Happy 2017! I don’t know about you, but I find the onslaught of tips for committing to New Year’s resolutions anxiety-producing. Personally I prefer – and find more effective –making incremental and realistic changes as I feel inspired – by a book, a talk, a client…or a thought in the shower. Then I’m able to plan for that change in a specific and habit-forming way, propelled by positive energy. But everyone’s different. How do you feel?
Speaking of fostering positive energy, in a recent interview on working with Millennials, Start with Why author and consultant Simon Sinek says it’s the small things that can make a big difference in your mood and ability to bond with others and generate new ideas. To that end, he counsels against always being on your phone and recommends banning phones in conference rooms and at the table, and making a specific effort to be offline on a regular basis. This is consistent with what a lot of experts say, but he packages it in a way that’s humorous and easy to put into practice. Check it out here – it’s only a few minutes long.
To start off the New Year and provide you some inspiration, I’d like to tell you the story of a 2016 college grad I worked with who went from zero to hero in his job search, in just six months.
Gabriel Robinson* graduated from Tufts University last May with a degree in philosophy and virtually no job experience. During college summers he had mostly procrastinated on getting an internship and instead worked as a busboy at Houlihan’s in New York City, his hometown. Although he held an executive role at his fraternity, a good resume-building item, the frat had been banned on campus, which meant he couldn’t mention it at all. Focused on enjoying his last year in college, by graduation time his performance on the job front had been lackluster at best. But he’d made a key decision. He planned to go into commercial real estate.
Making Contacts in the Field
Commercial real estate in New York City is tough to break into, even if you have good connections and internships under your belt. Gabriel had one loose connection, a friend’s father who had retired from the business but was happy to dole out advice and a couple of contacts. But Gabriel needed more than one person to boost his job search, so he turned to the career office at Tufts for help.
Luckily, Tufts had a number of alumni who were influential in New York real estate. One of Gabriel’s strengths is his charm and good manners, and he was eager to put them to use. But what he lacked, in addition to experience, was a plausible narrative on why he had chosen this particular field.
The Liberal Arts Grad Narrative
For liberal arts grads, developing a good story about career choice is often a challenge since many liberal arts majors don’t lead directly to a career path. Drawing a link between philosophy and commercial real estate ultimately proved too difficult for Gabriel, but as a new college grad he found that many people were willing to share their advice and gradually his outreach began to gain momentum. From those conversations he was able to identify the specific job that was the right entry point for someone at his level–in his case Financial Analyst–which served as a guide. With my help he contacted real estate professionals on LinkedIn and prepped for informational interviews. Over time he began to better articulate what had attracted him to commercial real estate – a long-standing dream of owning and operating hotels and restaurants.
Tufts alumni proved the most helpful, recommending specific courses and licenses he should acquire (a real estate broker’s license and a financial modeling course at the Schack Institute of Real Estate at NYU). Gabriel diligently kept his new network posted on his progress and continued to end each meeting with a request for others who would be willing to speak with him.
Fifty conversations and six months later, Gabriel had a job offer in hand – Financial Analyst at a mid-sized New York City commercial real estate firm at a competitive starting salary. And importantly, the firm had a track record of regularly hiring and training recent college grads.
To recap, here are the key steps Gabriel took that led to his success:
-He reached out early for help from a career professional.
-He capitalized on his soft skills – personal charm and politeness.
-He worked his college network actively throughout the process.
-He focused on creating a compelling new job narrative while taking advantage of his status as a new college grad.
-He spent time creating an effective LinkedIn profile, knowing that most new contacts will view your profile before agreeing to speak.
-He took advice and direction, and kept his new network posted.
-He tried to leave every meeting with a new contact.
-He continued to make incremental progress when he felt discouraged.
*Subject’s name and college have been changed for this post.
Are you a recent college grad working on finding your first job? If you get in touch with me here I’ll provide an evaluation of your LinkedIn profile, gratis.