January 13, 2009

7 Things I Want to Share with You

I was asked to speak recently as an almuni representative at a Milton Academy career networking event for young alumni. As I gathered my thoughts, I quickly realized that my advice applies not only to those who are new in the work force but to mid-career professionals and seasoned executives. We all need to stay fresh, sharp and remember the basics.

My career path was rather circuitous. I was not one of the lucky few who came out of the womb with a specific calling. In preparing for tonight, I realized that I travelled through 9  jobs, three different states,  two countries and one advanced degree before I found a profession to call home. My ambling career path was the curse of a liberal arts education and having a curious and engaged mind where you find most things interesting except math and science.

1. Getting a Job is a Job
The jobs are there, they are fewer, more scarce and there is fierce competition. if you can get through Milton Academy and a rigorous 4 year college education, you can get through this.  So establish expectations that this is going to be long and sometimes unrewarding road.

2. Do Your Homework
When you land an interview, informational or for a specific job, make sure you research the company, the individual you’re meeting with and be prepared. Given the on slot of  free online intelligence and research available, it is almost a mandate with employers. Come to interview informed, prepared and up to speed.

3. The Devil is in the Details
This may seem elementary but when times are tough and competition is stiff, remembering the basics of job etiquette will differentiate you. Have a strong handshake, dress like the interview is important to you, look someone in the eyes, don’t look at your watch or cell phone, be engaged and interested and follow-up with a handwritten (not emailed) thank you note to everyone you meet with. You need to leave a memorable impression.

4. Focus On the Experience Rather Than Salary
Get comfortable with doing grunt work because it will be part of every job.

5. It Is Perfectly Acceptable To Skip Around, Up To A Point
The beginning of your career should be aimed at learning and exploring, then you need to anchor yourself.

6. Don’t Be a Know It All and Don’t Be Afraid to Say I Don’t Know
As a newcomer to the job market or to an industry or profession, don’t act like you know everything, because you probably don’t. Be open to listening, to learning and know that there is an appropriate time and place to voice your opinion. And if you don’t know something, it is ok to say “I don’t know”, but don’t leave it at that. Follow up with, “I will look into that or let me find out”

7. Networking-The Necessary Evil
As uncomfortable as networking is for all of us and I don’t know one person who likes doing it, networking is critical. You never know where it will lead but it does lead to something at some point in time. Just do it.

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