I made a comment on my Twitter page about my ability to write a book called “Landing Your Dream Career in a Recessive Economy.” I thought I might elaborate on this with short summaries on twelve methods that have worked well for me. You could say this would be the outline of my book’s content.
This goes out for all you soon to be graduates or the many out there trying their best to succeed. If you follow these tips with absolute dedication to a singular goal of landing your dream career, you can only succeed given a long enough time table. I wish you the best of luck. This is all about getting that dream job. Personally, I have been at it for six months. I continue to bust my tail, knock on doors, call/interview with anyone who will give me the time of day, network and above all I refuse to give up. Good luck to you. I honestly hope these steps help- even for just one person, that would mean the world to me.
One: When Failure is NOT an Option.
Forget about fearing failure, it truly can be a terrible energy. Instead, try to focus on succeeding because there can be no failure. In the beginning, this is the hardest step. You graduate college, enter a losing economy and are presented day after day, week after week with horror stories, bad news and ultimately little hope. Even worse, you could be ten or fifteen years into a career and now find yourself having to start over. However, you must decide to turn around and honestly say you’re willing to do whatever it takes. Know what you want to do with your career, and then focus on succeeding at that! Belief in yourself combined with a singular goal creates a powerful energy. Are you ready and willing to not accept failure? Are you ready to get off the couch of self-destruction and get the wheels spinning- even if you are honestly not sure what road to take? Welcome to step one.
Two: Positive Attitude and Energy.
Attitude and energy for a young professional should occur naturally, especially on the crusade landing your career job. If your older, find ways to fire yourself up! If you are not excited and energetic about pursuing this career hunt, you will fail and most likely this is not your true calling. Many times finding your true passion is the hardest part. I have thought I had the “it” career nailed but ultimately learned the hard way I didn’t really want it. At one point, I wanted to pursue law, at another an account executive position in an ad agency. I pursed both with vigor, positive attitude and energy but learned that after some time this just faded. Listen to your gut, it won’t steer you wrong.
Three: When in Doubt, Ask Professionals in the Field.
With candor and honest appreciation for someone’s time, asking professionals in whatever career you want is a solid step one. Here is a winning question, “How did you get started and what were some of your challenges?” If you launch this question to a professional, you get them talking not only about themselves, which we all love, but also about what they are passionate about. Then listen, take notes, show an active interest in what they are saying. Sometimes you will laugh, joke, even tell them your story, but always be cool and act professional.
The challenge with this step in the beginning is finding the professionals. Honestly, this should not be a difficult process. If you want to be in advertising, call local advertising agencies, if in law, call local law firms, if in health-care, local hospitals, if in finance, local banks or wealth management firms. I could go on and on. My critical point here is go old school. Forget about a time before email and massive online job sites. The only way to truly succeed is to get in front of people! Thus, getting professionals on the phone is a start that leads to a meeting.
Try this approach on the phone. I will play the job seeker; John will play the professional in a major financial firm. “Hello this is John.” “Hello John, Adam Faragalli, how are you today?” John, “Doing ok, but who are you?” “Sir, I am a young professional and I am very interested in your industry, would you have just a few minutes to talk to me about it?” John, “I don’t know Adam, I’ve very busy, but I could answer a question if you have one?” Me, “Thank you sir, I wanted to ask you how did you get started and what where some of your challenges?”
The rest as they say is history. You get him/her talking about themselves and listen. Now I am not going to tell you this is easy in the beginning. In fact, you will probably fail and get rejected more times than you will actually get a good conversation. However, you are focused on succeeding right, because failure is not an option. What separates winners from losers is their ability to get up after being knocked down. Thus, learn from your mistakes, be it your lack of candor, too forceful approach, or even stuttering (nerves) and try again.
Four: Discover What You Don’t Already Know-Then Learn It.
The first three steps should get you in front of people, or at the least a good idea of what can be done to get to that point. Like it or not, every career generally has a learning curve that requires long hours of studying, aka hard work. In the beginning, you don’t know squat. The sooner you admit that, the better off you will be. In my experience, I quickly learned that I needed to learn more, because I knew without a doubt I knew little about the financial industry. So, I read, a lot.
Want another great question to ask professionals, “What would you recommend I read to better help me prepare for this career? Were there any books or sources I should look into?” In many cases, professionals literally gave me books to read or exact authors and titles. I then went to Amazon.com, and purchased used books. In the past six months, believe it or not, I have read eight books all related to Wall Street in some way. (with another 4 planned) That’s cover to cover, no bullshit read. I spent each night and leisure time digesting between 15 and 40 pages at a time. Do this for six months and after a while you can burn through a book in no time. The best part is in interviews or meetings with professionals you can reference these books for massive kudos.
Five: Learn NOT how to interview, but how to Influence People.
Want a secret that I learned the hard way, arrogance and self awareness seldom go hand in hand. That is not just a killer line from the awesome Bond movie “Casino Royal” but a lesson you should learn. The biggest turnoff for a professional that I have learned is when some cocky know-it-all college kid (or older professional) comes in and tries to tell them that they have a lot to bring to the table. That they are worth looking at, or whatever! It is the wrong approach. Instead, be calm and cool. Start by saying you thank them for their time, with a soft voice and a relaxed persona. Then, lead the conversation with a question. Launch it this way, “would you mind if I fired a question your way to begin?” When you lead the conversation, you place yourself ahead of your peers. In addition, you can avoid many of those stump questions like, “So what are your weaknesses” or my personal favorite from an old agency manager of mine, “If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be.” In realty, those three words in your head are Cruel & Unusual Punishment- asking a question like that.
Another few tips are to take notes. After that first question, say to them “Would you mind if I took some notes.” I guarantee they will love this because it takes the pressure off them. Gives them a chance to relax while you listen and write what they say. I promise even if you scribble down nonsense it comes across as a win in an interview. In addition, all those awesome questions you thought long and hard about are right there ready to be asked. Plus, if you are smart you can read them back and this brings me to my next point.
Six: Learn From Your Mistakes.
When taking notes, focus on the points where you feel you need work on, or even made an error in. If you said something that got a strange reaction, make a note of it. In every interview I have done, after I was done all I did was think about what I said, what he/she said and what my notes highlighted. I went to bed thinking about it, and when I woke up I thought at it some more. After I have fully processed what had gone right and wrong, I learned from my mistakes. After the first several, you should feel good and ready to interview. After a dozen, you can literally blow your interviewer away, and as I have recently done by challenging them on their firm and their points. If done right, they respect you for it.
Seven: Put you Best Foot Forward.
So you have yourself a meeting, you have learned enough to speak intelligently about some aspect of the business, and you have a positive attitude/energy, now what? Now is the time to ask yourself what you believe, deep inside, the person you are meeting wants to see in someone they would hire or refer to hire. For my industry, this was a full suit and tie, shinny black leather shoes, gelled hair with a clean cut shaved look, subtle colon and black leather bound notepad.
First impressions are critical. I knew, just knew, that when the professional I was seeing looked at me and extended their hand, they were meeting someone generally interested and respectful of their time. In many times, I was better looking, but that is ok. As long as you leave personal feelings and cockiness checked at the door, you can’t go wrong. Also, just as Dale Carnegie said, always smile!
Eight: Organization and Persistence.
I cannot stress organization and persistence enough. In general, it takes on average two to four phone calls to get an interview with someone. This does not include the one to three calls to their secretary to ask to speak with them. How do you keep track of when and how and what was said on each call is up to you. Personally, I like pen and paper and then transferring this to a word document with action items and bulleted notes for each.
Persistence is so crucial that I think without it, you are dead in the water. You just cannot get it in your head that you do not want to “bother” these people. You have to stay focused on the notes in the above steps and with candor insist that you are worth their time. Just do it! Time and time again, I thought that I was bothering these guys and maybe even upsetting them. However, I called again the next week, and again the week after. You know what happened? I got an interview with everyone of them and they respected me for my persistence.
Nine: People can Have Brands, What is Yours?
When I was in college a short time ago (ha, I can still say that and mean it!), Cliff Shaluta, the advertising and public relations coordination of the school of journalism implemented a program called WKU “Brand You”. As one of Cliff’s closest students for the four years I was there, I thought this was genius. If companies have brands, why can’t people? You may wonder, how do I brand myself? What mediums would I go about implemented my brand on? That is all up to you, but here is what I have done.
My brand started with the social networking sites. I cleaned up my Facebook.com page and made it so that an employer would not be turned off. I branded my Twitter.com and LinkedIn.com pages as a sales professional, and created a Web site, AdamFaragalli.com, where you are probably reading this now. I even changed my email address and created a business card that had my brand on it. The beauty of it was that your brand can change. Mine has many times. Think about what you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Decide and then act on it. The answers may not come over night, but in time your brand will become a rather known part of how people know you. Lastly, because I have recently started my dream career hunt, do you think my brand will change to foster this?- you bet it will!
Ten: The Resume
Your resume is a crucial element but not the end all. It only serves the purpose of getting you into an interview. At that point, you probably do not want to talk about it much if I were you. This is, of course, unless you have done some seriously awesome things. For example, I have done some rather challenging internships and what not that my resume sites, but that don’t mean squat when you are going up against individuals with 10 to 20 years of experience. Unfortunately, many of that 10% unemployed workforce falls into that category. Thus, I had to focus on other areas as I have mentioned in the above steps. Nevertheless, I made it so it can be done; you can overcome a weak resume! However, your resume should be clean, professional, truthful and your own. Dump the word document and develop something different. I know I created, with help, a custom document in Adobe Illustrator. I know my resume looks slightly different than everyone else’s. Again, that “brand you” mentality.
Eleven: Pull Out All the Stops:
Pulling out all the stops means doing everything you can think of. Let me illustrate. I was five months into my job hunt. I had interviewed with over 15 individuals in the area, all professionals in my chosen field. Then, I had landed one big interview after a month of trying to get to see this guy. I was cool, confident (not cocky), dressed to the nines, ready with questions, a marketing plan and had tricks up my sleeves just in case. He spent over an hour and 20 minutes talking to me, and buy his usual hourly rate I would have owed him a few hundred dollars for his time. I firmly believe he enjoyed talking to me. So, how did I pull out all the stops? The next day, I went to Target and purchased “Thank You” notes. I usually shot an email or called to thank the guys/ladies that interviewed with me. But this time, I wrote a nice three-four sentence thank you note (in cursive) and personally dropped it off it his office. I followed up the next day and he agreed to meet me again the following week. As I write this, that week is not yet come. When I see him next, I’m pulling out all the stops again. Going in with ammo for days, calm and cool, ready with questions and ready to adapt to whatever he throws my way. My point here? Find ways to go the extra mile, to really thank someone. Rule here- whatever everyone else is doing, do something different, something better. This is America, someone can always come in and do it better (and cheaper- is the saying).
Twelve: Marketing and Networking
At this point, marketing and networking may be redundant. However, if you spend more than 10 hours a week watching TV you are failing. Get off the couch and go out and socialize! You need to put it out there to the universe that you are ready and willing for a job. You tell them what you are doing and you how you are doing it. Do this two days a week and things will happen. In fact, I made two solid contacts that lead to interviews in my first few weeks of networking socially. Not to mention new friends and potential business contacts.
As I said above, I have been trying my best to land the career job I want for the past many months. During this time, I have remained employed full time with a nightmare “busy work” position. However I am blessed to have had this. I wish everyone out there the best of luck. Remember, luck truly does happen when preparation meets opportunity.
Twitter: Follow me @ AdamFaragalli