6 New Year's Resolutions for Graduating Seniors
Before I get to you, you scared graduating senior you, let's talk about me and my Prosek story.
First semester of my senior year I felt a panic slipping over me. Where will I go next year? How will I pay my bills? Where am I going to live? It was a classic case of graduationitis. Everything I had done up to that point–the internships, the "dirty jobs" and the building of my network–had all been "right," but how did I turn all of that into a dream job?
I hit the networking grind hard early that fall and scheduled phone calls with older sorority sisters about their careers, gleaning all the information I could while also hoping for the magical, "I'll pass your resume on" offer. But the experience of everyone I spoke to led to the same conclusion: in the PR field, hiring happens very soon before the start date. I was mildly devastated, to say the least. I've always been a hyper-organized, planning person whose "to do" list would draw envy from even the most OCD of my classmates. But, I also accepted that I had to wait until post-spring break before actually applying anywhere.
Scratch that. I thought I had accepted that, until February rolled around. My anxiety was gnawing at me, so I decided to "just look" at open positions on LinkedIn. Suddenly, before me were a new world of opportunities; I imagined myself living and working in San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, and my college home, Washington, DC.
OK, I thought to myself. I'll just send my resume to a few places, just to get a jump start. The second job I pulled up was at Prosek Partners. It sounded amazing; I loved the "unboxed" concept and I wanted to be a part of a culture that let you be hands on from day one. But it was in New York, a place that only interested me because I had just received Valentine's Day flowers from a boy who lived there. I thought, no harm in applying, and woosh, my resume was in the hands of Prosek's HR team. Long story short, I was ultimately offered a position as a Prosek Apprentice. A few months later I was in New York City and at my dream job.
Though slightly long-winded, I think my story can offer some insight for graduating seniors looking to enter the workforce. Therefore, now shifting the focus back to you, let's get into some New Year's resolutions for graduating seniors:
- Don't panic blindly. Yes, panic did benefit me because I may have not applied to Prosek otherwise, but if you're going to panic, panic productively. Stressing about not having a job and then opting for Netflix binges does you no good. Channel your panic into hyper-tailored job applications to companies that actually excite you.
- Write a cover letter. There are hundreds of people applying at the same time, so if there are any questions your materials can't answer, many evaluators will just move on in the pile. Explain yourself clearly and elaborate on your experience in a cover letter–it's a great way to keep your resume to the all-important one-page length.
- Seek out your own networking opportunities. Your school most likely offers some great career fairs, and you should attend them, but it shouldn't be your only priority. Making personal connections, whether with your professors or your parents' friends goes far beyond a three minute conversation at a booth. I even networked with my customers while I was a waitress and still maintain great relationships with them today. People are willing and eager to help their contacts, but they may not realize it's needed until you ask. Just remember the kindness shown to you, and return the favor to others in your network. A pay-it-forward attitude will take you far for the rest of your career.
- Pay attention to the interview. So you landed an interview! That is phenomenal! Good work. Now remember two things: you're trying to impress them, and they are trying to impress you. A good rule of thumb is how they treat you as an interviewee is how they'll treat you as an employee, so note responsiveness, professionalism and kindness during the process. Now as for you, some oldies but goodies: come with questions, come with background knowledge of the company AND position, come dressed to impress, and send BOTH email and handwritten thank you notes to EACH interviewer. No exceptions.
- Prepare for "no." In the acting and writing professions, they say you have to have a thick skin because you'll face a lot of rejection. But I'd argue this applies for any career. Whether you're not getting even an initial response to your application or you've made it to the final interview only to be turned away, be prepared to hear "no." That's not to say you should dial back your confidence, but don't let a rejection throw you off for the next great opportunity that comes your way.
- Prepare for "yes!" Believe it or not, a yes can be even scarier than a no. When I committed to become a Prosek Apprentice last summer, I was overjoyed, and then a week later I suddenly realized this was real. I was moving to New York where I knew one person (who had just dumped me) and starting my career. I wouldn't have the safety net of school or have all of my friends in a five-block radius. It took me a few months of working at Prosek to finally get that "I know what I'm doing" feeling and establish a friend-base here, but it happened. You'll get there too.