My good friend Lindsey Pollak recently released a terrific new edition of her well-loved book, Getting from College to Career. In the midst of the craziness of having a new book and baby, she generously shared some thoughts about what college grads can do to improve their careers in 2012:
What made you decide to do a new edition at this time?
We’re living in a time of such rapid change in the world of business and careers that five years ago, when the first edition of Getting from College to Career was published, feels like “the old days.” At that time the economy was good and we were at the very, very beginning of social media and smartphone usage. I decided to write a revised edition of the book to make sure that readers would have the most up-to-date, relevant and forward-thinking advice for their job searches and careers.
What's the most important piece of advice readers should take away from the new edition?
The most important piece of advice in the new edition is the same as the original edition: take action every single day to find a job and build your career. More now than ever, the people who succeed are the people who take consistent action. Momentum matters.
The good news is that today’s job seekers have so many more tools they can use to take action – LinkedIn and Twitter have both grown tremendously over the past five years, more organizations are providing job postings by social media and text messaging and Meetup.com and other technologies make networking opportunities more plentiful.
How has job hunting changed in the five years since you launched the original edition of Getting from College to Career? What new tips have you added?
The two biggest changes since Getting from College to Career was published five years ago relate to the economy and technology.
In 2007, there were plenty of available jobs for recent grads, so my advice focused on figuring out what you wanted to do and taking the steps to get hired into a full-time position. Since 2008, job openings are much more scarce so I added a lot more advice on alternatives to full-time employment, such as freelancing, post-college interning and taking on project work.
The recession has also meant that job seekers have had to become much better at marketing themselves to employers. I don’t think the phrase “personal branding” appeared once in the original edition and now it’s everywhere. Job seekers need to be able to tell a clear story of what makes them unique and how that uniqueness will benefit an employer. Generalists are out; specialists are in – even at the entry level.
In terms of technology, Twitter didn’t even exist when I wrote the first edition and now it’s a crucial tool for career research and networking. In this edition I also include recent grad-specific advice on using LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Apps, Skype and other tech-based tools for job seekers. Of course, technology is moving so fast (just look at the skyrocketing growth of Pinterest!) that job seekers need to keep an eye out for new tools that could help them stand out and get hired.
You interviewed a number of successful professionals and asked them to share what they wish they'd known before starting their careers. What answers most stood out to you?
I was really struck by the number of people who credited their success to two things – their relationships and their passion. Yes, a lot has changed over the past five years, but these are two elements of a successful career that are timeless: build and maintain authentic professional relationships and find a career where you’ll be doing work you love. I expect I’ll be giving that exact same advice five more years from now and fifty years from now.
In addition to being an author and speaker you serve as a global spokesperson for LinkedIn. Can you share your top LinkedIn tips for recent grads?
Absolutely! LinkedIn is a very important tool for recent grads and far too many of them are still not aware of how valuable professional online networking can be at the beginning of your career. Here are my top five LinkedIn tips for recent grads:
- Write a profile headline that displays your desired career. Your headline does not have to be a job title. The best student headlines clearly promote who you are and what you want to do when you graduate. For example, "Honors Student & Aspiring Public Relations Associate." Or “Pre-MBA Finance Major Graduating in 2013.”
- Include a ton of keywords in your profile. Recruiters search for candidates by keywords, so make sure your profile is full of them. Find relevant words and phrases in the job descriptions of the positions you want and then pepper them throughout your Summary, Specialties and Skills sections.
- Connect with everyone you know. Build your network by sending personalized LinkedIn connection requests to everyone you know -- friends, family, neighbors, classmates, everyone. Next, send each personal a customized message (no mass emails!) to tell them you’re job hunting and to explain what position(s) you’re looking for. Request some advice or a phone call to talk further, or ask if they can refer you to anyone they know in your desired field.
- Join your alumni group. Join the LinkedIn group of any college, university or graduate school you’ve attended. Once you’re a member, you’ll begin to receive updates on the activities taking place – discussions, job postings, event announcements and more. Jump in and start participating, just like you did in college!
- Search the Student Jobs Portal. The Student Jobs Portal is a collection of all entry-level job postings on LinkedIn. Search by job function or check out postings from featured companies. When you apply for a job through this portal, the employer will be able to see your full LinkedIn profile along with your application.