What Do First Time Job Seekers Need Most to be Successful?
Looking for a job is no different than playing a sport or an instrument. It’s a skill that requires an understanding of the game, a strategy, and practice. There’s a playbook to accelerate success except it isn’t widely taught in high school or college and that’s why you need a career mentor to show you the ropes.
With the help of a good mentor you have a better than average chance of finding your first job faster and a higher probability of getting a job in your desired career field. You’re also cutting years off your learning curve which will be helpful throughout your career.
So find a mentor, or even better, hand select two or three! While it sounds a bit daunting, the rewards are worth it. If you pick wisely, a high caliber team of advisers can make the difference between having no job or taking the first step on your chosen career path.
Here’s some advice to help you find and keep the right mentor:
- By far the best option, if available, is to join an established group where mentors are offered.
- If that’s not an option, identify several business leaders in your chosen field, contact them (be creative — they like that!) and ask for their help. Friends and family may be able to offer some introductions or you may have to get comfortable asking strangers for help!
- Suggest a regular meeting for a defined period so that they understand the commitment. For example, once every two weeks for the next six months.
- Share your goals and what you’d like to achieve by having a mentor.
- Have a purpose for each meeting so that everyone’s time is well spent. For example, review your resume and LinkedIn profile during one meeting and have a mock interview the next.
- Be willing to accept feedback.
- Don’t expect anything other than qualified advice and hard work. Asking someone to be your mentor is not a strategy for getting them to give or find you a job.
If you stick with it, this is what you can expect as a result of having a mentor:
#1 An Increase in Confidence
One of the most obvious challenges of applying and interviewing for first jobs is that you have limited work experience. First time job seekers often struggle to articulate their experience as relevant job skills but with the help of a mentor, you can learn how to communicate what part-time jobs and volunteer experience has taught you so that you can demonstrate maturity, ability, and initiative to any employer.
Employers are looking for employees that:
- Understand the basics of being in the workplace — being on time, being prepared, and being professional
- Are easy and enjoyable to work with
- Take the initiative to do more than that which is asked of them
Confidence is key to demonstrating these throughout the interview process. When interviewers experience these from the first phone call or email and it continues throughout the interview process, they start to build a picture in their minds of an employee that will deliver.
#2 Relevant Knowledge
Very few first time job seekers start out by knowing the basics of applying and interviewing for a job. A recent WSJ article mentioned some areas where employers found applicants lacking:
- Researching a company and the industry before an interview
- Asking good questions during an interview
- Sending thank you notes after the interview
None of them are difficult and mentors make sure that newbies to the process know about these expectations so that a well-suited opportunity can become the first step in a great career.
The benefit of having a business leader help you analyze job postings, revise resumes, write cover letters, and conduct mock interviews is immeasurable. Practicing these methodically helps build confidence and allows you to experiment with your delivery and content so that when the time comes, you can amply demonstrate that you have the skills, personality, and qualifications to be successful in the workplace.
#3 Networking Opportunities
Mentors are typically able to introduce first time job seekers to people in their network that can answer their questions and paint them a picture of their work life. They can often set up informational interviews, which also provide opportunities for you to practice interview skills. In addition to that, mentors get to know you well and will often offer to serve as references in your career applications.
#4 A safety net
There are no silly questions and mentors are a non-judgmental resource that can pull on their own experience to fill in some of the gaps that exist for first time job seekers. Mentors tend to be very candid about their own mistakes and have the experience to give you examples of what to look for in a healthy workplace. Again, if they don’t have the answer they can call in resources from their network to offer some tips.
#5 A Resource for Life
Whether because something learned from the partnership leaves a permanent mark, or because first time job seekers and their mentors stay in touch, a mentor really is a resource for life. Thanks to the nature of the technology available, you and your mentor can easily remain connected on LinkedIn and via email. No doubt they’ll be other emerging technologies that will continue to make it even easier to keep abreast of each other’s progress.
If you’re looking for your first job and would prefer it to be in your chosen field, or at least a field in which you have an interest, find mentors and squeeze every bit of goody that you can out of them! You won’t be sorry you did!
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