I recently did a seminar for a friend who runs a class at George Mason University for seniors on finding a job in the real world. My job was to talk mostly about non-profit careers, and secondly about the technology sector.
I violated one of my long-standing rules in professional keynote speaking by NOT asking him whether there would be any other speakers, and if so, in what order would we speak.
Well, it turns out there was another speaker, and he spoke first. There were a few characteristics about the speaker I wish I had known beforehand.
- This guy was a REALLY good speaker. OK, I do a lot of speaking, so I thought we're even.
- This guy knew what he wanted to do with his life since he was 4 years old. [Uh-oh. I still haven't figured that out completely.]
- What he wanted to do was to be a jet pilot with the Thunderbirds in the Air Force. [Double my concern.]
- Enroute to his dream, he had a life threatening illness that he had to overcome. [I'm toast.]
- He concluded his presentation with a video of him flying; you could see the wings of two other jets about 8 inches above his head.
"And our next speaker, John Mancini, will talk about non-profit careers." [Oh, crap.]
Short circuit to the end, it went OK, although I never did confess that at 4 years old I wanted to be a garbage man -- or maybe it is now called a recyling engineer. In thinking about this presentation, though, I did come across a post I did 2 years ago. I thought in this graduation season I would run it again.
And to all you new graduates, good luck.
8 Things You Need to Know Now That You Are Out in the Real World Looking for a Job
OK, I have waited long enough for an invitation to do a Commencement Address and none have been forthcoming. (Although my wife does work in a church pre-school; I am holding out hope that this year's harvest of kindergarten wannabees will still tee me up.)
The particular reason Commencements are on my mind is that our youngest is getting ready to graduate from High School. One of her older brothers has graduated from college and is out in the workforce (although about ready to go back for an MBA) and the other will graduate from college in December, the good Lord willing. So perhaps by auditioning through this blog post -- and by trying out my act on the Herndon United Methodist pre-Ks -- I will have a future chance for a Commencement address. I am especially lured by the idea of getting an honorary doctorate with no work.
So here goes -- my 8 Things You Need to Know Now That You Are Out in the Real World Looking for a Job.
1 -- You likely won't go to work for a super-cool company.
I have recently been listening to Tom Peters' The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence while "jogging" (a relative term -- I go faster than just standing still) on the treadmill and around the 1/16 mile track at the Y. (Note: I DO understand how unbelievably geeky this sounds).
Tom talks about two worlds -- Guru World and the Real World. In Guru World (the place you read about in all the management books), everyone works for companies that are (amongst other things): 1) Fortune 500; 2) global; 3) supercool (like Google); 4) on TV all the time.
The reality -- and I can personally testify to this one given that I am well into the 2nd half of a 30 year career in the association world -- is that most people don't work at these kinds of places. Most companies or organizations are somewhat small and make their money doing things that are not terribly sexy. Like mine. There are millions of organizations like mine. That doesn't mean the job can't be fulfilling. But not every job is cool.
2 -- Be resilient.
While I am on Tom Peters, he has a GREAT chapter on what companies are looking for in an employee. It all comes down to being "resilient." I love the attributes he lists. I'm thinking about having them put on our job applications. For those of you looking for a job, your task is to figure out how to convince your interviewer that you possess these traits (just a partial list).
- Inner calm.
- High self-knowledge.
- Breadth of out-of-the ordinary experience.
- Known for integrity.
- An appetite for modestly controlled chaos.
- Sense of humor.
When I think of all the people that I have hired in my world of small associations over the years, these traits trump domain expertise. Every time. Make sure your interviewer knows that you have them.
3 -- Clean up your Facebook act.
I have been on Facebook a long time -- since shortly after they opened it up to non-edu domains.
There seems to be an assumption out there that you can somehow control how you are viewed by various audiences by controlling the variable security settings on Facebook. No matter what anyone says, DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. I heard two quotes about this at a recent seminar at Santa Clara University that ring true.
First, from @benparr @Mashable -- "Do not post anything that you would not be comfortable having your mother see." And secondly -- I think the quote was from Felix Sterling, SVP and General Counsel, Trend Micro Inc. -- "Don't ever underestimate the power of unintended content syndication."
One recent example. A friend of my one of my sons recently friended me out of the blue. Nice kid; have always liked him. Two days later, he evidently broke up with his girlfriend. He proceeded to post a horrendously offensive status about his ex-girlfriend. I don't think I'll ever think about this kid the same way again.
So get rid of all of those F words and keg stand pics and pictures of drunken orgies. I'm not a prude -- but my Mom is on Facebook for crying out loud. Do you really want a 79-year-old woman to see that?And if that isn't enough, you can be guaranteed that potential employers will use Facebook to check up on you. Don't let embarrassing results deep six your job opportunity.
Electrons live forever.
4 -- Attitude trumps just about everything.
There is a Chick-Fil-A I go to more often than I should in Reston, VA. (Note: As a veteran Chick-Fil-A person, I will let you in on a secret. Based on my scientific study, if you order extra pickle on your sandwich, you tend to get a bigger piece of chicken. Try it. If you don't actually want extra pickle you can just take it off. You don't need to thank me.)
The thing that I notice almost every time I go in this Chick-Fil-A is this: the people. Everyone is friendly. Everyone works as a team. Many of the people recognize me and say hello.
I should add at this point that I don't believe English is the native language for ANY of the people working at my favorite Chick-Fil-A -- a place I go out of my way to stop at if a need a quick meal.
The point is this. Before you start whining about how tough it is to find a job in this economy -- and it is tough -- remember that there are many prospective employees out there who don't share all of the amazing gifts and privileges that you have had. And yet they approach a not terribly exciting job (see #1) with grace and enthusiasm and an attitude to die for. You should too.
5 -- Be an expert.
I know looking back to my post college job-hunting experience that there is a tendency to sit around and just wait in-between sending out bushel baskets of resumes. Don't.
You have two assets that you can put to work while you wait that will help you in the job search. And these assets are so common in your universe that you don't know how rare they are in the world at large.
Number one. You are a recent college graduate in something. Your knowledge at this point about some set of academic topics is likely at its peak. Take my word for it, this will fade. I got an "A" in Linear Algebra my freshman year at William & Mary. Now I couldn't even tell you what Linear Algebra is, much less do it. But for now, you know a lot of stuff.
Number two. You are a digital native. You have no fear of computers. Interacting with social media is something you do without thinking.
Combine these two and do something productive with your time while you wait. Blog and/or tweet and/or participate in LinkedIn on topics that are germane to the kind of job you are seeking. Become a valued participant in the discussions.
You know how to use social networking. There is a favorite cartoon I use in presentations that has two dogs at a PC, with the caption, "On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog." On the Internet, no one knows you have no job experience. They will judge you by the quality of your participation. Take advantage of this. On the plus side, it can lead to contacts that will help in your job search. At worse, it will help keep your skills sharp.
It will also convey an experience that is critically important to organizations like mine and that you can market in and of itself -- how to get noticed in a Facebook world.
6 -- Be indispensible.
If you haven't already done so, read Seth Godin's Linchpin. For that matter, read anything by Seth Godin, but for purposes of the job hunt, start with Linchpin.
Seth's concept in the book is that the path to career fulfillment is to be indispensible to the organizations that employ you -- "The indispensable employee brings humanity and connection and art to her organization. She is the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around."
In my career of hiring people, these people are worth their weight in gold. No matter what the economic circumstances of hiring and firing, you will defend them. I will take a personal pay cut rather than let these people go.
So think about what potentially makes you indispensible. Some of it is domain knowledge, which you likely have in spades as a recent graduate. Some of it is practical experience, which you likely lack. A huge part is attitude and approach and enthusiasm.
For you, job descriptions should not matter. Getting your foot in the door does. Especially in smaller organizations, once you are in and once you are viewed as indispensible, you are on your way. You won't stay at a small organization forever, but by being indispensible you will make them weep when you leave for a much bigger job down the line.
7 -- Know YOUR story.
Your resume is likely somewhat thin. But everyone has a story. The purpose of your resume and your cover letter and your interview should be to tell the story of who you are.
Some of this will be a recitation of academic accomplishments. Some of this will be a description of skills you've garnered in part-time jobs. Some of this will be a reflection of personal experiences.
But the point is this. Think about your story. In advance. Practice talking about who you are and what makes you special in 120 seconds or less. And then make sure this comes through in whatever printed stuff you send me.
8 -- Know ME.
There is no excuse in a Google world for not knowing everything about me and my organization before you walk in the door. Ignorance was a whole lot easier when information was hard to come by. In a world of ubiquitous information that is instantly findable, you have no excuse.
If I ask you about our web site, you should have a perspective. If I ask you about some of the conversations on Twitter that are connected with AIIM, you should have come across these at some point. If I ask you whether you have seen my blog or our Facebook fan page or my Linked In profile, the answers should be YES, YES, and YES.
An update: So that's it. After two years, it still holds up pretty well. About the only thing I would add to it right now is to make sure you are present on LinkedIn and that your presence is optimized for the kind of job you seek. With a few recommendations sprinkled in. Even if they are more of a personal nature than job related.
Update on the people mentioned above...My daughter has wrapped up her second year at James Madison and is looking to apply to the nursing school there. #2 son did graduate and now works for Dell in their new software group (his initial company, AppAssure, was acquired 9 days after he started) and is surviving the rigors of the first year of sales, focused on cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solutions (which has certainly changed the nature of dinner table conversations). #1 son graduates from the MBA program at Duke next weekend, and has survived in Blue Devil land after an undergraduate life as a Cavalier. He and his wife did had a cool piece on Business Week's site last week - The MBA Life at Duke.