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Seniors, Start Now!

October 17, 2012

By: Cody Corona

In the spring of my senior year, a guest speaker gave a presentation to my Entrepreneurship TMP class.

To start, and to prove some sort of point, he asked the packed lecture hall: “Who here has a job lined up for after graduation?”

Silence fell.

I was excited to raise my hand, though, thinking this accomplished CEO would commend my efforts in finding a job so early. He said, referring to me and the two other kids holding up their hands in the midst of the 150+ students in attendance: “Look here everyone – now here are the folks that aren’t having any fun.”

I was hurt for a split second, but then a cool sense of pride and swagger washed over me. It was my senior year and I was having fun – the time of my life, I thought.

In reverse fashion, the speaker’s joke affirmed that feeling for me. What does he know about me, saying I’m not having fun? I thought:

  • Knowing I have a job when school ends – is fun
  • Knowing that four years of school was worth it – it paid off – is fun
  • Knowing I won’t have to move back home with Mom – is fun
  • Scoring a job two months before graduation, giving me plenty of guilt-free time to party and drink as much as I wanted – definitely fun

So Seniors – it’s up to you. Do you want the type of fun that I was having? Or do you want the type of fun that the speaker was referring to?

If you do it right, you can have both. Just follow these steps:

START NOW

Don’t wait until Spring Quarter rolls around to start thinking about how to launch your career. If you put in the effort early, you’ll avoid one or two things:

  1. Having to interview, network, apply, etc., during the last few months of your senior year, when all of the #YOLO type stuff is happening.
  2. Having to interview, network, apply, etc., for months after you graduate, when all the “Mom-nagging-you-because-you’re-drinking-on-a-Tuesday” type stuff is happening.

This month, think realistically about all the things you’ll need in order to find a job. For me, when senior year started, I knew I needed these things:

  1. Internship experience. In my industry, it’s nearly impossible to find a worthwhile job without a prior internship. I had to get one.
  2. Connections. At that point in my life, my rolodex consisted of drinking buddies, intramural sports teammates, and “Jen met at Tonic.” Landing a job is all about who you know – hiring managers, recruiters, alumni, recent grads with experience, etc. I had to start meeting these people.
  3. Knowledge of the industry. I knew I
    wanted to work in creative advertising, but I knew nothing about the industry or how it functioned. I needed to learn about the big agencies, what the entry level positions were, what various job roles were, etc.

There were other minor details to consider too, like: how will I get to the interviews? (I had to rent cars to drive to LA), what I would wear? (I started stocking up ties and dress shirts), who would endorse me with a letter of recommendation? (I started attending office hours like they were giving out free candy), and plenty of other things.

Nailing down all of these things – from the biggest task to the smallest – minimizes work later on, when you’re stressing about getting the next interview, and following up the last one.

START BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Each spring, professors get bombarded by students they barely know, each one asking for a letter of recommendation. They write them all, oh yes – but, more often than not, they’re the most terrible, mad-libbed, cookie cutter pieces of crap you’ve ever seen. That’s how much they value your “relationship.”

To avoid that happening, try this: build a relationship. Pick a few professors at the beginning of the year – the ones you truly like – and make an effort to become more than just a name to them. Attend office hours and ask them questions about the subject matter, volunteer for research studies, and speak up in class and show that you’re paying attention.

That way, your professor will help you find a job or internship as though they’re helping a friend. They’ll write a meaningful letter for you, or introduce you to their industry connections, or help edit a personal resume or cover letter.

Also, be thinking about the connections you can make within your desired industry. Become friends with recent grads that have similar jobs to the one you want. Find experienced alumni that are in positions of power and can help you get hired at the company you want. Make a list of industry recruiters and try to become friends with them before you have to interview with them.

NARROW IT DOWN

For most of my college career, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated. When my grandma would ask me about my career ambitions, I’d sheepishly reply: “I’ll do anything, really, as long as I get paid.” A lot of my friends said that same thing – we thought “being open to anything” would increase the likelihood of finding a cool, awesome job.

Don’t do that. Specialize. Focus on one goal. Narrow it down.

For me, real progress in finding a job didn’t happen until I decided I was going to work at an advertising agency, no matter what. In order for me to be successful, I needed to completely understand the advertising industry, head to toe. I submerged myself in information about that industry for the first half of my senior year – I didn’t worry about any other type of job.

When I interviewed for advertising jobs that year, nearly every interviewer remarked about my knowledge of the various companies in the business, and my understanding of the responsibilities and duties of the entry level positions I was applying for.

“Being open to anything” can be overwhelming. Create one mission for yourself and accomplish that single goal. It will feel like your progressing towards some sort of end point, which is motivating.

BUILD A BRAND

Google your name. What comes up?

When you’re applying for a post-graduation job, hiring managers will be doing that very thing. When they do, what do you want them to see? What do you not want them to see?

My goal was: by the end of senior year, I want to own the entire first page when you Google “Cody Corona.” I wanted each search result to be a positive message about me – about my work experience, about my volunteer projects, about my skills and knowledge, about my creativity.

You have time to do it. Fill the first page with YOU: create a LinkedIn account and connect with people in your desired industry, create a Twitter account and post links to interesting articles, start a Vimeo account and Like videos that reflect your character and personality, upload your creative photos to a Flickr account, and share your innovative ideas and well-researched projects on SlideShare.

Now that you’ve done that, when hiring managers Google your name, they’ll see an individual that’s genuinely interested in a particular industry, is creative and forward-thinking, and is social and well connected. Create a personal brand and let it speak for you.

HAVE FUN

After all, it is your senior year. Don’t forget to have fun.

When you’re having fun – in school, out of school, on the job hunt – it becomes much easier to accomplish every single challenge that I’ve written about above.

  • Having fun will encourage you to get out and network with people in your desired industry.
  • Hiring managers, while interviewing you, will know that you’re having fun, and they’ll like you.
  • Having fun will help you build a funny, positive and powerful personal brand.
  • Having fun in office hours will make professors more inclined to help you, since you’re interested in their subject matter.

Having fun will motivate you to get up every day and put in a little work. Having fun will encourage you to build a successful future, and prevent you from getting discouraged or distracted when the road gets rough.

The speaker I had in class that one day in my senior year was wrong – I was having fun. Working hard to launch an exciting, interesting and rewarding career is fun, and people can tell when you’re truly enjoying the process.

It shouldn’t feel dull or boring. If it does, when it feels like planning your awesome future is “work”, then stay in school, perhaps.

Cody Corona is a Marketing Coordinator at Rockstar Games, a leading developer, marketer and publisher of interactive entertainment for consumers around the globe. Previously, Cody helped lead integrated advertising campaigns for Old Spice and Denny’s restaurants. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2010 and currently lives in New York City.

Follow Cody on Twitter or visit his webpage.

 

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