Getting a computer related job - new grads, et al

I encountered a query from an NHTI student about how to find a job in today's world. And I have a few suggestions for her and others who may be in a similar situation. I did a presentation at the Nashua Community College in March related to this: "Taking Control of Your Future" -- this looks at the longer term career arc(s) that todays graduates face. But what can you do NOW for a job SOON?
1. Painful reality -- most jobs (as much as 90% I've heard from some HR folks) are filled though networking. Folks who you know, or contacts you make ... while your professors are one source of contacts, reach out much farther if you want to make it happen.
  • Participate in local professional activities -- many are free, and participating professionals can be key mentors and/or paths into local companies. The IEEE NH Computer Society chapter is one example with their regular seminars, also try Googling: Linux User Group (LUG's), Visual Basic user groups, etc. -- many such informal groups exist at a local level.
  • When you attend events -- bring business cards if you can (cheap ones available at Vistaprint.com) -- it allows you to introduce yourself to folks of interest (and the quid-pro-quo is that they give you one of theirs ... so follow up on that -- see below)
  • Ask relevant questions at the event ... stand out from the crowd in a positive way.
2. Make it a "project" -- take on the role of free-lance journalist, and ask for an opportunity to interview folks in local companies of interest -- where are the jobs going to be, what skills will recent graduates need, where are they finding candidates? ...
  • You can do this simply as a personal informal role -- do some homework on target companies (what they do, what related work they are likely to have) -- and ask for a chance to interview someone for 20 minutes on where the future of careers (you would be interested in) are going. ... Have a serious and relevant list of questions at hand, ask them, and start to leave at the 20 minute point having obtained information from them. Always include the question "who else might I talk to in our industry that could have useful insight" ... if they give you a name, get an email or phone #... more about this below.
    Do have a copy of your resume in your "back pocket". It may well be that the person you talk to will ask you to stay and to learn more about you and your interests. Don't push the resume their direction, let them ask for it (if they won't use it they won't ask.)
  • You can do this literally as a project to write a paper -- I suspect most school newspapers would pick up your results, local papers might, it always makes a useful entry on your blog or Facebook page, ... and some of the professional societies have newsletters where this would be of interest. (And of course send a copy to the folks you interviewed, and add this to your resume as an example of your communications skills.)
  • Send a thank you note to anyone you interview -- if you want to stand out, send them a hand written note by U.S. Mail (and of course make sure your note has your contact information on it.)
  • Follow up on any pointers you are given ... contact these folks and ask them for an interview (same deal) ... and let them know that "bob suggested I talk to you" -- and use the references real name, not 'bob'.
3. Looks count ... every place you are visible. Make sure your Facebook page (twitter stream, Linked-in profile, etc.) are all professional ... stuff you want an employer to see ---- because they will look -- indications are that employers view these sites a significant percentage of the time -- before they bother to contact you about an interview. Potential for discrimination? ... you bet. But no body will blame them if they decide not to interview a person who highlights their party life or last binge. Being "cool" on the web is not all it's cracked up to be. Indications are that it takes months of diligent posting on your sites to both flush embarrassing old stuff, and get search engine visibility for your desired image.
  • Check your self out via Google -- is the top of the list the real you? .... (some folks will think it is, I talked to one professional lady whose name matched that of an "adult" entertainer, so she changed her day-to-day name back to her maiden name.) Add an initial, or your full middle name ... become unique if you can (even adding or creating a nickname ... one that is professionally sound --- Jim "Jedi" Isaak perhaps)
  • Your visible screen names (handles, email names, etc.) also want to be professional. I suggest that "sexy-mama" or "stud-muffin" are not images you want to project to prospective employers.
  • Pictures count ... what pictures of you are tagged? ... Looking good? ... oops
  • and of course when you are doing the face to face thing, look appropriate for the job. Interviewing at Harley-Davidson, wear your jeans and leather jacket --- interviewing at a bank, a suit is good ---- be at least business casual everywhere else.
4. Every contact is an opportunity. Some will pay out in the short term, others may be longer term connections. Once you have a position -- maintain your contacts. These are points for keeping in touch with what is happening in the field. Continue to attend those professional meetings ... continue to learn today's skills, ones that you see emerging in your future so that you have control over your future.

One resource for IEEE Computer Society members, the "build your career" site, with pointers to relevant resources as well as job postings, etc.

Carpe Cras ... Seize tomorrow ... and do it today!

No comments:

Post a Comment