Is your child majoring in liberal arts or bench science in college? Are you that student? Make sure you consider accessing the business learning resources in your college town. Many towns have continuing education offerings, classes at the library, a senior center, a chamber of commerce, a downtown association, where they offer classes on basic business skills. Why start with that Accounting 101 class when you can take a 3-week intro to Quick Books to dip your toe in. Interested in a possible internship for a company that does investing? Someone is probably offering a short class on managing your portfolio or buying and selling real estate so that you can get familiar with the lingo before you start down the investment company interview path. Liberal arts majors are often intimidated by classes with a more quantitative bent, and therefore they avoid taking ANY classes in subjects like accounting that ultimately will be rather useful in almost any entry level job. Sure you could learn these things online, but maybe you’ve tried and you just don’t “get” it. Don’t give up. A patient continuing ed teacher will usually spend time and effort above and beyond the class to get you over your sticking points. Better yet, the others in the class may even want to hire you part time to help them once you have mastered the topic, or they may know someone who would like to give you an internship or a job shadow locally.
Starting your networking with sympathetic adult fellow students is a great way to get better at talking to adult employed people. These local contacts can ultimately be a great sounding block or make introductions for you. Let’s face it, networking in the town where your college is is often a very overlooked resource – that’s because aside from striking up a conversation at the post office or the local coffee shop, “town-gown’ relations aren’t usually set up to link students to locals. Making the effort through an organized event or class can help you learn, and introduce you to adults in the town who can be of significant and lasting help.
80 percent of students say that job prospects are a key reason why they choose to go to college/choose a particular college.
However, only 35 percent of students nearing graduation feel prepared for a career by senior year.
And, only 20% of students nationwide make use of their career services/advising office during their time at college.
This is according to a Gallup/Strada joint poll recently quoted in The Atlantic magazine.
Affluent students shared that they typically network with family and friends. First generation students often lack these contacts and are left high and dry if they don’t access their college/university’s resources. On a bright note, 50 percent of all students network at some point with their professors, staff in their department, and/or fellow students. However, those staff, faculty and friends have no formal training for advising students. So, these students may gain insight or networking leads, but they are still lacking in the concrete training for basics like a strong resume and networking tools such as emails, phone and face-to-face meeting skills.
I often write about how where you go to college matters less than what you make of it. Since many if not most families see a college education as THE gateway to a job/career, it does beg the question, shouldn’t your child have some kind of introduction to a career planning strategy before they matriculate and during the four years? Why pay for a college education if job access is a major component of what you seek and your child does not have the insight, motivation, or know-how to access career advice? How will they develop the plan that will allow them to attain the ultimate brass ring from their four years of hard work in a college or university setting? Much of my career consulting is based on giving students and their families a short, affordable tutorial on how to have a great time in college while pursuing the building blocks that will lead to a successful career plan as they reach graduation. We start with baby steps and during the four years we can revist, augment and expand on the plan as the student’s maturity coalesces and their interests and talents become more fleshed out.
Want to inspire a young adult in your life to get out there and try networking? Write a short note to them about a networking success you’ve had in your life, enclose a gift card from a major chain like Peet’s or Starbucks or Panera, and encourage them to take someone to coffee! Every time I have done this my students have been encouraged by the story I’ve shared. Not only have they followed through by having a networking session of their own, but they have kept in touch to thank me and tell me about their networking adventure. It’s a small gift that will inspire the next generation!
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” How many times do we say that maxim to ourselves and then blow off responding to an invitation or getting a confirmed appointment into our calendar? I’m guilty of it, and I am sure I am not the only person. The reason for blowing off this step is often benign. First, invites come in at random times. Often I am not at my calendar – worse, I keep 2-3 calendars: one for at home use by my whole family, second is my phone calendar which pings at me so often I am inured to reminders even if I did calendar them — and so I often ignore it. Lastly, I have a daily planner which I love because I can take all my notes in it, however I often don’t have it when I am running errands or joining a friend for dinner-key times when new appointments might come up. Sound familiar? Maybe you have a fantastic memory and don’t feel you need to write things down. Younger people are particularly guilty of this because they have fewer kids, pets, direct reports, etc. and they have not yet been smoked by enough missed appointments to be cured of this bad habit.
So, here is my simple recommendation – Get ONE calendar! There, I said it. ONE – and keep that updated meticulously (my phone calendar is that ONE calendar). You can have others, but just don’t rely on those. NEXT: make a time of day when you calendar all your appointments and when you check the next day’s commitments. You may THINK you aren’t capable of becoming a meticulous calendar checker, BUT: you probably brush teeth, eat meals and sleep at quite specific times of day most days of the year. So, yes you are capable of doing this. If you have an established habit – like making a coffee in the morning or teeth brushing – link calendar checking to the established habit. This “pairing” will fast forward you quickly to building the calendaring habit.
Lastly — this may sound like a grandmotherly etiquette lesson but you MUST practice confirming appointments and in the following specific format… and in a timely fashion. The best way to send a confirmation is to repeat back all details in your response, including how best to reach you if they have a problem. Example: “Looking forward to seeing you August 15, 2018 at 2 PM upstairs at the Starbucks in Copley Square, Boston. My cell is 617-905-8568 if you need to text or call me for any reason.” In this exact format, most email programs from Gmail to Yahoo will create a hyperlink of your data and you can automatically get this appointment into your online or phone calendar without any more typing. The person you are meeting can do the same, and if there were any confusion about date, time or place, you can avoid the problem NOW as they will likely i.d. the problem immediately. Again, it seems very “Emily Post” to do it this way – but etiquette is often designed to be very practical. That is why Emily lives on into the technological age even if embossed calling cards are a Dickensian frivolity of the past.
Calendars can seem tedious, time consuming, and something you do after you get your “real” work done. You may feel that really talented people memorize their calendar and don’t need to go to the trivial step of writing things down. This could not be further from the truth. Your calendar and how you maintain it is the front line showcase of your organizing ability and your integrity. It is one of the very MOST important tasks you will do every day. NEVER treat it as a secondary or tertiary item on your to-do list. How you fulfill your commitments is THE key statement of how reliable you are in the world. And…this should make you feel GREAT. You do NOT need to be the smartest student or worker. You do NOT need to be the coolest, the handsome-ist, the richest. You just have to treat others well and make time a few minutes every day to know where you need to be and when. A small hurdle that will vault you to being an outstanding employee, family member and friend.
Do you want to forge a new or improved path in life but feel you have the basic building blocks under control? Or, do you feel you have major life events that act as stumbling blocks and need resolution? While therapists are licensed and coach/mentors are not, they both provide valuable input when you are stuck or have self-limiting patterns. To make the determination of whether you need one or the other, you will want to figure out whether deeper unresolved issues are holding you back. Or, is your path forward cloudy because of either a sense of not knowing your options yet or not being motivated to stick to a plan. Coaching operates in a framework where the basic assuption is a client is healthy and whole, therapy involves the assumption that the client wants/needs healing of some sort.
If you want to think in terms of a sports analogy, therapists treat deeper issues much the way a physical therapist, orthopedist, chiropractor, or acupuncturist might treat an ongoing injury such as tennis elbow. A coach/mentor will act more like a workout or sport coach, giving you tasks and monitoring your progress while providing you feedback and motivating you as you improve. I have seen students who employ both therapy and coaching together. While this approach can be costly, it is quite effective. Likewise, I have seen folks who use these two modalities sequentially – some start with therapy, resolve issues, potentially are medicated for any mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, and then move on to coaching. Others start with coaching and if they fail to meet their objectives, they move on to therapy as a way to uncover and resolve emotional issues that are blocking their progress. The key thing is that a reputable coach or mentor is just that, a coach/mentor, and does not handle psychological issues. Both approaches can bring life long value and are worth exploration.
To know yourself better, you can do a short exercise where you write down five goals you have for your future. Under each goal, write down what is holding you back. If the issues seem to be tactical in nature such as motivation, lack of contacts to help you, dissastistaction with concrete tasks and commitments you have in your life, a desire to move or to get a promotion but a fear of breaking down and executing on the detailed steps that will take, then a coach may be the best approach. If your mind focuses on deeper and more generalized fears – fear of failure, sadness around lack of love or happiness in your life, unresolved issues with family or friends, then therapy may be a great place to start.
A system – a spread sheet, post it notes, note cards, a note book…systems only work if they appeal to you. Some people are techie and like everything on the computer or smart phone. Others need visual appeal and like hand written lists in colored pens, or even post it notes. My favorite way of working is on my phone – I type letters, documents, emails, notes to myself using my phone. That said, spreadsheets end up so tiny that I find them hard to use on the phone screen. I prefer an agenda style calendar and note cards that I can take with me since I spend a big chunk of my day in the car. A bulky laptop doesn’t work well when I am pulled over on the side of the road.
Knowing yourself and your style is the first step–use what you really enjoy. Then, capturing data that will help with follow through is the next most important step. If you make a contact, call them or email them to follow up and say you are glad to have met -do this immediately. Follow through by email, but commit to trying to connect by phone. If you reach voice mail, many sales systems recommend a weekly call thereafter for a few weeks, with the hope of reaching the person live. If messages and calls yield nothing then go to once a month, finally warehousing the contact after 6 months and trying back again on the anniversary of meeting them.
Networking requires diligence and organization. Follow through is key. Noting these contacts in a calendar or on a daily list of to dos will mean you actually work your contact list effectively. The likelihood of having the contact yield a new introduction or best case a lead to an actual job will go up significantly. Job networking is a numbers game. It’s worth it. Over 70% of jobs are the result of networking. Don’t stop applying online too – 30% of jobs come in that way. But, reach out to as many people as you can and have a system to touch base regularly. Many of us just do not or can not follow these systems and fall behind, leaving valuable contacts hanging. Make good on your list. Organize actions and follow up and really do what you say you will do. The results will amaze you.
“Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.” Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator
Think about this for a minute. Let it really sink in. If you start from the premise that your life’s work should be about doing jobs that please others? Where does that leave you? You will be crafting a whole life based on a false you, and that will create all kinds of problems in your life.
So, start early. Have conversations. Use the classic 5 Ws that are taught in basic journalism and investigation/research classes. I have adapted them here for the young job seeker.
Who? Do you want to work with (ok that should be Whom?!) (people your age? people smarter than you are? in a big group? by yourself?)
What? Do you want to be doing most of the day. (talk to people, manage others, sell, make spreadsheets, proofread, handle lots of details, work with money or animals or children or the elderly?)
Where? Do you want to be when you are doing this work (inside? outside? in a team? solitary? in a city? in the wilderness?)
When? Do you want a regular schedule, do you want to travel which might involve nights and weekends, do you prefer evenings or mornings? And then the big one…
Why? What makes you think these things are true about yourself (get really honest about this to yourself)? What are supporting data? Have you really looked at how you act now and how you think you will want to act in the future? Have you ever been able to change a behavior you don’t like? Or, are there things that are just part of what makes you “you,” and you will need to accommodate those traits in order to succeed in your career (NOTE: this is a key factor in being successful, workarounds are crucial as we cannot be good at everything)?
Going back to Paul Graham’s quote above, what is driving you to say all these things? Is it really your opinion, or are you trying to appease or please friends, family, professors, coaches, or society-at-large? And if you are, then please re-do your 5 Ws until they truly reflect you, without the influence of wanting to please others.
It is not to say that you can not make a lifetime of work into a success by massaging what is truly your preferred path so that your career pays well. Maybe you know you really want to live in an affluent community and will need a certain income. But, you would be surprised how finding satisfying work will often take you to communities where you are very happy — often you are then surrounded by like-minded people. You can then augment your desire for life’s nice things outside of your job, rather than design a whole career just to get those nice things. Most of us spend more time at work than doing any other activity. Remember that when you decide on a job solely to provide you with a certain upscale lifestyle. You may not have time to enjoy the lifestyle you can now afford.
Bottom-line, your career needs to contain kernels of the real you, based on your answers to the 5 Ws. Knowing this early will save you a great deal of frustration, altercations with peers and bosses, failure in the work place and in your life, and the heartache and huge waste of time that all these issues brings a person.
If you truly have no idea where to start, then talk with close adult family friends, teachers, and family. Ask them about your best traits. Then ask them what kind of careers would utilize those traits. This is the beginning of networking and an essential step as you hone your path and seek jobs that let you flourish. Certainly you could read any one of hundreds of career books like, What Color Is Your Parachute?, the classic by Richard Nelson Bolles.But you don’t have to. Merely working through the 5 Ws and separating out what is a good match for you vs. what you think will look prestigious will get you very far, in a much shorter time.