Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?: A Crash Course in Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job (2 page)

BOOK: Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?: A Crash Course in Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job
12.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

You hold every position at Job, Inc. You are not just the CEO but also the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and Human Resources director. You run the Marketing and Public Relations departments. This makes you indispensable. You might not be naturally adept at all the different positions you’ll hold, and you don’t have to be an expert in any of them. But I’ll teach you how to master the basics.

The skills you’ll pick up as CEO of Job, Inc. are highly transferable and will be valuable to any company, anywhere. You’ll need to articulate a goal and vision; come up with a strategy and financial plan to achieve it; and implement that strategy, all the while publicizing and marketing Job, Inc.’s achievements.

But I’m an Artiste!

Q. I’m not interested in becoming a CEO-type—I’m looking for a job in graphic design! What’s the point of acting like I’m going into business?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you commit yourself to life in a suit. But all professions require a degree of organization and professionalism. These traits may be expressed differently across different industries, but when you’re job-hunting, you must present your most professional self. Being professional means being well-dressed and well-groomed; being punctual, proactive, and efficient; presenting your experience and abilities articulately and with confidence; and making sure the documents that support your candidacy (your résumé, cover letter, and list of references) are impeccable.

The Organized Bird Gets the Worm

Even if you have never been organized in your life, you are going to have to get organized now. Undertaking a job search is a job in itself. Consider it training for the position you’re going to get. In fact, if a prospective employer asks you about your organizational skills and you don’t have much experience to draw from, you’ll truthfully be able to say:
“Let me tell you how I organize myself. For this job search, for example, I set up a filing and tracking system....”

The first step? Set up a temporary office. It may be an entire room in a house or apartment, a desk at a library, some desk space in your bedroom, or even a chair in a dorm room.

While you don’t need an executive suite, you do need good light. Don’t suffer in the dark—you’ll hurt your eyes and sink into depression. You’ll need a good chair (or a bad chair plus a good pillow).

You’ll need a filing system. Set up paper and electronic files for articles, contacts, and ideas related to each company that interests you and for each job you pursue. Every time you have an e-mail exchange about a particular job, print it out and file it. Every time you have a phone conversation about a job, make notes and date and file them.

Keep a small, professional-looking notebook with you at all times so that you can write down leads, contact information, and notes—you don’t want to forget a valuable lead or lose a scrap of paper with an important number on it. Pulling out a notebook is much more professional than fumbling around for a napkin or matchbook—as long as that notebook isn’t sparkly or covered in stickers. You’ll need office supplies at the ready: pens
and pencils, printer cartridges (if you have your own printer), thank-you notes, résumé paper, envelopes, stamps, a card file for all those cards you’ll be collecting. I like big sorting baskets, Post-it Notes, small binder clips, staples and paper clips, clear plastic sleeves, and highlighters. Locate the nearest post office, along with a copy center with a fax and printer if you don’t have access to these at home. If you’re really strapped for space, buy inexpensive portable file totes—one for supplies and one for files—that you can carry with you to a library, park, or coffee shop.


There are several things you need to do to find a job. Some are discussed in this chapter, others explained in the rest of the book.

Set up Job, Inc.’s offices, stat. Get organized—or you’ll have to fire yourself. You’ll be able to work much more productively once you’ve created a suitable work environment for your search.

Determine the timeline for your search. You’ll be making a daily, weekly, and monthly plan.

Use the Rule of Three to determine how to organize your search and figure out whom to talk to. (You’ll read about that on page 7.)

Create and refine your résumé and cover letter and prep your references. (See chapters 3, 4, and 5.)

Activate your network. (See
chapter 2

At the end of each day at Job, Inc., take a few minutes to file or enter new information into a computer or electronic organizer. Every time someone mentions a person you should talk to, offers contact information, or suggests a book or article you should read, enter it in a place where you’ll be able to find it again. Cut and paste information from emails—they have a way of disappearing when you most need them.

Clear some closet space to assess and organize your interview wardrobe; in
chapter 6
, Getting Through the Interview, we’ll get into specifics about dress, but you should get a head start on evaluating the situation. You’ll need two or three interview outfits, appropriately accessorized. You might need anything from new clothes to new shoelaces, stockings, an iron, or good hangers that don’t leave odd protrusions in your clothes. (You don’t want to wake up to a wardrobe crisis on the morning of an interview.)

All this takes time, but it’s well worth the investment.


You might love the sassy moniker [email protected], but it is essential that you use a professional e-mail address during your job search. An employer won’t want to hire [email protected] Stick to first and last names, and avoid nicknames or private jokes. If you need to set up a new account for the job search, use a free Yahoo, Google, or Hotmail address. (Added bonus: You’ll keep all your job-hunting e-mails together and won’t be distracted by personal e-mail while you’re online.)

If you don’t already have one, you should also set up a cell phone account. An employer shouldn’t have to leave messages with your mom to reach you. The greeting must be professional: “Hi, this is Sarah Smith. Please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” No music, no noise or giggling in the background, no “Yo, what’s up?”

Don’t Just Hit “Send”

Here’s how most people look for a job these days: They post their résumés on every website they can find, surf the Web looking for job postings, and e-mail their résumés to hundreds of anonymous addresses, barely expecting a response. I understand. You need a job. Why waste your time tracking down and calling a bunch of random people when you can send your résumé skyrocketing all over cyberspace at the touch of a button? You want to get the word out, and you hope the law of averages will take over. But I don’t recommend blindly sending out résumés and cover letters. It might seem easier, but it’s actually less efficient. And in the end, it’s depressing. Weeks or months pass, and you end up saying yes to the first offer you get because the process seems so hopeless (never mind impersonal).

For better and more gratifying results, be strategic and intentional. Conduct a narrow and focused search, concentrating on quality over quantity. Decide what you would most like to do—at least for the moment.

You’re going to avoid applying for jobs you don’t really want or aren’t qualified for. You will not waste your time (or an employer’s time) on interviews for jobs you wouldn’t take if they were offered to you. It happens more than you’d think. Job-hunters who apply for anything and everything call me in a quandary: “I got an offer, but I don’t want it. I’m waiting to hear from a place where I really want to work. What do I do?”

You see?

There’s nothing wrong with applying for jobs you find online—if you’re truly interested—but even then you should be identifying and reaching out to someone inside the company so that your résumé gets looked at by the right person.

Getting Them Off Your Back and On Your Side

You are in charge of your job search. It’s going to require a fair amount of self-discipline, which will be much easier to come by once you acknowledge that you are in the driver’s seat. You may have friends and family on your back; part of managing the job-hunting process is learning how to manage them. They mean well, but sometimes they show how much they care in really annoying ways.

If you’re living with your parents or relatives to save money, you may find yourself besieged by a barrage of questions and comments: “Did you find anything yet? Did you call so-and-so? Maybe you should think about graduate school. You really should talk to my friend at the bank.... Haven’t you watched enough television today? Your cousin Billy already has a job.” But consider yourself lucky to have a roof over your head. (Oh, have you heard that line before?) Plus, you can’t afford to blow up at the people closest to you; they’re the ones you’ll turn to for networking and outreach.

The trick is to get well-meaning friends and family members off your back and on your side. Instead of letting them get to you, engage them in your process. Get them to help you identify and connect to people throughout your search. If they can be objective enough, they may be helpful in offering constructive criticism about your strengths and weaknesses and how you are presenting yourself. But don’t let them boss you around. You are in charge.

Here’s who’s not in charge: some mythical employer you haven’t even met yet. You do need to attempt to view things from the employer’s perspective, but you also need to have a sense of your own worth. You should feel valuable, not vulnerable.

It’s hard to feel in control when you’re thinking, Look, I just need a job and I’ll take anything. But I don’t want you to end up dragging yourself out of bed to go to a job you hate. I want you to feel great about yourself, about the process, and about the outcome.

The Rule of Three

Maybe you’re wondering how much time this process will take. It’s partly up to you: How much time do you have? Often the answer will be determined by your budget: How long can you afford to be looking? Two weeks, a month, three months, six months, a year? In an economic downturn, when unemployment is high, there’s more competition and job searches may take longer. Then more than ever, you’ll need to be realistic about your goals. If in a particular industry, people are getting laid off left and right, don’t expect to find your dream job in a month. You may need to expand the scope of your search or temporarily settle for a position you might not have considered in a better economy. Be pragmatic and flexible. No job has to last forever, and with the right attitude, you should be able to glean valuable skills and contacts from any position—skills and contacts that will prepare you for your
move (see
chapter 9
, The Art of Moving On). No matter what the economy looks like, though, the following strategies will get you going.

If you have a lot of lead time, you’ll have more time to take advantage of your resources and target your search. But even if you need a job right away, you can still be strategic—you’re just going to move faster.

Three of anything shouldn’t be daunting; it’s finite, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Break down what might seem like an overwhelming project into small tasks and a daily, weekly, and monthly to-do list. What I call the Rule of Three works for many of the job-hunters I counsel. Three of anything shouldn’t be daunting; it’s finite, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Here’s how it works: Set a simple goal of making three job-related calls a day during a workweek—one in the morning, one at lunch, one at the end
of the day. That’s fifteen calls a week, or sixty in a month. If you also send three e-mails and three letters a day, at the end of the month you’ll have contacted nearly two hundred people without realizing it.

BOOK: Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?: A Crash Course in Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job
12.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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