Career is a BIG word don’t you think? I mean really, it is a rather vague word. Career can mean different things to different people. I think the thing that everyone struggles with however, is that first job. The first job is pretty much a glorified “chicken and egg” scenario right? Check it:
Potential employer: Well I don’t want to hire you until you have some experience. . .
Potential employee: How am I supposed to get experience if no one hires me!???
This is so classic my friends! I mean I get it right, the employer doesn’t want to take the risk on you until you’ve proven yourself. But on the other hand, as the employee (or potential one) how are you supposed to prove yourself if no one gives you a chance to do so!??
I think there are two main things to consider when preparing yourself for that first big break. Honestly, after the first job it gets much easier. Have you ever heard of that saying that “money makes money”, well sorry to break it to you but having a job makes it easier to find a job. The tough part is getting the first one. Follow these tips and you will have a huge leg up on your peers.
FIRST JOB TIP #1 – EXPERIENCE
You might be thinking, “hmmmm, Annika we just established that we are not able to get experience, duh that is why we are reading this article”. Indeed, let’s take a more creative look at this. Please tell me you are not drifting through life and had no babysitting experience and no part time job. I am definitely not saying you should keep babysitting or scooping ice cream part time on your resume but these are stepping stones. A part time job or any work experience, no matter how casual, is a stepping stone to work your way up. So maybe you start with a part time job at a coffee shop, move onto “shift supervisor” during university, do a couple co-op terms there and voila, you have experience. I think the most important thing to remember is that each experience you have will lead to the next one, and each time you have to ‘level up’ as in, move into something with a bit more responsibility. Having said all of that, if you haven’t had any exposure to responsibility and you’re ready to enter the workforce it will be kind of hard for you. The next thing here in experience is taking some internships. I get it, no one likes the idea of an unpaid internship, but guess what, it leads to the longer term paid job.
Do you want to hear a little backstory on my work experience? I started working at 13 years old, well 12 if you count baby sitting. This was my progression . . . babysitting, part time jobs (ice cream shop, cafe, hostess), nanny job abroad, Starbucks (full time in my year off), resident advisor during uni, teaching assistant, paper grader, unpaid internship in Panama and finally consulting internship before I got my first full time job. This is not to mention all the other things I was involved in such as VP marketing for clubs and associations at my university and on a student board of associates for a non-profit organization. These are reasons I had proven experience to put forward when applying for my first “career” job.
FIRST JOB TIP #2 – NETWORKING
This is where you go back and read my original posts on networking here and here. Networking is key for a couple reasons. I definitely recommend networking with people from a diverse range of industries; your own industry that you want to work in as well as a bunch of others, even if you don’t think are relevant to you. By doing this you not only learn new things from all these people but many times the people you meet can guide you in the right direction of career or simply a job. Another thing to do when networking is be vocal! Let’s say you just graduated university and are looking to get into an entry level marketing strategist role. When you go to networking events, which you should be doing, talk about some experiences you have had in marketing, talk about how you are really excited to be looking for a role in marketing. Don’t stand there and say, can you help me find a job. . .umm noooo. The approach should be such that your excitement rubs off on people and they come to you and say, “hey, you seem really energetic and eager and I loved hearing about your marketing internship at company XYZ, I have a friend who is looking for a marketing assistant, would you be interested?” That is where you politely say “THANK YOU” and offer up your business card.
Voila! This might not be the dream role for you but it creates visibility and gets your name out there. You’re welcome 🙂 I think sometimes people see networking as salesy and don’t want to come across like they’re using people to find jobs. I agree, you should not go into networking that way, but sometimes good connections lead to jobs, its just the way it is.
A little realness here: I have actually met great friends at networking events! I ended up seeing them a couple times at University alumni networking events and finally we went for coffee, and now we are great friends 🙂 Funny how life is. . .
By taking a proactive approach and gaining EXPERIENCE in a more untraditional sense of the resume combined with just plain being goal and meeting people, you really can set yourself apart of the thousands of other people who want their first job. At the end of the day, put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. If they have to look at hundreds/thousands of resumes but they have heard your name before, or see that you are a super proactive candidate getting experience before you were paid for it, you stand out!
What are your thoughts on these tips? What strategy did you use to get your first job? I would love to hear about them in the comments below or feel free to connect with me on social media!
Images by Warren Cleland Photography