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March 18, 2014

12 Job Facts Every College Grad Should Know

I interview many recent grads and understand how stressful the transition from college life to "the real world" can be. Here's what you need to know as you try to land your first job—straight from the mouth of a hiring manager.

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college grad getting a job

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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1. Grades do not matter. 

For the most part, your 93 in French literature doesn't mean squat to your future employer (unless your job is to translate French literature). Sure you slaved for that 89 in biology, but your boss-to-be cares more about your ability to act professionally, desire to learn, and overall dependability. The difference between anabolic and catabolic will probably not come up in conversation, unless you're interviewing for a job in a lab or other health/medical-related profession.

2. What you think you're worth and what you are worth are two very different things. 

When you are interviewing for an entry-level position, you should do your research on what others are making in similar jobs. Ask your friends, check glassdoor.com, and reach out to those on Linked In with similar titles. I once interviewed a potential candidate for a position that paid a salary typical of an entry-level editorial position and she asked for $25,000 more. I'm all for leaning in, and understand that the salary question can be a tough answer to navigate, but you want to appear as informed as possible when discussing numbers. Do your research. 

3. What you post on social media matters.

To a prospective employer, your personal brand matters, but posting provocative images or comments could absolutely hurt your chances of getting hired. I'm not saying you can't be you, but that photo you posted to your public Facebook account holding a beer and looking completely sh*tfaced is why I didn't call you in for an interview (#truestory).

4. Your résumé should be clear, concise, and outline your skills.

I receive many résumés and cover letters that are basically the exact same thing: one is bulleted with dates and the other is in paragraph form (#fail). Your résumé should be ONE PAGE and outline your specific skills, wins, important tasks, and other various opportunities that would matter to me and pertain to the job for which you are applying. If you were an intern that mostly ran errands, I care more about how you assisted your manager, what you wrote, any research tasks, and of course, any digital-related experiences. Even if you think that the personal fashion blog you keep for fun isn't relevant to the marketing position you are applying for, saying that you are the founder of said blog and that you maintain the site regularly speaks volumes to your abilities.

5. Consider going on a ton of interviews a strength.

Like dating, you become better with practice. I have interviewed many candidates over the years and it's okay to be a bit nervous. Think of it this way: more interviews + more experiences describing your skills + more confidence — the jitters = success!

6. If you don't get the job, it's not always because you're not qualified.

Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes even the most qualified people are turned down for jobs that seem to be made for them. So why would an amazingly qualified person be shot down? It could be anything from your social media presence (see #3) to whether you will mesh well with the rest of the team. While it might be difficult to not take it personally, think of it as a learning opportunity for your next interview.

7. Be delightfully relentless.

Sometimes the hiring process can take weeks and even months. So while you interviewed for a position that you thought you nailed, you should continue to follow up until you hear a firm answer one way or the other. This does not mean every day, but it does mean that you can send a pleasant email once a week continuing to show interest in the job. And you should ABSOLUTELY send a thank you note via email as soon as you can after your interview. It shows your continued commitment to your potential manager.

8. Don't be shocked if you have to intern (again).

Jobs are hard to come by these days, but you know who has a leg up on entry-level positions at that company you're dying to join? Interns. So what if you have to live at home for another 6 months? If it means optimum networking opportunities and the possibility of landing a full-time gig, it's worth it.

9. Take your job seriously.

If you are assigned a task, no matter how small you think it is, you should do it to the best of your ability. This "ability" is a direct reflection on who you are as a team player. A former freelancer of mine once thought that doing some editorial research and writing certain stories was beneath her "ability" so she didn't complete the task. Please note the word "former" in the above sentence.

10. Be polite even if you don't like someone.

Seriously. There are going to be many personalities you meet along the way—some pleasant and some quite the opposite. You should be polite to everyone no matter how much the other person annoys you. Then go out with your BFF and vent over a glass of wine. 

11. Show up to work on time and be reliable.

If you are sick, stay home, but if you are constantly calling in sick because you are "so tired from staying out the night before," maybe you're not ready for a job. Things happen: health issues, a broken dishwasher, or family emergencies, but it's how you handle those moments that matter. I've had employees along the way who don't let me know when they're going to be late, or that they're sick and not coming in—this is just unacceptable. No matter how much anxiety you are feeling about sending that email or making that phone call, it's the right, professional thing to do. Plus most companies require managers to report employees who just don't show up to HR, fearing that something terrible could have happened (#truestory).


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