Rules to live by in a highly competitive industry



Don’t panic. Unless you are an orphan with no means of financial support, you probably do not need to take the first job that comes along. After spending tens of thousands of dollars on a college education, you can afford to sacrifice a few months income at the wrong job while you get the right job set in your sights.



Invest in yourself. Going all the way in a job hunt often means spending cash on wardrobe, stationery and travel to other cities. Don’t be shy. Again, after the heavy four-year investment, can you afford not to invest a few hundred dollars more for travel and lodging in pursuit of the right job?



Call on the companies that stopped recruiting on campus. These big corporations may not have 500 job openings anymore, which is why they stopped recruiting on campuses. But they probably do have 50 openings. They might be waiting for your call.



Never enter an interview unless you know the company cold. That may be overstating how much you need to know about a prospective employer. But the more you know about a company, the more distance you put between yourself and your competitors who have not done their homework. Nothing leaves me more unimpressed than a job candidate who opens an interview saying, “Tell me a little about your company” indicating he knows nothing about sports, business or what we do in those areas. I don’t expect him to be fully versed on the inner workings of our organization. But we’re not a mystery. We have an elaborate corporate brochure that lists all our divisions and offices. Our clients are on television and in the sports pages every day. I’ve written business books about how we operate. A smart candidate will not only study these before our meeting, but he’ll find a way to display his knowledge when we meet.



Never leave an interview without asking for another name to contact. The more people you talk to, the more impressions you make, the greater the chance that one of them will be sufficiently impressed to hire you.



Don’t overestimate the power of a resume. Resumes are important in the sense that they get you a face-to-face interview. At the entry level, what can you list other than your schooling, grades, summer jobs and extracurricular activities? I’m much more impressed by a well-written letter addressed to me personally, which points to one or two major achievements, states a career objective, and indicates that I’m not part of a mass mailing to hundreds of companies.



Don’t underestimate the power of a resume. A resume might not sell you, but it shouldn’t unsell your candidacy either, certainly not because of sloppy errors. Double check the spelling of names, even if you think there is only one way to spell them. If you make a spelling error, the company will expect more careless errors and be hesitant to hire you.



Look for a great company, a great boss, a great job -in that order. As a general rule, a lousy job with a great boss is better than a great job with a lousy boss. Remember, if you are functioning at the entry level, you won’t always be stuck in a dull job if you have a great boss who can teach you, inspire you and look out for your best interests. A lousy boss, by definition, will want to keep you in your place as long as he can.



Write thank you notes to everyone who helps you. It’s not only nice, but it places your name in front of them one more time. You never know. They might be looking for someone the moment your note hits their desk.



Work for nothing. I’ve been saying this for years. But I’m still amazed how few young people, once they’ve identified the ideal company, have the courage or foresight to offer to work for nothing. It gets your foot in the door. It’s an offer no manager will refuse. And in the real world, even the most tight-fisted employer will eventually offer you a per diem or token salary. Then you’re on the payroll and on your way.

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