As you are leaving your military career, you can learn from the advice of recent graduates. Although you are different levels of your career, you can use these tips to be prepared for your next job.
College graduates need a place to apply their newly acquired skills. One person I know graduated in 1977, and two times since, most recently in 2012. Each time the consequences of graduating changed. Depending on the college, the administration staff, and the student & alumni associations, the experience can be quite different.
Network Company Recruiters
In its current iteration, if all of those bodies are on their toes, then each semester, just before the term ends, grads will be faced with recruiters from many industries, stationed strategically across the campus. Don’t fret if you still have a couple of years before you graduate; these folks are looking for a steady supply of young recruits on a permanent basis. There is no harm in getting in early.
Talk to their representatives and see if the company is doing things that interest you. You are developing a professional network, and this will be the key to landing a job.
Learn to tell a great story of how you grew up, an event that shaped your life or even a vacation that took you to a new place. People want to hear new perspectives. They want to get a sense of your ability to articulate, and they want to know that you are interesting—Monica Smith, founder and CEO MarketSmith and I.Predictus
Tell them what you’re good at; what you’ve accomplished; what makes you special. Stand out for them, and collect business cards. Don’t count on just giving them your résumé and hoping for the best.
Find out what they’re up to; if they can somehow be a part of your success strategy. If you are particularly interested in a company, keep them apprised of new accomplishments. Take an internship between semesters if available. Stay in contact.
Those that passively send out résumés, or post them to the most common job boards are not going to stand out. They will find themselves up against thousands of people with identical skill sets. You need to network your way inside a company by creating contacts.
Research Career Paths
You go to the airport with your bags packed and speak to the ticket agent:
“Give me a ticket to somewhere great!”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I couldn’t tell you—just make sure it’s exactly what I want.”
Not very realistic, is it? Instead, whatever your interest, it’s up to you to put some time aside daily to read up on your field. What are the big guys doing? What are the amazing little startups doing? Do you want to be a cog in the machine (nothing wrong with that—it took thousands to get the Apollo astronauts to the Moon and build the International Space Station), or do you want to be on the bleeding-edge and be the first person to walk on Mars?
Whatever it is, you have to have a pretty good idea of where you’re headed or you’ll never get there. Consider: Google has 57,000 employees worldwide. In the United States, if only one person in 100,000 wants to work there, you would have over 3,000 competitors. Luckily 90% of them send a single résumé on the “off-chance” that they might get noticed. The remaining 300 do a pretty good job, so they’re the ones that you have to outsmart.
Having a strong personal brand involves knowing where you’re going in life. Recruiters want to hire young people who have put serious thought into their futures— Alexa Merschel, campus-recruiting leader for PwC US
Know Company Terms and News
Know the vernacular, jargon, and industry-appropriate terminology when talking to recruiters or the HR department of your favored industry or employer. Try to avoid empty buzzwords, instead showing a thorough understanding of your subject.
Remember: nothing is more impressive than being knowledgeable about the company you’re talking to. Want a job at Dell? Ask about the overlap between storage protocols after the acquisition of EMC for $67 billion this year. Ask what the consequences of control of VMWare will have on worldwide Data Centers. You’ll see recruiters scribbling notes about you when you show insight.
Keep in touch with your contacts; stay aware of newsworthy events that are happening in their companies. Hook up with them on LinkedIn, following their commentary, and contributing to that community. You’ll reinforce your connection with them, and you will be visible to other people that might be looking for people with your skill set.
If your dream company doesn’t have any openings, try sending them a proposal for a new position that fits your skill set. Just make sure you explain how this new job will make them money, not just benefit your career—Andrew Strieber, producer—CareerCast.com
If you have graduated and still don’t have an offer, take part-time work in your preferred (or associated) industry to build your résumé. Perform related volunteer work for the same reason. Find an internship that offers a real learning opportunity.
Just be aware of illegal, exploitative activities, where you’re doing real work that is generating income for the company, if you’re not being paid. The law says they’re supposed to be offering you a learning opportunity, not profiting by having a “free” employee.
With that cautionary note in mind you can avoid companies with dubious ethics that feel entitled to exact a toll before they “honor” someone with a job offer. You’re smart; you know what ethics are. You’ll do just fine!