5 Things 20-something Job Seekers Need to Know

April 2014

Searching for a role - especially one's first role after graduation - is a job in itself. It is tough work. Below is a list of suggestions we often find ourselves advising most job seekers, but especially those 20-somethings who may have never before looked for full-time work. We hope you find them helpful.

1. Dress the part:

Google who you will meet and understand what you can of their background, and their organization. Based on what you learn, do you feel you should wear a suit to the meeting, or khakis and casual sandals? (Hint: When unsure, err on the side of conservatism. No one ever made a bad impression by being formally dressed for an interview.) If a suit is appropriate, you don't need an expensive one - but it does need to be clean, pressed, and fit properly. Ladies, you can wear a coordinating skirt, or a dress, but jackets are required in conservative work environments. Gentlemen, make sure you have shaved appropriately - beards trimmed, etc. No white socks, no pantyhose with runs, no unpolished shoes, no cleavage, no chipped nail polish (no polish is better than chipped polish), no overpowering cologne, no too-short skirts, and no chewing gum.

If you think you should dress conservatively for your meeting, but your current employer has a casual dress code, might you change en route to your meeting? If not, explain your dilemma when you book the meeting. Even offering up an explanation in advance shows that you would have worn a suit had you been able to sort out the logistics.

2. Prepare

Understand the company. Read whatever you can find about the organization. Come prepared with a list of thoughtful open-ended questions which demonstrate that you've done your homework, and which get the conversation moving. Don't be afraid to raise challenges they may be facing that you may have encountered in your research. What skills might you bring to help them resolve some of these challenges? How might these challenges become opportunities?

Whatever you do, don't ask something that you could have discovered by giving only a cursory glance to the company's website. Case in point - when we meet with job seekers (of any age), we might discuss networking strategies, the overall job market, or industry trends. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves providing advice on resume writing. Given that we have an excellent article on our website on this topic, it seems that discussing it face to face is not making the optimal use of our time together.

(As an aside, there is useful advice everywhere on how to prepare a resume. Try googling "how to write a resume". I just did - and got 113 million results. I found excellent advice on the first 5 or 6 links I clicked on, all of which were on the first page of search results.)

Customize your resume. Make it easy for the reader to understand why your experience is a good match for the requirements of the specific role being discussed. You may indeed develop two, three, or even more versions of your resume.

3. Communicate Like an Adult & Showcase your Talents:

This is no time for using phrases like "LOL", or referring to the organization you're meeting with as "you guys". Speak clearly and enunciate. Say "I'm going to" not "I'm gonna"; "my mistake" not "my bad". Show your enthusiasm and your sense of humour, but please, avoid potentially off-colour jokes that might be taken the wrong way. Certainly no swearing. Most importantly, LISTEN. As you listen, follow-on questions should come to you, making the conversation flow naturally.

Also, while your parent, uncle or family friend may have referred you to someone, reach out to potential contacts directly. You should reference your uncle's name by way of introduction, but don't expect your uncle to set up the meeting for you. That's your job. Keep your reference apprised of your progress.

Consider what you can bring to the organization, and voice it. What makes you different than all the other candidates? Without a long resume of work experience, employers will assess you based on what they perceive as your energy, intellect, people skills, potential, and how you might fit within the organizational culture. Let your natural strengths shine through. Not an extrovert? Showcase your capabilities by providing meaningful examples, and rest assured that not every role should be filled by an extrovert.

Have an appropriate e-mail address. PartyGuy2014@gmail.com should be replaced by something more in keeping with firstname.lastname@gmail.com. Use technology as a tool to your advantage, but get out from behind it to meet as many people as possible.

4. Mind Your Manners:

Be respectful of the receptionist and anyone else you meet. (True story - our receptionist often provides great insight into our candidates. If a candidate treats her as someone who is unimportant, it begs the question as to how they might treat others in their organization). Be on time. Indeed, plan to be early in case traffic or other issues slow you down. Announce yourself no earlier than five minutes before your appointment time. Thank the individual who took time out of his/her day to meet with you. Send a thank-you email within a day or two after the meeting. Is there an appropriate link to information your contact may find helpful? Is there an article you believe they might find informative? Include them. Handwritten notes are rare today, but can set you apart.

Make certain that you send a thank you email to every person with whom you met. Sending one to only the most senior person will backfire on you.

5. Follow Up Appropriately:

How do we show our continued interest without crossing into stalking territory? Ask the individual as the meeting is wrapping up if it would be appropriate to follow up, and if so, when? What's the best way to follow up? Some people prefer to receive phone calls, others prefer to receive e-mails. The follow-up message might be something as simple as "Hello Ms. Smith; thank you again for taking the time to meet with me in January. I'm following up as you suggested to see if any openings might be on the horizon for which I might be considered. I look forward to hearing from you if this might be the case, or I can be of any assistance to you whatsoever. I can be reached at 416 932 1769 (always leave your number, don't make me look it up), or by e-mail atfirstname.lastname@gmail.com (spell it out)."

I recently had lunch with a business leader who had just hired a new graduate. He noted, "I had two great candidates. It really was a toss-up. So I went with the one who had sent me a thank you note, and had followed up throughout the process".

When you do land a role, send each person with whom you met (that's everyone you met, not just the people in the hiring organization) a personal e-mail. After all, they invested 30 minutes or more of their time to meet with you. The very least you owe them is an e-mail which will take 45 seconds to personalize and send. Attach a new v-card. Make it easy for that individual to keep in touch with you. Offer assistance if and when they should need it. Don't forget to thank those who facilitated introductions or acted as references for you. Take very good care of these valuable people!

We wish you all the best in your job search.