Landing a after college job
Having Harvard on your resume is not a requirement for landing the job of your dreams. In fact, you don’t need to hide that you washed dishes and mopped floors over the summer, while positioning yourself for the next transition. The key to landing and maintaining the job of your dreams is to manage office perception.
Although graduating from a name-brand school and having relevant work experience is helpful, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have it. Why, because a lot of people don’t either.
Coming from Iowa, I was unsure how my education and experience would stack up against the millions of other candidates in Chicago. Although I worked full-time while going to school full-time, I had a feeling that my experience still wouldn’t be enough. Boy was I wrong…
Employers are putting greater stock in whether your personality fits the culture of the firm.
No one wants to sit in a cubical next to negative Nancy and gloomy Gus for 10 hours a day. Employers want to hire people who they can be around all day long without pulling their hair out. Oh, so you studied quantum physics at the University of Chicago and interned with NASA, hope you didn’t skip over the course on likeability and public perception. As much as we all hate to admit it, the perceptions of others in the office matters to management
At 16 years old, I applied for a sale job that had a list of minimum requirements that I did not meet. One of which is that you must be of college age (18) to apply. In my interview I highlighted all of the reasons why, despite not meeting their requirements, they should hire me anyway. After entertaining my argument for an hour the hiring manager said, “Look, I think we would be taking a risk by hiring you. You seem like a nice kid and I enjoy talking to you, but….”
Now everyone should know what’s coming next. He set me up with a compliment sandwich and now he is trying not to hurt my 16 year old feelings.
He continued, “But I think it would be a good risk. You have a good attitude and you came in here determined.” He ended up being right, a good risk, I would stay with the company for more than 5 years and received 3 promotions.
Surely you didn’t get that lucky after college, right?
After college I used the ‘apply everywhere and see what sticks’ method to job searching. I ended up applying for an insurance job whose responsibility was to work closely with the regional manager in Chicago. I ended up interviewing with the regional manager even though I knew close to nothing about the world of insurance. Just like the hiring manager I spoke with at 16, I was offered the job because I gave him the impression I was willing to learn and was fun to be around.
Fake it til’ you make it
Faking it is one of the top five worst career decisions you can make. Do NOT fake or act, like someone you are not because it will absolutely catch up to you. Ever have a friend as a roommate? It’s the moment you realize that wholesome friend only does their laundry once every few months and showers sparingly. Invariably, the more you’re around someone the more you will learn their true day-to-day behaviors. Coworkers are the same way.
Treat everyone as if they were your boss
A few weeks ago one of the partners of our law firm gave me some great career advice. He explained that one of the things that helped him become successful is treating everyone as if they were his boss. He makes a conscious effort, despite his professional status, to give everyone the attention and respect they deserve. Let’s be clear, treating people as if they were your boss doesn’t mean sucking up to them or being obnoxiously nice. Rather, you try to present the best version of yourself possible.
After college, how to manage perception
For me, the first step in managing public perception is identifying all of the instances where I have an opportunity to impact people’s viewpoint of me. This is important because you don’t want to waste time and energy on things you cannot control. What I realized was that there were a lot of opportunities throughout the day that I wasn’t taking advantage of – such as when a coworker walks over to my desk unexpectedly, the security guard I walk by each morning or passing by someone in the hallway. In each scenario my coworkers were evaluating my attitude and the way I operate to determine what type of person I am.
Once you have identified those moments where you can positively influence perception, you can begin to focus on how you want to be perceived. If you were to quit your job tomorrow, what is the number one thing you hope people remember about you? Truth is that question is tough to answer because you want the memory to be an authentic interpretation of who you really are. Simply put, who we are can be complicated and may even change over time.
The key to leaving that lasting memory, of who you really are, is to understand your strengths and weaknesses. After college I settled into my first “real” job working as a Quality Assurance Specialist for a financial services company. At the time my strategy for managing public perception was to get everyone to like me. All I had to do was smile and be nice to people and surely they would all like me, right? Wrong.
My curiosity rubs people the wrong way. For whatever reason, God designed me to be curious as hell. If my job was to make French fries, I will want to know why we use canola oil and not vegetable oil, where each potato comes from and how much money we make on French fry sales alone. Not exactly in the job description, but heck it makes me move with a purpose because I understand the value of my role. As you can imagine, not all of my bosses have appreciated that aspect of my personality. The key here is that I have identified a positive part of my personality that I can use to my advantage without feeling like I am being inauthentic.
When that coworker comes over to my desk unexpectedly to chat, I can confidently engage them because I am genuinely curious what is pulling them away from their desk, and why they decided I was a good person to chat with. Instead of walking by the security guard on my way to the elevator, I now stop and introduce myself while asking if he has ever had to use the pepper-spray. See, my identity is unchanged while I learn to navigate life as the perfect version of myself.
So next time you get discouraged about finding the job of your dreams or building relationships within your current one, remember you can find success beyond the resume. Just be yourself.