same as a seasoned employee with real-world experience in the business world (or non-profit, or academic or healthcare or whatever industry you are joining.)
It's generally a waste of time for you to apply for positions you cannot start for well over two or three business quarters. And here is why. When my company opens a new job, it's because there is an immediate need, either through attrition (someone left the job or team) or through organized headcount forecasting. And truthfully, that means we need someone to start in weeks, not months. And we need someone to hit the ground running, someone who can pick up the nuances of the organization's culture and the mechanics of the job they are hired for in about 90 days or less.
So what *should* you be doing now?
First off, get an email address other than your "email@example.com" account. Gmail, Yahoo, Live/Hotmail, whatever; keep it professional, not cutesy and please make sure your full name shows in the "From" field. Create a robust resume and LinkedIn profile (and upload your resume to your profile). If you haven't done so, you should be getting at least one internship under your belt, and getting glowing references from both your manager and your co-workers; you should stay in touch with them after you return to school. Send them LinkedIn invitations and get recommendations from them! About 3 months before you are ready to start work (February, March), circle back with them and ask about entry-level openings in their company *and if they know of any other companies in the industry hiring entry level professionals*. Most people keep at least a few ties to former colleagues and companies, and they will occasionally ask for candidates or refer other great people.
You should be working with your career center to identify companies that have hired from your school in the past and creating a list of target companies. And go back further than just the last 3-4 years. Maybe a company used to come every spring but was hard hit with the recession or was bought by a larger organization. Go back five to ten years. Use LinkedIn to reference recruiters for those companies now. Not only that, if you have met any recruiters in the last few years, contact them. I've spoken on four panels *this year* around Seattle, and critiqued resumes at two other schools. I have given my contact info to almost all the students that have asked for it, and connected up with them on LinkedIn. I may not have a job for them, but I am certainly happy to forward requests for introductions to other recruiters or professionals in my network.
Join professional organizations in your field/industry, and start going to meetings. Take business cards (you can get cheap professional ones on VistaPrint, or even at FedexOffice, Home Depot or Staples) with you and start meeting people in your industry. Schedule informational interviews with professionals in the job you think you are interested in.
Ask your professors, coaches, and advisers if they know anyone at all in xyz industry, and if so would they be willing to introduce you via email? Then do the same with your parents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, cousins, and neighbors. Think of the professions where people *meet other people*. Bartenders, real estate agents, school parents that are sports coaches, ministers/priests/rabbis, hair dressers or barbers, doctors, dentists, attorneys, cab drivers, hotel managers, musicians, small store/cafe/restaurant owners, event planners including wedding coordinators. Anyone that has *clients or customers* knows people and has a network you can tap into.
This is the time for you to set the stage for contacting the right people *at the right time*. Whatever you do, don't wait until three weeks before you start you graduate to start your job search, or you will still be looking this time next year. And please, stop applying for jobs you cannot start soon.
The Informational Interview
Experience + MBA + Experience=Executive
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