Hunt That Job!

If there is the best time to start the job hunt, it is the last semester of university. Mistakenly taken as a perfect time to bury yourself in books and finish that looming BA/MA thesis, in reality it is the time to start working on your brand.

No matter how talented and smart you are if your university professors are the only people who can assess that. Your grades are a safety net, while your proven skills are your marketable assets. The question is, how do you develop job-critical skills and how do you make the right people notice you have those?

Think Strategically

You might have enrolled into chemical engineering, math, marketing or journalism only to discover you have no interest and no practical application of your major and your years of intense studies altogether. In this case, it’s good to make a differentiation: your major is NOT your career path. Last years of school is the best time to determine which direction you would like to take. While you can (and actually encouraged) to change industries and job functions in your career, your main focus should be the skills you can acquire at each particular job. Each job can teach you something. Your goal is to develop the skills you need and avoid a secure dead-end job, which will be automatized a few years from now.

Real Life Education

We talk internships here. Those are often times seen as a modern day slavery with exploiting a free workforce. This holds true only if you don’t know how to use your unpaid job. Internship is your free real world education. People spend thousands of dollars to get into case studies-based business schools, where they can learn from the best in their field. You can have a chance of learning from the best on day-to-day basis, for free! Your goal is to avoid a coffee-making function and get as much hands-on experience and first-hand knowledge as you possibly can. There are no stupid questions. Ask your colleagues what you don’t know. Ask for work shadowing! People will value your interest and your curiosity. There is a new challenging project coming up? Volunteer! Get active and show your enthusiasm! You will learn more than you might imagine. You will get respect, connections and skills. You noticed something is not working right? Bring it up! Work to fix it! You do not need Six Sigma belt to learn process optimization skills. Make your unpaid job work for you. This is the time you are not limited by your job duties and cannot get fired for being too active or distracting others. Internship must be a mutually beneficial contract. Employer gets free help; you get free practical experience.

Avoid Online Applications

Yes, you read it correctly. Applying online will make you one of thousands of desperate job seekers applying for anything that cross their way. You can avoid unnecessary competition and grasp your potential employer’s interest before you open your mouth. You want to program? Chances are the programming companies in your city are looking for developers. Thinking marketing or PR? Not a single start-up will reject your enthusiastic help. Event management ambition? See that well-known company organizing congresses and networking events every month or so? Voice your desire to help them to organize their next big event. Whatever field or company you are interested in, think of your way in and an opportunity to shine. Always offer free help! Your interest and determination will make sure you don’t go unnoticed. Have that company’s manager offer you the job rather than going through the purgatory of recruitment process.

Build Your Network

Get yourself out there! Go through the facebook events in your feed. Look what events your friends are visiting. Look which events important people frequent. Seek the conferences that match your interests. Become visible. Ask insightful questions. Voice your opinion. Make people remember your face. Focus on the quality of your interactions. Avoid the image of a networking junkie. But do not come to the talk for note-taking purposes either. The main goal of any talk, conference or congress is to get together the like-minded people. So be genuinely interested in the topic, have your opinion and don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation. And follow up. Always! Your goal is to gain, develop and maintain the connections you get rather than piling a stock of business cards.

Let People Know You Are Looking for Job

Networking events is a perfect occasion to meet people who can help you with your next adventure. You can tell different people different things, but make sure you do not say you are looking for any job. You want yourself sound like a person, full of ambition and sense of purpose rather than a struggling salary-seeker. And never let the job search topic dominate your conversation with another person. Job search topic should be a reflection of your interests and not a main reason of approaching a person. Opening a conversation with “I want to work for you” might be a strong point to start with, but only if you have a brilliant elevation pitch ready.

Know Your Value

Articulating your value will not hurt you, while its diminishing definitely will. Whether you are working on your CV or having a job interview, there is nothing worse than having your grades as your only personal achievement. Any volunteering, publications, internships, civil activity, sports achievements, student organization or projects’ participation, your hobbies, – anything that shaped your personality and taught you something, is your differentiator and a powerful weapon. The ability to sell yourself is your first and main objective throughout your career.

Negotiate the Offer

Your price is based on what value you can bring rather than what you earned at your previous job (or an unpaid internship, God forbid). That is why you have no obligation of mentioning your previous pay as well as your recruiter/ manager/ CEO has no right of basing your salary on your salary up till now. Employer’s main goal is to give you a minimum acceptable salary and employee’s goal is to get maximum price for one’s market value. This is why you should always exaggerate your salary expectations. The offer you will get is going to be at your minimum threshold or up to 40 % lower. Everything is negotiable. Every employer is able to pay 20 % more than the initial job offer. And you have to negotiate the increase! In Odessa they say, if you do not negotiate, you lose respect. In today’s job market Odessa wisdom holds true as never. 2008 unemployment crisis is long over. We are living in the time where the demand for skilled (and self-confident) workforce is higher than the supply of such. Not standing for your value makes you appear doubting it yourself.

Access Job Holistically

While the previous point stands true, do not let the salary overshadow your strategic judgement. The job you are taking is a combination of salary, connections you can make, skills you can learn and doors that you will be able to open with the former. Early stage of your career is NOT the time to go after job security, it’s time to exercise your ambition and become a solicited professional later on in your career.

Instead of wishing you good luck with your job search, I would like to leave you with a quote:

I’m a Great Believer in Luck. The Harder I Work, the More Luck I Have

Thomas Jefferson