Your first day at a new job has arrived – a swiveling chair, an empty desk, a new email address and a feeling that you’ve started the climb up the corporate ladder begin to circle around your brain like Chicago’s blustering wind. A few days into your new job and you might be thinking that the dress pants and ironed shirt should be replaced by running shoes and some sort of spandex-like workout attire. The race to the finish has begun. The ironic thing is that you’re not even sure where you’re going!
For many young beginners in the workforce, the finish line seems so far away that it becomes a figment of the imagination. You realize that you’re at step one and as the weeks go by, you accept how much there is to learn, realizing that all you can do is give your all and hope it’s enough. It isn’t until the strategic thinking and leadership skills of company VP’s begins to permeate the room like the smell of chocolate from the Ghirardelli’s store that you begin to understand how high the ladder really is. You feel utterly lost and that you have little to contribute. How could you offer anything as valuable as their insight? This realization stings and eats away at your self-confidence. The climb to the next rung on the ladder becomes harder, more wind resistance despite the flashy spandex pants.
Getting to this point however, requires just as much work as that of trying to wade through the piles sitting on your desk, ready to engulf you at your weakest moment. Hours are spent picking out the perfect resume paper, analyzing which fonts might have the highest rate of return, talking yourself into being the most confident and humble person all at the same time, and last but not least, surviving the comfort that is the fancy black suit, tie, or heels in order to look ‘sharp.’
I bring up these concerns because they are those of most young professionals, proven by the hour long Q & A session at the recent PRSSA presentation on resume and interview tips,’ courtesy of The Lucas Group, a professional recruiting company. The event attracted nearly twenty of us young professionals, and we took full advantage of the opportunity to drill the two women from Lucas Group about our job prospecting woes. What we walked away with was the unsugar-coated version of answers to resume writing and interview questions as well as a ‘thank goodness I’m not alone’ sentiment about being a young professional. I’ll include some reminders below which everyone might find useful, regardless of your age.
- With the advent of the internet and electronic resume viewing, the one-page rule has been thrown out the window. Apparently, 8.5×11 doesn’t hold the power it once did.
- When leaving voicemails with employers, you have 10-30 seconds to sell yourself. Isn’t it nice to know that your life boils down to 30 seconds? Be specific to what you bring to the table, what you can offer them and why you’re the best man/woman for the job. Call three or four times, and if you still don’t hear back, have the last one be an ‘assumption call.’ In other words, ‘I’m assuming you’re not interested, but if I’m wrong…’ Oh, and if you can’t get through to a direct number, call the receptionist and play the dumb card to get someone who can help you. They’re nice people. They want you to succeed, and they’re probably bored.
- When asked about salary requirements, be aware that they’re trying to see if they can afford you. Find something in a 10K range from what you want and err on the high side since the final offer will be lower than you requested. More importantly, dodge the ‘make it or break it’ salary question with all your might. Focus on how if you’re a good fit and if they want to make you an offer, that you expect the compensation will be fair and competitive, but not a problem. Be honest about what you currently make including benefit packages. Have you heard of W-2’s? Because they have, and they won’t be afraid to check yours if they think you’re lying.
- When asked in an interview what your greatest weakness is, don’t say the following: ‘I’m a perfectionist, I work too hard, I don’t have any weaknesses,’ or any major personality flaw that may demonstrate honesty, but will inevitably cross your name off their list. They’re probing for soft spots, so show them how although you’re not perfect, you are strong enough to fix it. Show action toward this idea.
- Research the company beforehand. Let them do most of the talking, but offer concise and brilliant answers to any questions directed your way. Ask if they have any doubts so that you can cast your candidacy more positively. Have questions. Be yourself and be fun. Nobody wants to work with a stick-in-the-mud! Verbally express interest in the position or the company – try it a couple times for good measure. Send a thank you note. Stay positive because if you get the job, you have avoided the potential cardboard box lifestyle, and if you didn’t get the job, there is probably a reason and you wouldn’t’ be happy in the long run anyhow.
One day, a new desk is filled and the young college graduate sitting in your old squeaky swivel chair is looking to you for guidance. You see their wavering confidence, their naivety and their “I’m going to jump off the cliff into something new’ frame of mind. You know what it took to get where they are, and you also know how far they have left to climb. Before you get too jazzed about this realization that you’re no longer at the bottom, just remember that your own ladder hasn’t ended. Don’t even think about taking off the spandex!
(Leah Bassett is Corporate Visibility & New Business Intern, Zócalo Group. She graduated from Albion College two years ago and says she’s addicted to travel. Her goal is to become a “media titan and travel-industry extraordinaire.” Check out her adventures in India at http://eyediscover.wordpress.com).