Looking for your first job is exciting, scary and often frustrating; all rolled up into one revealing experience. There is no doubt that during this time you will learn a lot about yourself and your resiliency. It may be the first time in your life you have had to analyze yourself in terms of your strengths, weaknesses and how you can benefit a prospective employer.
The entry-level job market is beginning to improve, but only slightly. It will remain a fiercely competitive environment for at least another year or two. Young people will vie for jobs with others at their age and experience level, as well as with recent layoff victims who have the advantage of on-the-job experience.
In this competitive atmosphere, young job seekers should strive to avoid the common job search mistakes that could put them at more of a disadvantage. Following are some of the most common mistakes and how to correct them.Conduct job search from behind a computer
Too many job seekers – young and old – make the mistake of concentrating all of pinning all of their hopes on the internet. Make no mistake, the internet has revolutionized job search. It is now much easier for a job seeker in Chicago to find opportunities in San Diego. Numerous sites aggregate job listings from online job boards, corporate sites and newspapers. In a just a couple of hours, online job seekers can find and electronically send resumes to hundreds of job postings.
Unfortunately, this scatter-shot approach is as ineffective in the digital age as it was when newspapers ruled the day. Even with all of the online sources, these represent just a small fraction of the actual job openings available; perhaps as little as 20 percent. The key to uncovering the 80 percent of the job market that remains hidden is networking.
Many young people mistakenly assume that their network is limited because of their age and lack of experience. However, that is simply not true. Start with all of the people you know – friends, family, classmates, professors, alumni who graduated a year or two ahead of you, and supervisors from internships or summer jobs. All of these people can help with you job search, even if they are in no way associated with your chosen career path. But you won’t learn how these people can help until you actually ask.
Dressing inappropriately for interviews
Today’s workplaces have definitely become more casual. But this does not mean applicants should show up to interviews in jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt. You would think that doesn’t have to be said, but you would be shocked at how many young applicants still arrive to interviews woefully underdressed.
This does not mean applicants should wear their finest suit to every interview. What is most critical is that do not want your attire to stand out in any way. You want the interviewer to focus on your skills, your potential and your friendly, outgoing and confident personality; not your clothing.
As a general rule you want to match the attire of the office. When the office attire is casual, you want to be a step or two more formal. For instance, if everyone wears suits in the office, then you should definitely wear a suit. If most workers wear slacks and a button-down shirt, then you could wear a similar outfit with the addition of a tie. If everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts, show up in nicely pressed khakis and button-down shirt. Because, even in offices that permit employees to work in jeans and t-shirts, the person conducting the interview may still have higher expectations when it comes to candidates interviewing for a position.
It is easy to find out the general attire of an office. You can wait outside of the office at the beginning of the workday and observe what employees are wearing as they arrive. You can also just call the front desk and ask the receptionist, after explaining your situation. He or she will undoubtedly be more than willing to provide the needed information.
Talking too much in the interview
When nervous, people tend to say more than is needed. This is common in job interviews, as you might imagine. The problem with this is that the more you talk, the greater the risk that you could say something that will eliminate you from the running. What might that be? Who knows? Remember, interviews are just people with their own idiosyncrasies. There is no way of knowing what could offend. So, the key is to do more listening than talking. Answer questions directly and succinctly and resist the urge to fill silence with further elaboration.
The other common mistake that job seekers make in the interview is going in with a set of talking points, skills or experiences that you really want the interview to hear. So, the tendency is to spin the answer in a way that allows you to address these pre-determined points. The danger of this approach is that you may not answer the interviewers’ question or, worse, make it appear that you are attempting to re-direct the interview in your favor. It is critical that the interviewer always be in control.
Lastly, do not do a lot of studying about the company, in the hopes of impressing the interviewer with you knowledge with a well-time insight. Talking about the company may be absolutely lethal to a young person’s chances of becoming a finalist or getting the job. The reason is that it is impossible to know what is on the interviewer’s mind and you are likely to say the wrong thing. No matter what most people learn, it will often only be superficial in the eyes of the interviewer who knows his or her own company intimately. Inquiring, “How is that new spring line doing you introduced recently?” may anger the interviewer if the new line has encountered problems or has been a flop.
Inexperienced job seekers need to listen more than they talk and try to fit themselves into the company’s plans. It is what the company wants, not what the job seeker wants. Remember, there is no dearth of young, entry-level job seekers for most jobs.