Coming from a 20 year old still in college, you may easily discredit a post about employment. I believe these suggestions below are universal regardless of age. Invest in them now and I have a hard time believing they won’t pay off in the future. Maybe take it with a grain of salt, but I don’t think these things will hinder your future career. Also a reminder to not let anyone look down on you because you are young… ok, happy reading!
The Importance of Connections
Making connections is crucial especially if you desire to land a job in a highly relationship field. Like the cliché phrase “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know” implies, the secret to getting the job may really just be about the connections you’ve sought after.
If you have to submit a resume when applying for a job, you’ve already lost.
Of course employers are going to eventually ask for it, but if no one at the company even knows your name before submitting a resume, you are at a clear disadvantage. Odds are that there is someone else applying for that job that either knows someone on the team or has a person advocating on their behalf. Sure, it’s not an automatic denial of a job, but someone being able to attest to your character rather than a list of accomplishments on a piece of paper is a win. As an employer, wouldn’t it make sense for them to trust the opinion of someone they respect versus’ an impersonal resume? If you take the time on the front end (even far before you plan on applying for internships or job) to make connections and build relationships, you’re going to be far more successful. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself in hindsight for that extra mile you went.
Set up Coffee Meetings
It takes work; it doesn’t just happen. I cannot tell you how many coffee meetings I’ve set up. I have talked to people from HR managers to news reporters and social media influencers to gain a first hand account from a professional living the day to day in that industry.
When setting up a coffee meeting, a first impression is everything. In your proofread, professional email, make sure you acknowledge how busy they are when setting up a time to meet. If they say no, thank them anyways; but make sure you work around their schedule and what is most convenient for them. Many times I have driven over an hour in heavy traffic just for a half hour coffee meeting because it was the closest place to their work. The professional one is doing the favor for you, so be flexible.
So they replied ‘yes’ to your email and you have a meeting on your calendar. Now what?
Get over the fact they might be awkward. Especially as a college student, the thought of asking a successful adult stranger to sit a foot across from you just to talk may be uncomfortable. Try to think about how many times they have probably done this; they may be flattered they get to help you in the same way someone did for them. If you come prepared with a knowledge of their background and company, and have an idea of questions, you’ll be good.
Be 10-15 minutes early. Offer to get them coffee and make the conversation all about them. People like to talk about themselves and be genuinely interested in them. Look into reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (but maybe read this one at home… you may get weird looks reading this alone in a coffee shop… not like I would know or anything…). Ask them about the rewarding aspects of their job and about the hard parts. At the end, it would be wise to ask advice as someone interested in pursuing their type of career; write this down. Lastly, make sure to thank them again for creating time to visit with you.
After your meeting, send a follow up email with a few key things you learned and will take away from your time. Use the paper notes you took to refresh your memory while you compose this email. This puts a nice bow on top of your time together.
All this being said, I know what it’s like to not even know where to start. When I moved to Phoenix, I applied for 30+ jobs not knowing a single working person here. At a point when I was beyond frustrated and on the brink of settling for working at Subway, God opened a door and I couldn’t have asked for a better job. No matter how much of a go-getter you are, sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for opportunities when you’ve done all you can on your end.
Seeking out relationships in your desired field will get you closer to that dream job. Be proactive now, but balance the tension of your desire to be a motivated self-starter and patient that the Lord will provide something greater than your expectations. After meeting with someone you may realize that industry is maybe not for you or they can advise other opportunities with the connections they have. This is ambition that most of your peers aren’t even thinking about yet. Start making connections today and you’ll be first to landing that job.