It is with great pride that I welcome you to the workforce. I realize many of you are still preparing for finals. Getting your portfolios together. Preparing oral defenses. That sort of thing. But I’m guessing that right below the surface of those immediate and real concerns, the anxiety of what comes next may have started to take hold.
It’s cool. I am here to help you.
I am a job creator. And contrary to what you may have been told in school, you are about to enter a market awash in opportunity. Especially if you’re entering the technology and interactive design market. Which doesn’t mean that you’re not gonna have to go out there and nail an interview—because you will. So if you’ll give me a few minutes of your precious time I have a few tips that may help you land the job of your dreams.
1. Get your house in order
Don’t even think about looking for a job without an online presence. If you’re a designer you better have an online portfolio. If you’re a developer, show me some code samples. And don’t just show me your work is pretty, describe what problems you were solving.
And as much as I hate to say this, get a LinkedIn profile. Otherwise, prospective employers are gonna look at your Facebook page, which should be cleaned up but not to the point where it’s obvious you’ve cleaned it up. Leave a beer bong shot or two.
Buy a decent outfit to interview in. Tights aren’t pants and flip flops aren’t shoes.
2. Where are these jobs at, fool?
Good question. There are a few excellent job boards you should get familiar with. Start with Authentic Jobs and 37 Signals Job Board. Stay away from Craigslist and stuff like that, they’re shit shows for stuff like this.
3. Get names
When you finally find a job you want to apply for do some research. Find out the name of the person who’ll be receiving your email. Hint: They’re not called Hiring Manager. (Also, if you assume the hiring manager is a man, you suck.) If it’s a small shop, just address it to the principal by name. Don’t address your letter to the dog, even if the company is stupid enough to list a dog on their website with the rest of the staff.
4. Even better, network
“Networking” is kind of a gross word. It’s true. But, nepotism is real and making those connections will serve you throughout the duration of your career. Hiring can feeling like an exhausting crapshoot. People hire their friends and their friends’ friends before they start picking random strangers from the firstname.lastname@example.org inbox. Tell everyone you know what sort of job you are looking for and ask for introductions to anyone they know who works in your desired field. Then, when one of these people is asked “Hey, do you know anyone looking for a job?” your name will come up.
You can go to a “networking mixer” if you like drinking with sad people in uncomfortable clothes, but it won’t be nearly as effective as working your existing friends and relatives. Even your professors. They had dreams once.
5. No one wants to read your cover letter.
Write a good email. The goal of the email is to get an in-person interview. Explain why you’re qualified. Explain what you’d bring to the job. Sound genuinely excited about this new field you’re entering! Do not apologize for your lack of experience. It’ll be obvious when you tell me you’ve just graduated from college. Don’t be overly familiar, no matter how “wacky” you’ve heard the workplace is. You’re not applying to be anyone’s friend. The fact that you can write a solid, straight-forward email that gets right to the point and maybe shows just a glimmer of personality goes a long way.
Put the message in the body of the email. Plain text formatting. Do not attach your letter to the email. I’m not going to open any of those attachments anyway, and I’m certainly not going to open them when I’ve asked you not to attach anything. I may click the link to your website. If your email was well-written.
Also, I’ve never read a resumé in my life. But if you insist on giving me one, don’t lead with “Photoshop” as a skill. Tell me you know how to combine typefaces and have a solid understanding of color theory. Those are skills.
6. Prepare for the interview
You got an interview? Fantastic. Time to prepare. Find out as much about the company you’re applying at as possible. Google them. Read their site. Get familiar with the type of work they do and who they do it for.
Prepare questions for them. At some point during the interview you’ll be asked “Do you have any questions for us?” You should have some.
“What’s it like to work here?” is a dumb question. “I notice a lot of your work is in editorial, do you worry about the economics of that market?” gets you a second interview.
7. Dress the part, be the part
There is a school of thought that says your brilliance will shine through even if you’re wearing a ratty hoodie and a stained t-shirt. It’s stupid. You’re gonna get some graduation money. Spend it on some decent clothes to wear to your interview. Your Flickr-stalking/research should tell you whether a suit will impress or terrify your prospective employers.
Don’t hug any of your interviewers. Before or after.
8. Not to be a self-serving douchebag, but…
Read my book. I wrote it just for you. It’s got a ton of good lessons that will guide you through your career. Trust me on this. It’s only $18.00.
9. Don’t apply at Facebook
Seriously, do you think so little of the sacrifice your parents made sending you to college that you’re willing to just throw your life away?