Summer is Coming: Top 5 Job Search and Networking Mistakes of Young (and not-so-young) People
It is around this time of the year that many people are looking towards the summer for employment opportunities. As such, people reach out to me for assistance and advice. Some are graduating college (or high school). Some are merely finishing up a semester or school year. Others may have recently relocated or otherwise are seeking an opportunity.
Based on some observations and personal experience, I would like to point out my Top 5 blunders that relate to this. The context is either seeking a specific posted role, getting the foot into the door of an organization for any role, or merely networking for ideas.
- The “Approach”- For some, it is an email; for others, it is a phone call. Sending an email without a subject line or without an appropriate greeting is not appropriate. An initial contact is not akin to texting a friend whom you have known for 10 years. Don’t start the email with ‘Hi’ and then go on. While it need not be a formal letter, it should begin with an appropriate greeting like “Mr. Smith:….Good morning. My name is John Doe and I am currently a student…..” If by phone, either after the person answers or in leaving a voice-mail, always introduce yourself by name. Speak slowly and clearly. If you reach the person directly, ask if it is a good time to talk for a few minutes before going on. In any of these channels, try to be succinct, as no one wants to hear your life story or that you were in the school choir. That is TMI. Think about preparing 1-2 sentences about why you would be a strong candidate for this job. Employers are interested in addressing their needs not the biographies of candidates. Also, always be polite and gracious, regardless of whether the person can assist directly at that time. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Resume– Always have a resume that is good-to-go to include in your email or promptly forward after a phone call. A turn-off is a resume with spelling errors and spacing issues. It is always a good idea to have some sort of objective at the top as to what you are looking for. The resume should not be over-the-top for where you are at in life, whether educationally or professionally. Make sure to list your technical skills with software, systems, and professionally relevant social media. Just saying non-descript like “proficient in Microsoft Office” might be construed as “I have a 5th grade literacy level.”
- Timing– For summer jobs and internships, don’t wait until the last minute. The “summer” can begin as early as sometime in May. Furthermore, in many fields, decisions and commitments are often made in January or February. Regardless of whether that is the case or not, (college) students are already working their summer jobs by the end of May and they are the “competition”. Once again, this applies equally to paying jobs, as well as paid or unpaid internships.
- Keep Mom and Dad out of it– Always be your own advocate. Although parents want what is best for their children, “helicoptering” is often not in a child’s best interest. If the child is old enough to work, he/she is old enough to make the first contact accordingly. Where parents will be helpful is with #2 above, in proofreading the resume for errors and format. If parents are somehow involved in any initial networking and referral (and that’s a good thing) they should step back after that and let the child interact directly.
- Specificity– In cases where you are not applying to a specific job, it is always best to be fairly specific with what type of opportunity you are looking for. Flexibility is fine and a desirable trait. But, don’t just say, “I’ll do anything”. That gives the employer little to go on in determining where you might fit in. Obviously, what you offer to do needs to be relevant to the organization’s needs and within your capability.