For most soon-to-be graduates who aren’t pursuing further education, the question of how to ace the job hunting game is probably the most pressing. Do I send cover letters and resumes to everyone I know? Do I reach out to alumni and ask them for referrals? In this article, contributor Mike Kurniawan shares some tips to effectively job hunt.
You graduated from high school with flying colors and worked hard through the years in college. You balanced social time, assignments, prepared for exams, partied hard, hit the gym to stay healthy (or not), kept in touch with your family, and now, you are about to graduate. School is over and you are entering the workforce. Do you feel excited, motivated, nervous, overwhelmed, and confused all at the same time? I know I did. This point in life is a pretty big jump, and some may be clueless on how to proceed and ace the job-hunting game. That’s the agenda of this article. I am going to share some main points and suggestions which will give you a leg up on your hunt for that dream job you have wanted.
1) Start Hunting Early
If you attend a 4-year college program, start your job-hunting in your third year. If you enroll in an accelerated program of 3 years, start your job-hunting in your second year. By having a head start, you can learn more about your target companies, go through multiple iterations of your resume, and build strong networks of people who can help you secure an interview at their workplaces.
One of the first things you can do to start is to think hard about your background and skills, and what you want to do in life. What career do you want to pursue? What role and where (Northeast? West Coast? South?), and ultimately, which company? Research how much the expected salary is. Within this one year of job-hunting, your original plan may change along the way, and that is OK. The point is to start early enough to learn all the things about the industry and then decide if that career is something you would enjoy doing 8-12 hours a day, 5 days a week, for years down the road.
2) Use Your Immediate or Adjacent Networks
There are tons of resources available to you when it comes to networking. First of all, find out about the Career Office at your university. Browse their website and attend the networking seminars they conduct. In most universities, the Career Office even provides services such as resume preparation and mock interviews. On their websites, they usually put some information on expected salary range based on departments, major recruiting companies, and the number of alumni going to particular companies in a particular year. You may even be able to apply to certain jobs posted by some companies on your university’s Career Office’s job portal. Professors in your department may have contacts (e.g. former postdocs, former students, or former fellow professors) in some companies. This information can be obtained by visiting the professors’ websites or simply by talking directly to these professors. These contacts may be the bridge to your dream company. Be sure to engage them and learn about your target company through them. There is a tremendous amount of useful resources provided by your university and you need to make sure you exhaust all of them.
When it comes to the university job fair, which typically happens few times a year, be sure to come prepared. Dress professionally, practice your elevator speech, bring copies of your most recent resume, read up about the companies you are targeting beforehand, and ask well thought out questions. Some recruiters may catch you off guard and interview you on the spot! If you are in the software or tech industry, it is not uncommon that the recruiters will give you a quiz when you approach them at the career fair. Only if you pass it then you can proceed to the next stage, so freshen up on your coding skills and other technical knowledge.
Lastly, use your immediate contacts outside of college: your family and friends. Do any of them work in your target companies? Do any of them work in your target industry? If so, courteously ask them if you could set up a short phone interview or buy them a cup of coffee for their time. Ask them if you can learn about what they do and get an overview of their company or industry. Most people, especially your closest friends and family members, would be happy to help and share their knowledge. So, don’t be afraid to ask!
3) Utilize All Available Online Resources
The first point above is about high-level preparation and the second one is about leveraging your networks. The third point I am going to elaborate now is your online presence. A great portion of job hunting and recruitment nowadays happen online, so a strong personal brand online will give you a boost in your hunt.
First of all, make sure your online presence is clean and professional. Go through your social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) and optimize your sharing preferences. Recruiters go online to check for candidates’ online profiles; extreme political opinions, insulting comments, pictures of wild parties, or vulgarities are obvious no-nos. You want to be honest with yourself and at the same time, look decent and approachable. Be mindful of what you write and what pictures you post on social media because online content is easy to trace and almost impossible to destroy. We live in a world that does not forget.
Sign up for LinkedIn and keep a professional profile. For your profile picture, take a professional headshot, wear a well ironed out shirt (no weird or unconventional pattern, please, unless, if you are in arts or entertainment industry), and have a good haircut. List all your education and experience (only those relevant to the roles you are applying) chronologically and make sure there are no typos. Use positive words that give off an energetic vibe when describing your past accomplishments. Be concise, straight to the point, and do not get long-winded with your profile.
Since you have more flexibility in terms of space to write on LinkedIn, I find it easier to build a good resume after you are done with the former. Draft your resume by summarizing your LinkedIn content. If you are an undergraduate, a one-page resume is suggested. If you are a graduate student with multiple publications, patents, projects, and awards, two pages are the maximum. Start with your LinkedIn and trim it down so that your resume is compact and full of “hooks” (unique, above average, and memorable achievements).
Lastly, use other online job search tools such as Glassdoor and Indeed. These two sites are rich with information, including salary by profession and role, past interview questions, company ratings, and employee testimonials. One can learn a lot about a company by reading up on the information available there. You can use this data to help you prepare for your interview, your negotiation, and for you to make an informed decision when an offer is on the table.
By combining an early preparation, strong networks, and a great online profile, one is bound to win the game of job hunting. Job-hunting is a marathon, not a sprint. You will be working on the different elements of it (i.e., resume enhancement, mock interviews, actual interview, attending career fairs, negotiation) for months. Be mentally and physically ready. Eat well, sleep well, and take care of yourself. Be presentable and stay fit, especially when you have in-person interactions or interviews with the recruiters. Remember, the first impression lasts.
For more information on job hunting, career coaching, college life, and college applications, websites such as Glassdoor (https://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm), lndeed, and Indonesia Mengglobal (IM) offer a bunch of useful resources. If you are looking for an education consultancy company that will guide you with everything related to job search, college life and applications (e.g. resume, cover letter, interview preparation, etc.), I would recommend my friends at All-inedu (http://all-inedu.com/). All All-inedu consultants graduated from top global universities and this Jakarta-based company has footprints all over the globe.