From time to time, I get asked certain questions that I think could benefit a larger audience. Many of my blog readers are still in college right now, so I figured today would be the perfect day to go through two questions, so you can think about them this weekend. If you, like me, are a college graduate, you might want to take this time to reminisce, laugh or give suggestions in this posts comment section that can benefit us.
Question: “Thinking back when you were in college what would you have done differently with the knowledge that you now have?”
The context of this question relates to career development, branding and getting a job upon college graduation. It has nothing to do with partying really hard, hooking up with girls/guys and alcohol abuse (not that we have done any of that 😉 ). This is a tricky question because social media wasn’t important or heavily used back then. I didn’t know about it and I bet you didn’t as well (I graduated Bentley University in 2006). I learned about social media in late 2006.
I was a marketing major and did everything I possibly could to get a job back then, including holding (self-promotion alert!) 8 internships, 7 leadership positions on campus, my own consulting business and high academic honors. I didn’t understand the significance of networking back then (I feel old) and as a result it took me much longer to find a job. For example, one of my friends has an uncle that is an executive at my company. The uncle made a single call and my friend had the job. I, on the other hand, went through 15 people, over three different positions, to get the job I wanted out of school. The entire process took me a total of 8 months. The smart thing I did was start applying for jobs early and as a result I started work a little more than one month after graduating.
Lesson: Avoid networking in college at your own peril.
A lot of the knowledge I have now, I had back then, minus some philosophies and social tools. I never called it “personal branding” back in college, but instead preached about “marketing yourself.” I think a lot of college students now are behind the times, which surprises a lot of people when I tell them that. Most college students don’t know what LinkedIn is, nor how to properly leverage it to get a job.
Since LinkedIn wasn’t popular back then and Facebook was solely for college students, I had to figure out where to go to network with others. If I were to go back, I would have networked more with the people in my “major classes,” meaning the ones where you definitely have something in common with everyone else. Also, your teachers, parents, career counselors and friends are great resources. I’ve mentioned the network strength pyramid twice before and it’s in my book. It emphasizes how your family will go out of their way to help you when you’re in need of a job. As you move down the pyramid, there are more people (friends and then acquaintances), but fewer will help you out. Attending networking events and career fairs can help as well.
I also submitted my resume to Careerbuilder.com, erecruiting.com and Monster.com, while searching through their databases for open positions. erecruiting was the best of the three because it connected me to “pre-qualified positions,” where the school had a relationship with the employer. I got a few leads off of Monster, such as Timberland and a few leads off of erecruiting, such as TJX. I’m glad I didn’t avoid these services, but I couldn’t imagine claiming a great job through them.
Lesson: The 80/20 rule of job hunting says to “spend 80% of your time networking and 20% of your time on job boards.
If I were to go back to freshman year, I would have made more friends in other dorms, instead of staying confined in my dorm because that limited my social circle (network). Also, I would have hoped to start pulling together a career plan freshman year, instead of just focusing on grades. I feel like I did the right thing joining a fraternity sophomore year because it enabled me to spend all of my energy on my career and none of it on figuring out my social situation. I think it really helped me that I did internships early in college because I was able to apply what I was doing inside the classroom to real life situations and visa versa. I also think that taking leadership positions as an undergrad was beneficial because it helped me get other positions as an upperclassman (I had a track record). Leadership positions are great because they are a sign to employer that you have that critical skill.
Lesson: Get internships and take classes in your field simultaneously for cross-learning purposes.