If you’re anything like me, your goal is to have a post-college position (internship or entry-level) lined up before you finish up your last term of college.
To many of my friends and fellow students, finding that first position after college is really daunting.
I tend to have incredibly high standards for myself and I push myself really hard. So knowing that, I’m sure you can imagine how incredibly excited I was to sign my internship contract in mid-October (two months early – I graduate in December).
My instructors and fellow classmates were very excited for me and asked me to share my insights and experiences with them. After sharing my story and what worked and didn’t work, I realized that there were really only two (very impactful) things that made (or could potentially break – if you do them wrong) my job search so successful so quickly.
That’s why they’re magic. Because they’re simple and there’s only two.
MAGIC TIP #1: Informational Interviews
I’m sure you’ve heard of these. Professors tell you to research some companies of interest and reach out to a few employees to see if they’d be willing to conduct informational interviews with you. This may seem kind of like a chore, but seriously, do it.
I conducted informational interviews for about four months leading up to the position I got in October. I started with my personal network and that grew quickly into someone who knew someone who knew someone and the next thing you know I was doing an informational interview with my dad’s boss’ little sister’s best friend.
Sometimes the interviews were dead ends. Other times the interviews were impactful and helped me answer questions like: Do I want to work in-house or agency? What city do I want to work in? What type of position do I want to hold? What experience is really necessary? What do I value in an employer?
All of these interviews shaped my view of the working world and shaped what I was looking for in an employer, which is just as important in what the employer is looking for in me. Even though some informational interviews turned out to be a dead end, I valued them because they built my network and helped me practice talking with professionals.
Ultimately, an informational interview is what led to me to land my position. A colleague of mine put me in touch with the HR director for an informational interview, then came multiple regular interviews, a writing test and then the offer.
Informational interviews should be two way streets where both you and the professional get to know each other in a more relaxed environment without the stress or expectation of a regular job interview. It is your time to get the insider scoop from the professional and ask for his or her opinion, advice, etc. Here are my informational interview tips:
- BE PREPARED. Here’s a funny (not really) story – Once upon a time I connected with a professional and she wanted to do an informational interview. I was prepared as I usually was for other informational interviews. I knew a bit about the company and knew some general interview questions about myself. But this professional proceeded to interview me (like it was a real interview) for two hours and I wasn’t at all prepared. I completely failed. The worst part? The professional worked for my dream company. The end. So seriously, be prepared. You never know what will happen. Being over prepared is never a bad thing.
- BE ENGAGED. Put your cell phone away, take notes and ask questions. Always bring questions to the informational interview and be ready to answer questions about yourself.
- SAY THANK YOU. This leads in to my second magic tip for landing that first post-college position.
MAGIC TIP #2: Thank You Notes
Thank you notes can make or break your chances of landing a position. You rocked your interview? That’s awesome! Make sure to send a thank you note in a timely manner. If you don’t, that will say a lot about your character and all of a sudden, you may not be someone the employer wants to hire anymore.
Thank you notes give you the chance to reiterate your interest in the company and position, why you think you’re a great fit and to thank the interviewer or HR director for his or her time and efforts in interviewing you (or setting up the interviews). All of those topics are very valuable and can be covered in a short and sweet three to four sentence note.
If you’re feeling very confident about the interview, you can even write in the note that you look forward to hearing about next steps and will follow up with them in a few days.
A handwritten note needs to get in the mail the day of or day after the interview (depending on your location in relation to the company) to ensure that it arrives in a timely manner.
If you live across the country from the position your interviewing for, it may make more sense to send a thank you email (in the interest of time). It should consist of the same elements as the handwritten letter and should also be sent in a timely manner.
In my case, I wrote a handwritten thank you note and also sent an email. I still lived in Eugene when I was interviewing for this position in San Francisco. After I finished my three rounds of interviews, I immediately wrote a handwritten thank you note to the HR Director. I also decided to send a follow-up thank you email to reiterate my thoughts and because I felt that the timeline of this hire was moving very quickly and I didn’t want them to have to wait a few days to receive my handwritten note.
Thank you notes can make or break what an employer’s impression of you is. When choosing which type of thank you note to send, be sure to keep your situation in mind, but know that a handwritten note, if possible, always triumphs.
So there you are, you now know my magic tips for how I landed my position so quickly and relatively easily (knock on wood).
Ready to put these tips into action and land your own post-college position? Great! Ready, Go!
Photo by: sandy/ians