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Things for Grads to Know About Getting a Great Job PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 05 June 2014 04:28

Congratulations, graduates! You’ve worked hard for the past four (or six or eight) years and are rightfully proud of yourself. But as you head out into the brutal workplace armed with proof of your smarts and persistence, don’t expect too much from those shiny new credentials.

While a good education is never wasted, your diploma isn’t stamped “admit one job seeker to the opportunity of a lifetime.” In fact, it might as well read, “I’m a member of Gen Y and I may not have what it takes.”

That’s right. Too many hiring managers — 66 percent according to one survey — think today’s new graduates just aren’t prepared to enter the workforce.

“Many of them cite details like typos on résumés as reasons why they don’t want to hire a new college graduate,” says Ben Carpenter, author of the new book “The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Choose a Career, Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Be a Leader, Start a Business, Manage Your Money, Stay out of Trouble, and Live a Happy Life.”

“But it’s not the typo that really matters—it’s what it says about you. Your communication skills. Your work ethic. Your attitude toward details. Your drive to do what it takes to get the job.

“Of course, the typo is only one tiny example,” he clarifies. “There are lots of ways to inadvertently live up to the bad rap new grads get. My point is that too many people already assume you can’t hack it in the real world. It’s up to you to prove them wrong.”

To do so, you have to know what the real world values in the first place. And that’s the point of “The Bigs.” Using a combination of detailed, colorful anecdotes and tactical advice, Carpenter lays out a blueprint that employees of any age and level of experience (not just recent grads) can use to get—and do—a great job. Having done it all, from opening his own bar to working his way through the Wall Street ranks to becoming the CEO of a major international financial services company, Carpenter is the perfect coach.

In the book he shares 17 things college grads need to know right now in order to stack the odds for professional success. Among them:

Things you need to know while you’re looking for a job.

Don’t think about what you want to do. Think about what you can do. You’re probably trying to find a job that will fuel your passion and make you happy. If so, Carpenter’s first piece of advice might feel like a cold wake-up call: Spend less time figuring out what you want to do and more time thinking about what you can do. In other words, seek out a career doing something that you’re good at. “Choosing a career you can do well, rather than one that seems fun and exciting, might sound unappealing— but it isn’t,” Carpenter states. “The satisfaction you get from doing your job well will far outweigh how entertaining it is. Plus, think about how unhappy you’d be if your heart’s desire failed to pay the bills. From personal experience, as well as from observing family, friends, and coworkers, I can state that most professionals are happiest doing what they are good at, while pursuing other passions—that their careers give them the means to finance—on the side,” he adds.

Always ask yourself, What’s my edge?

In other words, what makes you unique and different? Why should other people pay attention to you? What do you have to offer? What gives you an edge over the competition?

“This is a great question to ask yourself in a multitude of professional scenarios, not just when you’re interviewing,” says Carpenter. “If you’re starting a business, it can help you to define your product or service’s niche. If you’re going after a promotion, it can help differentiate you from your coworkers. In all situations, it will help you define how you can become your personal best.”

Be creative and bold.

Long gone are the days of being handed a job just because you have a diploma. There are millions of job seekers with the same qualifications as you, so if you want to receive one of a limited number of opportunities, you’ll need to stand out.

For instance, instead of sending out a résumé that will probably get lost in HR Purgatory, stand outside Company XYZ’s offices with a cardboard sign that reads, “Please let me tell you why I’m the person you want to fill the junior systems analyst position you posted on (a website). If you’re interested in a graphic design position, create a mockup redesign of the company’s website. Then send it to the prospective employer with the headline, “Get ready to be blown away by your new look!”

Be a good steward of the “little” things.

For example, always proofread your emails for errors before pressing “send.” Don’t leave voicemails unanswered at the end of the day. Keep your desk and computer files organized. Call your clients to share progress, even when a report isn’t required.

“Most people don’t think much of letting the so-called ‘little things’ slide,” notes Carpenter. “They think it’s okay to cut ‘unimportant’ corners. So when you pay attention to small, often-overlooked details, you’ll distinguish yourself from the pack. Trust me, putting in just a little more work than most people are willing to do is a great way to propel yourself toward success.”

Live within your means.

Maybe you think that your personal finances (whether they’re good or bad) won’t impact your life in the workplace. According to Carpenter, that’s wishful thinking, especially if you’re struggling to stay solvent. It can be difficult to check personal stressors at the office door, meaning that if you’re worried about money, your anxiety might impact your focus, your performance, and even the values you apply to your work.

Getting and doing a good job has never been a cakewalk, and in today’s competitive market, the challenge is even greater, Carpenter concludes. “But the fact that you’re a recent grad doesn’t mean that you have no choice but to slog through several years of underemployment before finally getting your chance to go to bat in the big leagues.”

Ben Carpenter is currently the vice chairman of CRT Capital Group, a 300-person institutional broker-dealer located in Stamford, CT. He resides with his wife, Leigh, and three daughters in Greenwich, CT.