It’s OK that you didn’t intern at Facebook last summer.
-By Jaclyn Westlake, Founder of The Job Hop
College was pretty great, right? As a recent grad, we’re sure you’re already looking back on all those marathon study sessions, late-night pizza deliveries, unforgettable nights out, and torturous group projects with some serious nostalgia. You had a great run, but now that graduation has come and gone, new adventures, opportunities, and experiences await, and it’s time to start looking for your first job.
Looking for an entry-level job right out of college may feel a bit daunting, especially if you don’t have much (or any) actual work experience yet. But finding an awesome job won’t be quite as hard as it sounds if you have the right strategy. Sure, internships at flashy companies, a stellar GPA, and a diverse array of extracurricular activities will help, but the one key thing hiring managers are really looking for in recent grads is potential. “Recent graduates can convey their potential by being well-prepared for interviews, researching the company in advance, and showing up to interviews with their act together,” says Maven Recruiting Group Founder and CEO Jessica Vann. “Having great follow-through, taking the process seriously, and showing humility will take you far.”
So how exactly do you go about conveying your unique potential? We’re glad you asked.
#1 Show Your Motivation
Employers want to hire candidates who are genuinely excited about the job they’re applying for and eager to succeed. To prove your potential with a great first impression, spend some time writing a cover letter, application email, LinkedIn message or resume summary that specifically addresses why you want to work for the company you’re applying to and why you want this particular job.
Interviews present another great opportunity for demonstrating your eagerness to succeed. Be sure to show up on time (as in 5 – 10 minutes early), looking sharp, and ready to answer telling questions like, “why do you want to work here?” “What interests you most about this job?” “What are your short and long-term goals?” And be sure to follow-up with a thank you note ASAP!
#2 Demonstrate Your Resourcefulness
As an entry-level professional with little or no experience, you’re not going to know how to do everything (and no one expects you to!). But what your future boss will expect is that you’ll ask tons of questions and be resourceful in your own search for answers.
Demonstrating your resourcefulness throughout the hiring process is easier than you might think. Start by tracking down the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile and sending her a quick message to introduce yourself, or wow your interviewer with your knowledge about the company, its mission, or recent press. Digging deep and going beyond a basic Google search is sure to impress.
As you create your resume or prepare for an interview, brainstorm examples of your resourcefulness. Were you ever given a project with limited instructions? How did you handle it? Be prepared to share in detail how you have been resourceful with specific examples!
#3 Convey Your Ability (and Desire) to Learn Quickly
Your first year on the job is basically your fifth (or sixth – no judgment) year of college. There’s going to be a lot to learn, and the faster you pick things up, the better.
You learned a lot in college; don’t forget or devalue all you accomplished! Be strategic about what you include on your resume by highlighting any projects or presentations you worked on, new tasks or concepts you learned, or skills you developed. As you prepare for interviews, brainstorm a compelling story about a time you found yourself in a new situation and had to learn quickly. How did you do it? Don’t underestimate the power of confidence in how you convey what you can bring to the job: your interview is the perfect time to brag, with humility, about what you have achieved thus far!
Asking thoughtful questions is a tried and true way to convey your desire to learn. Even better? Ask questions that imply your interest in longevity, like “What can a person do to be successful in this job?” or “What are some of the metrics for judging success, and how can someone ramp up quickly in this role?”
Whether your first job search lands you right here in San Francisco, or on the other side of the world (how cool would that be?), remember your ability to demonstrate your potential will be the secret sauce to your success. Hiring managers will be way more interested in your motivation, resourcefulness, and ability to learn quickly than in your lack of real world experience, so be ready to dazzle your future boss with concrete examples of those very skills.
Cheers to new adventures and the beginning of a long, successful career!