How to Kick-Start Your Career: A Guide for Fresh Graduates and First-Time Jobseekers

Q&A with Biron Clark about job search for fresh graduates
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Overview

In this Zoom session, Biron Clark of CareerSidekick spoke with Brad Goodwin, Lensa’s Content Strategist, about the issues young jobseekers face and how they can start off their career on the right foot. Read on for a ton of useful advice from a recruiter and jobseeker advocate who has lived the journey first-hand.

About Biron:

Biron is a job search author and former executive recruiter. His website, Career Sidekick, is read by more than one million people per month and has been mentioned in INC, Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, and more. He has been advising jobseekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive jobs in less time.

Prefer an audio recording? Look no further! Listen below.

Who Is Biron Clark?

LENSA: Biron, tell me a little bit about your background and how you became an expert on job search and recruiting. Then we’ll talk a little bit about the recruiting process and how a fresh college graduate goes about starting their job search and getting their career off on the right foot.

BIRON: Sure, absolutely. So I worked as an executive recruiter and a tech recruiter in the Boston area and the New York City market as well for around five years. So that’s where I originally built my expertise. I’m just seeing hundreds or possibly even thousands of candidates go through the job application process and interview process. And I’m definitely looking at thousands of LinkedIn profiles and resumes if you include all the folks who didn’t get the interview. And so that’s where I started to see all the patterns of who gets hired, who doesn’t get a callback and all those sorts of things. Since then, I run my own job search website and blog, Career Sidekick. So that’s where I continue to test things and help jobseekers since leaving recruitment behind. That’s kind of my story for the past. I guess 10 years or so before that, I really struggle as a fresh graduate myself. I got a degree in finance. I never got a finance job. I didn’t know how to job search. I hadn’t built a network. So I was kind of asking people for help. But I didn’t have any relationship with them and they didn’t help me. And now I understand why. But I did struggle and that’s something I remember and something I try to help other jobseekers with now.

Challenges Recent Grads Are Facing And How To Get Started

LENSA: Ok, so I guess you lived through all of this stuff yourself in a way, so you learned it by doing it. And I think that it’s going to give you an interesting perspective that will be helpful to a lot of Lensa’s readers as well. So just to get started, what are the challenges that a recent graduate or someone who is preparing to graduate would face? And how do they go about getting started if they’re trying to enter the “real world?”

BIRON: I think one challenge that a lot of jobseekers say to me directly or I see them post about online is just feeling like every company wants experience. And it’s kind of a catch-22.  I can’t get experience because every company wants to hire somebody who already has experience. And so how do you get that first job and that first position when every position wants you to already have work experience? There are true entry-level positions out there, and I think it’s just about focusing on what you can control; you can’t change the company’s hiring requirements or persuade a company to drop their experience requirements. But there are true entry-level positions out there. I think it’s good to find them through your network, if possible, which is something I failed at as a new graduate, a new jobseeker. But the more you can do that, the better. Talking to your network and talking to even professors in your career center at the university, if you just graduated or if you’re still enrolled and just working on your final year there, maybe that’s a really good way to. Find out about different things and those people will have some insights into which companies really do hire entry-level people. So that’s one of the big obstacles.

How Would You Start The Conversation With People In Your Network?

LENSA: So how would a conversation like that, how would you find people to talk to you in your network about these issues and how would you start a conversation with them? What kinds of questions would you ask?

BIRON:

I like to ask for a piece of information, and I’d like to ask for something really small and simple to start. I find that a lot of jobseekers try to do networking, but they ask for something so huge to begin that it’s really just too much for the person receiving your message, like asking me to introduce you to the hiring manager in my current group. It’s just too much. You’re asking me to forward your resume to the CEO of my company. If I had a CEO, it’s just too much.

So I find it better to ask for a piece of intel. Like you could ask somebody if they have a sense of how their industry is doing and say “hey, I noticed you’re in the automotive industry. I know many industries have faced a lot of layoffs this year, and it’s been a tough year in terms of what’s happening in the broader economy and in the world right now. So do you have a sense of how your industry is doing and would you recommend applying to companies in this space now? I’d love to hear your thoughts.” Something like that. It’s very non-threatening. And people like to be seen as an expert; it’s a compliment if you ask somebody for their opinion or their perspective on something. So people are usually happy to answer and they appreciate that. You thought there’s somebody who might know. That’s one way that I like to write that makes sense.

LENSA: I mean, often we’re really hesitant to ask people for advice because they think you’re going to insult them. But what is the person going to do? Of course they’re going to be very helpful. And if you ask someone respectfully for advice based on their experience, they’re happy to offer it. So I like your approach. It sounds like it’s very much about building a relationship instead of just jumping in and saying, hey, can you give me this or that?

BIRON: Yeah, and that was my problem as a new graduate, I remember I got my finance degree and I messaged – I can’t even remember his name – but I messaged another young man who had gotten hired at a very reputable finance firm in Boston. And I asked if he could help me get an interview there. But we had no relationship and I never helped him with anything. And the fact that I can’t remember his name just sort of solidifies my point here that I didn’t know him well enough and I hadn’t put in the effort to have him recommend me to his employer. So, yeah, I got to slowly build a relationship.

How To Get Value Out Of Your Network?

LENSA: There’s this saying: “your network is your net worth.” So it’s the inherent value of a network long-term. Like the more you cultivate it, the more value you’re going to get out of it. And it sounds like that’s really hard for someone who’s just finishing college. They might not have a network yet, so they have to build it up selectively. And what you’re saying is a way to start building a network. So what happens once you start a conversation like that and get a bit of intel from someone or you have a soft entryway, you don’t just bust in through the barn door, but you get connected with someone at a company that you’re interested in working at… What’s the next step? Do you ask them to refer you to someone else? Do you have any advice for how to get value out of the network and continue? What’s the next step in that journey?

BIRON: Yeah, I think you kind of have to read the situation and the general idea is to to progress further and further and get to the point where you are at a level where you can ask them for a big favor. So I think it always depends. We sort of have to read the situation. But if they seem open to sharing information and they’re pretty responsive and receptive to your first message, I think you can ask “hey, do you happen to know if your company is hiring right now or do you know if your group is looking to grow this year? It sounds like you’re saying the industry overall is doing well,” something like that. And I think it’s good to remember that a lot of bigger companies have a referral program where they pay.

If a current employee of theirs refers or recommends somebody who ends up getting hired, that current employee could stand to make hundreds or even 1,000-2,000 dollars as a referral bonus. So you may actually be helping somebody by asking if they can refer you to a hiring manager or a team. So you shouldn’t be afraid to do it.

I just don’t think it should be in the first message and you should sort of read the situation. I guess it’s easier said than done for each particular conversation, but try to adjust your approach based on what they’re giving to you and what they’re saying to you.

LENSA: So just like in a real human interaction context, in a way that there’s obviously no there are no fixed rules for exactly how to do it that would work every time. But just to keep in mind, generally, you’re building relationships. Don’t ask for everything up front, read the situation, respond, and then ultimately pursue your goal – tactfully.

BIRON: Yeah, yeah, I think it’s just about doing it tactfully and sometimes I like to make it clear why I’m messaging them. So even if you’re not asking for that big favor right away, you don’t want to just say “hi, how are you?” You want to make it really clear: “I was considering applying to this industry or this company.”

One other approach that I love is you message an employee at a company – let’s say on LinkedIn – and say “hey, I noticed you shifted over to Microsoft three years ago in their R&D team. How have you liked the work environment since joining there? I’ve read a number of really positive reviews online. Of course, there are a lot for Microsoft, but I always like to hear first-hand about how the work work environment is. So anything you could share would be great.”

That’s one of my favorite angles. Just asking how’s the work environment? And then if they respond, then you can say, “Oh, that’s, that’s great to hear. That sort of reaffirms what I was thinking – that this would be a great employer to try to pursue a position with. I saw a position online in the X, Y, Z team. Do you happen to know that hiring manager? I was thinking of applying, but I’d love to find a way to make sure my resume doesn’t get lost in the shuffle online.” So you’re kind of hinting that you’re seeing maybe they will say “hey, yeah, I know that hiring manager, send me a resume.” They might say no, but at least you’re asking.

As a Fresh Grad Should You Contact Someone You Admire To Ask Advice?

LENSA: So you’re making it easy for them. You’re inviting them to tell you more. It’s pretty clear what you want. You’re not beating around the bush, but you’re also not demanding something from them. I like the approach, and also the idea that you’re offering value to them because of the referral bonus, that’s a very real thing and that’s something I don’t hear mentioned very often. Let’s say you’re a fresh grad and you know what you want to do, you can imagine where you want to be in 15 years. So if you’ve got a degree in communications and you think you want to be a copywriter at an ad agency and work on big campaigns, you contact someone at BBDO who’s a copywriter and ask them “Hey, how did you get to your position? What was your career path? Because I’m just getting started and I’d love to be in your place in 15, 20 years. What was it like for you?,” or is that just too vague?

BIRON: No, I think that’s absolutely brilliant. I’m glad you said it. That’s one of the best things you can do, because that in itself is sort of a compliment. So like we talked about it, it’ll be well received. And I think people who have, quote unquote, made it or succeeded or they’re in a job they love, they like to give back. Just having my own blog and online business that’s doing well now when people come to me for tips, I’m always happy to help them. I get excited to help them. So I think that strategy you just named will be perfect. It’s a brilliant way to do it.

Internships vs Real Jobs

LENSA: There’s also the issue for a fresh graduate of internship versus real job. Is there advice that you could give to someone, maybe a rule of thumb on whether internships matter? Is an internship a stepping stone to a job or should you pursue it as an end in itself? What are your thoughts on that?

BIRON: I think it’s complicated. There’s a big difference if you’re still a student, let’s say, in your senior year in university versus if you graduated and you’re looking for a job now, I guess if you’re still in university, you’d want to assess whether the internship could lead to a job.

Sometimes employers are pretty clear about whether it can or cannot or may or how likely that is. And you can ask them during the assessment and interview process for that. I think in general, though, you should aim for what you want. So if you graduated and you want a paid position, I think you should pursue a paid position. I think no matter what you do, it takes a lot of effort. It takes time, it takes conversations. It requires many rejections. Often you might as well just go after what it is you really want. The thing that you’re going to be truly excited about when you get it, because you’re going to be spending this time either way.

Idea Of a Dream Job? Follow Your Passion And Pursue a Dream or Work Your Way Towards It?

LENSA: That is actually the perfect segue to another question that I was dying to ask you, which is the idea of a dream job. A lot of younger people are graduating now. They might have grown up with this idea that they should follow their passion and pursue their dream and might not be sure how to get to that dream? How do you navigate this dilemma? As a young person starting out trying to decide, you just go all in on your dream or do you work your way towards it selectively? How do you approach that?

BIRON: I suppose if you’re one of the young people who’s fortunate enough to have a crystal clear picture of what you’re not, I mean, I wasn’t. But pursue it, do everything to talk to people who have that dream, ask how they got their network, go get it. But if not, you shouldn’t worry, because I think a lot of people’s careers are fluid and they shift and you should just focus on learning skills and exposing yourself to a wide range of tasks and companies and challenges when you’re young and seeing what you like. I think for most people, if they went and planned out 10 or 20 years on paper as a 21-year-old or 22-year-old, the reality isn’t going to end up looking anything like that. And that can actually be a fantastic thing. I mean, just thinking of my own story of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance and never getting a finance job and then having a couple of dead-end jobs that I hated, including getting fired a couple of days after Christmas, quitting one job after two weeks and then becoming a recruiter pretty much randomly and then discovering what it’s really about and then using that recruiting knowledge to start a blog that’s now replaced my full time income and more and just it’s just totally, completely… I shouldn’t say random, but it’s just so unpredictable. I never could have guessed that I’d fall into a recruiter job, learn all that knowledge, and then be able to monetize that and build a career of just sharing the info. So I think it’s completely OK if you’re not sure, just build skills, build valuable skills, build your network.

LENSA: That makes a lot of sense. And I think it’s helpful to think that you don’t have to have a dream. Sure. Go for it. And even if you do, there’s value in just being open to what happens, like, “wow, I’m actually good at this job or this particular aspect of the career that I thought I wanted interests me more than the one that I’m in. Maybe I can do a little sidewinder and try that instead.” It’s really inspiring that you were able to find your way to something that you’re  really passionate about and happy in that you didn’t necessarily intend initially in the form that it’s taking now. And it’s a dream that a lot of people are chasing intentionally.

BIRON:

I think one idea that what you said just brought this idea to mind, you might not be able to find your dream job right away. You might not want to know what that is, but look for your dream boss, because that makes the biggest difference, in my opinion, because a great boss will let you test different areas and expose yourself to different areas.

And what comes to mind for me is the first CEO of my first recruitment firm that I worked for. And she let me interview internal candidates that we were thinking of hiring. She let me train new employees and mentor them. She got me a promotion to project manager. And I ended up hating it and being a pretty immature, terrible leader at the time. And I stepped down. But still, I just had so many opportunities to find a great boss that lets you test things and doesn’t just say, well, sorry, that’s not in your job description. You want somebody who’s really going to be excited to help you grow and explore. Your professional interests in your twenties, a good boss makes all the difference. Very good advice.

How Do I Build My Resume Without Any Experience?

LENSA: So once I’ve got my network established, I start making connections with companies that have identified what my goals are, maybe my dream job, maybe not. But I know what I’m going to be and what I’m aiming for for the next couple of years to get started. How do I construct a resume that’s compelling once I have an opportunity to get that under the right person? How do I build a resume? How do I take my lack of experience and turn it into a format that someone is going to want to hire me for?

BIRON:

I think if you have no work experience, then your academic experience is your work experience. So you want to put as much there as possible, any clubs or activities you participated in? I think that for GPA, I think they say if it’s above 3.0 out of 4.0, then list projects, presentations you gave, really anything because that is your experience.

But also if you hold jobs – even part-time summer jobs – don’t underestimate your ability to position that in a way that will be attractive to employers. So include that on your resume to internships as well. For example, in high school and while beginning university, I worked at Whole Foods market and I was a cashier and I was promoted to supervisor. And even after graduating some four years later with my bachelor’s in finance, in those first few interviews or really for the first few years, even after graduating, because I had multiple jobs and I was fired and all of that, employers showed so much interest in that Whole Foods job. And it didn’t matter that it was before I had a degree. And then it was like a retail service industry job, nothing to do with the office jobs I was applying for.

But it actually did have a lot to do with it because I had been promoted. I showed that I had gone from cashier to supervisor. And there’s only one reason that a company promotes somebody is that they’re doing well and they trust that person. And I was supervising a team and I was interacting with customers on the phone and in person. And suddenly I had actually done all of these things that employers really valued, even if it was in a little grocery or big grocery store, but in the supermarket outside of Boston. So don’t discount your experience, even if you were a referee for children, soccer or basketball or an assistant, a volunteer assistant coach, a volunteer at a summer camp, anything with leadership and showing that you had to be organized or that you were trusted by any type of organization. If you were given some type of role at your church or a local club or anything like that, I think it is really good to show.

Can You Tell From a Job Description What The Company is Looking For?

LENSA: So just because I had a night shift at the 7-Eleven, I don’t have to be ashamed of that or hide it.

BIRON: No, definitely not. If you’re handling cash at the 7-Eleven, that also shows you are responsible for 3,000-10,000 dollars in cash per night, maintain 100 percent bookkeeping accuracy, or something like that. There’s always a way.

LENSA: Yeah, I mean, you could say I was robbed at gunpoint, and yet I had to present bookkeeping accuracy and was able to prove my ninja training to defend the other employees or something. It sounds like it’s about storytelling – connecting the dots between the job that you’re applying for and whatever this past experience was just framing it in a way that translates into, OK, I learned from this experience. Here’s how it applies to the current opportunity. Here’s why I’m the person for the job.

BIRON: Exactly, framing it to be interesting and relevant to your new audience now, which for me was like those corporate employers, right? You’ve always got to think about them because when they post a job, they’re thinking about themselves. They have needs that need to be solved or projects they need help with. So when they receive your resume in their system, however you apply, they’re thinking about their own needs and they’re thinking, can this person step in and help us with this? So your resume is actually a marketing document that should be proving to this employer that you can come in and help them with the exact things that they’ve put on their job description, because that’s what they’re worried about.

LENSA: You’re basically saying you have to be empathic and realize that you’re applying to a real person and tell your story in a way that’s going to get their attention and show that you can solve their problems or help solve their problems. How do you know this just from reading a job description? Can you read between the lines and figure out the actual situation, the person they’re looking for, as opposed to the bullet points that they put in the job description? Because in my experience, at least half of the time, the job description isn’t what they’re really looking for. There’s either some kind of company boilerplate, basic job description that people copy-paste and then they might change a few things, or there’s a team involved that keeps tacking things on to it. And it’s not really necessarily what they’re looking for. Is there a rule of thumb to tell what they’re really looking for?

BIRON: I don’t know some magic cure-all method, I guess, and

There are certainly good job descriptions and bad ones, but generally they’re decent. I think you can obviously look at what’s written on the page, but also the order. So usually the first couple of bullet points or what are what are most important to them. That we kind of think about the order that things appear on the page and also frequency.

You might see something appear twice. So sometimes the job description, they’re like 10 to 20 bullets, but also a paragraph or two. And so if you see even if you see they mentioned the ability to work in a fast-paced environment in the first sentence of the first paragraph, and then let’s say it’s like the second bullet among all the bullet points, it’s pretty clear that they think their environment is fast-paced and that they really, really want somebody who can do that. And so it would be a good idea for you to think about. Did you work under any tight deadlines in school or on jobs? Maybe you were a cashier serving 100 hundred customers a day, or maybe you had to lead three projects at the same time during your final month of school or something like that.

Are There Any Warning Signs to Pay Attention to When Applying to a Job?

LENSA: Are there any warning signs that you might look for that would tell you as an applicant, I’m not sure I want to work for this company or this might not be the ideal job for me?

BIRON: I’d go have the interview. I mean, it’s the job you shouldn’t apply to every job if the job duties don’t actually interest you and aren’t going to bring you a step closer to your goals than, by all means, forget it. But now, if you see something that just worries you a little bit about the company culture or like how they would, I would just go have the interview. And then in that interview, there are a ton of warning signs that I would hate. Everybody’s different. I would hate to be micromanaged. I hate a robotic organization where everybody … where there’s kind of no leeway and everything’s by the book and, you know, we don’t leave till 6:00 pm. So you’re sitting, you know, I don’t like that type of structure. Everybody’s different. But I think you find that out in the interview. Now, so many interviews are virtual, but I was going to say, when you walk through the office to see how people address the people and see if they’re talking to each other. Hopefully return to that office environment, since you can get a sense of that type of thing.

How Does The Interview Process Look Like Nowadays?

LENSA: Has the interview process itself changed? I mean, it just seems there are multiple interviews to get a job and that young people need to expect to have to go through multiple phases.

BIRON: Yeah, I think it’s becoming more common, more rounds or having multiple people on a single Zoom interview, maybe like a panel, a virtual panel interview, but yeah, I think you’re going to talk to multiple people, but I sort of think that’s good. And in my last recruiting job for a firm called Winter Wineman in Boston, I met with every single member of our team, five or six people, including the people who would just be my peers. And this was a fantastic company. This is a top-notch company. And so it’s not just them trying to hassle you and put you through a lot. It’s in this case, they really wanted to find somebody who wanted this job and would fit the team. So, yeah, expect a lot of rounds, but sometimes it’s good too. I mean, more than just your immediate boss.

LENSA: It’s also a chance for you to interview the company and get a larger picture instead of just what one person says the company is like. You hear the stories of a couple of different people from different areas of the company. You can put two and two together and figure out what the company is really like.

BIRON: That’s what they did. They put me in a room with a young woman around my age, actually younger than me, who is just another recruiter on this team that I would be joining. And she said, “listen, whatever you ask me doesn’t leave this room. I’m not the boss.” I had already talked to the boss and she said, “you know, if you have any real questions about what it’s like to work here, I joined within the last year and we can talk about that.” She said something to that effect. I don’t remember the exact words, but that actually made me really excited about the role I was. Seemed like a great company, and it was based on that, so it’s good if you’re meeting a lot of people, I think it’s a good sign for a jobseeker.

How to Negotiate Your Salary If You Don’t Have Experience?

LENSA: Let’s say you make it through all these five phases or however many and you get to the end where you have to negotiate your salary – that can be pretty tricky and scary for a lot of people, especially if you don’t have experience with salary negotiation. And some people are caught off guard by the fact that they have to do this at all. How do I go about that if for the first time someone asks me, “What are your salary expectations?”

BIRON: I’d recommend doing your research, so there are a lot of sites like PayScale and Glassdoor and many other salary tools, if you search Google for a salary calculator. Do your research for that type of job in your particular city, so, you know, like a baseline.

But then if they ask for your expectations, I would recommend saying that you’re looking for the position that’s the best fit for your career and you’re looking to find the right fit. And once you’ve done that, you’re willing to consider an offer that they feel is fair. But at this point in your job search, you don’t have an exact number in mind and you’re really focused on looking at roles to find that right fit.

And I found that to work pretty well. If they keep pushing you, you can give a range and you can say, well, you know, in my research I’ve seen that this type of job here in Seattle, let’s say, tends to pay between fifty to seventy eight thousand dollars. And so I think if we’re somewhere in that range, then it makes a lot of sense to keep talking here. But I would not give a specific number before you know exactly what the role involves. I suppose you’re asking me about the end of the process, though.

LENSA: Maybe not. I have heard the opposite as well, which is that there’s this anchoring technique where you are supposed to be the first person in the negotiation to name a number, because whatever number you name, it’s going to set the tone for the rest of the conversation. So you’re basically trying to insert some kind of control over the salary range that gets discussed by naming a realistic number that is in line with your expectations, because it’s going to go up or down a little bit and obviously you’re going to negotiate. But that way at least you kind of have a foot in the door. Whereas if you let the other person, the employer name the number to begin with, then you might be at a disadvantage if it doesn’t get even close to your expectations.

BIRON: I wouldn’t say that. No, it’s a nuanced topic, but for any negotiation I’ve always heard the saying – and this may be a little bit oversimplified – but whoever shares a number first loses. That’s what I heard. That’s a very very very oversimplified thing, you know and that’s been said for years, if you share the number first, you’ve given them sort of a chance to respond. And maybe you gave a number that’s lower than what they were going to offer, and now they’ve saved all that money – they were thinking 60,000 and you said 50,000 and they were like OK, deal. And you never would’ve known what they had in mind.

LENSA: That makes a lot of sense.

And also if you don’t have experience before, I like what you said about not demanding a specific number, because it also … there are a lot of ways to be compensated for your job other than just salary. If you’re just getting started, it can be extremely valuable to get a job at an important company that you believe in, that could be a stepping stone to another job even if it doesn’t immediately pay you millions. That can pay dividends over time, so you have to be open to considering the wider picture. Correct me if I’m misunderstanding what you said.

BIRON:  No, I agree with that. I feel like that’s something to go home and think about on your own, though. You want to find out a number – what they can offer – and as a younger jobseeker, you should absolutely consider “what skills am I going to be learning? What opportunities are there for advancement?” For your long-term earnings that can be even more important for building valuable skills.

LENSA: But don’t immediately say yes or no. Let them name a number, but then think about it and then come back with an answer, right?

BIRON: Yeah, I’m glad you said that.

You should never feel pressured to accept an offer on the spot. I would never recommend accepting a job offer on the spot. I would always ask for 24 to 48 hours. You could say “thank you for the offer, I’m so thrilled, I always like to talk  about important decisions like this with my family though. Would it be all right if I take 48 hours and get back to you over the phone?” You never should feel like you have to accept on the spot.

Do You Send Follow-ups After An Interview?

LENSA: Do you send them a follow-up thanking them for the interview, or is that old-fashioned?

BIRON: No, I love it. I do an email. I like to do the next day at lunchtime. Or I guess if you interview on a Friday I would do it Friday evening just so it’s not waiting ’til Monday. But normally if you interviewed Monday, send it Tuesday at lunchtime. I would do it Friday evening, just so it’s not waiting till Monday, but normally if you interviewed Monday, send it Tuesday lunchtime, send it to each individual person and thank them, mention something specific that you really enjoyed.

LENSA: OK, so customize it for each person.

BIRON: Somebody just emailed me and they had bought one of my ebooks, so I was willing to help them and they said an interview with two people in one meeting and they asked, whose name should they put first in the email and the thank you email?

I said, “no, you have to send a separate email to each one.” And it should only be a personal thing. And you should email person number one and tell them what you enjoyed speaking to them about and how you appreciate their time. And then email person number two and say what? What did you enjoy learning about with them and talking about with them and thank them as well.

What Happens If You Don’t Get The Job? How To Handle Rejection?

LENSA: I love it. I mean, you’re building a more personal relationship. So if you do get the job or you decide to accept it, it’s like you have a special one to one relationship with this person already on your first day at work. Whereas if you just I don’t know if you just email the hiring manager and say thanks and you copy everyone else into the email, it’s much more generic, right? Absolutely. That’s great advice. What if you don’t get the job? How do you handle rejection as someone let’s say you’ve made it through all these multiple rounds, you know, you’ve done everything that you recommend someone does and you still don’t get the job?

BIRON: Obviously, this happens a lot. Do you have any tips for people just starting their career, how to handle rejection. Yeah, I’ve got two good ones: one, just never stop applying until you find a job offer. Some people even say until you’ve had your first day of work because you really never know. I see so many jobseekers get in this mindset like, OK, this position is my dream job. And they have one interview and they’re so excited and they stop caring about other positions and they’re so emotionally invested and they actually stop the job search effort of finding other positions, too. And then when they’re rejected, it’s just so much of a letdown emotionally. And they don’t have any traction with other companies to just stay level-headed and and try to get multiple job offers and just keep going until you sign an offer. I’d rather you have to reject a few job offers because you have too many rather than rely just on one and have it fall through. And then you’ve got nothing and it’s terrible. But so many jobseekers do that.

LENSA: I love that. OK, so keep a pipeline open and don’t take it for granted that something will work out just because it seems like it will.

BIRON: Yeah. And then I think my other point, it kind of fits with this: don’t take it personally. As a recruiter, I’ve seen behind the scenes that there are literally more than one hundred reasons that you might not get a job that are not your fault. There are so many pieces out of your control that you’re never going to hear about or see about talking about discussions behind closed doors. There could be a candidate who cost and I was going to say cost less money, that’s recruiter talk, but I guess you had lower salary requirements than you or had a lower salary coming into the position and the company wanted to find a bargain. There could be another employer who wanted to hire somebody who had a higher salary because they thought that salary implied a higher level of experience and value. So those are two completely opposite outcomes, just depending on what that one employer wanted. As a recruiter, I had a hiring manager tell us that he had too many men in his group and he wanted a woman and he only wanted to see female candidates for months, for a few weeks, which I don’t think was legal. I’m not sure. But that’s what we did. And so if you’re a man and you had applied and you don’t get the interview, you might be thinking, well, gosh, maybe my resume needs some retooling. But obviously that wasn’t the reason. So just don’t take any one rejection personally. Look at broad trends, and if nothing you’re doing is working, then you need an adjustment.

And if you’re going on your first interview, after a first interview with different employers and not getting to the second interview, then it’s absolutely about what you’re doing in the first interview. And something needs to change. But don’t take any one rejection personally because there’s just so much that happens behind the scenes.

How To Make a Good Impression On Your First Day At Work?

LENSA: Great advice. I wanted to get a little bit into and say, if you do get the job, what happens during the first month? How do you make a good impression on your first day? Any guidelines you would give to someone to know how to succeed, how to start off on the right foot and what to what signs to look for as to whether the job is a good fit or not?

BIRON: I can just name all the mistakes I’ve made and a checklist of what not to do. Now, I think I’m trying to meet a lot of people in your first week to your first month, get coffees and lunches with people, make an effort to email different people, including from different teams. After you’ve met your team, you can find the teams that work with yours and try to invite one of their team members to coffee and say, I’d love to learn about what it is your team does and how our two teams work together. Can I buy you a coffee and hear about it? Because I’m new here trying to think there was something else. Oh, when you’re brand new and somebody explains something to you, write it down because there’s nothing worse for those other people than having to answer the same question multiple times. And I was guilty of this so much I would be new and I would just be like, hey, can you show me this again? Can you show me how to access this Excel file again? And it would just drive people crazy, so.

It’s OK to ask questions, it’s OK to know nothing and to be learning everything, but try to only ask it once and really like, take good notes, write it down, whether it’s on paper or in Word file, do something so you don’t have to ask multiple times.

What Not To Do On Your First Day/month On The Job

LENSA: Anything else that you would say “don’t do this on your first day or your first week or month on the job?”

BIRON: I don’t know, a lot of it depends on the company. I think that’s what I’d say. It’s like my biggest thing not to do. Don’t don’t make somebody show you something twice I think is a good approach. I guess initially that’s that’s also I mean, you’re shaping the way they perceive you, so you don’t want to seem like you don’t learn or you’re not paying attention.

LENSA: And if you’re asking this thing multiple times, obviously, that indicates to them either you’re not valuing what I told you the first time or you’re just a slow learner.

BIRON: And if you do have past experience and this won’t really help entry level people, but in the future, once you’re going into your second or third job. Be very coachable and be open to learning how this new company does things they don’t want to hear from you. They don’t want to hear it. Well, my last employer did it this way. They want you to listen to their way. And then after a few months of observing, you can certainly bring new ideas. And sometimes an employer will hire somebody from a different company because they want fresh ideas in their group. But on the first day, they want you to listen to how they do things. So it’s important to kind of go in with a blank slate, sort of be very coachable. And that’s really good to show in your interviews to you. That’s feedback that I always got in my job. Interviews as a jobseeker and hiring managers always loved that I was coachable and willing to. And that was the word that they used over and over, so try to seem coachable, you’ll get more job offers. One hundred percent, I guarantee you, OK?

What Happens If You Don’t Like The Job?

LENSA: Interesting. So what if you don’t like the job? How do you deal with that? If you get there, you make the right impression. Everyone likes you, they tell you your culture or whatever, and still something doesn’t feel right about it. How do you decide or make the final call? How do you navigate? Obviously, you’re going to go with your gut, but is there some kind of etiquette you could follow or protocol that would give someone whose new guidance as to what to do?

BIRON: That’s an important question, it’s tough because there are so many reasons that you wouldn’t like a job, and so are you doing the tasks that you thought or is your boss really difficult to work with? Or I think in general, you just have to look at your priorities. And I think people will tell you that you need to avoid gaps on your resume or you need to avoid short stints at a position, you know, never leave within the year. I think the reality is it’s more nuanced than that. And you can almost always get away with one of those. I’ve quit jobs without having one lined up. I’ve had gaps. I’ve had short stints. You can get away with one like, you know, one to two year period. You can’t or it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get away with more. So you shouldn’t feel what I’m trying to say is you should not feel stuck in a job for a year where you feel you’re learning nothing, doing nothing, draining your energy, feeling down your time is not worth that. So don’t be afraid to go. But you don’t want to do it too much. And I think if there is some good but some bad.

So let’s say you’re doing really good tasks that are interesting to you, but it’s really challenging and you’re a bit overwhelmed and your boss is really a pain to maybe try to stick it out for one year, like, OK, I’m not going to be with this boss long term. I really can’t deal with him or her. But I’m going to learn a lot this year, so let me stick it out.

So it always sort of depends, I suppose. And one final idea, if you. If you do leave a company, just be very clear, and I joined an e-commerce company in Boston for two weeks and then I quit because I got a different job offer from a company that was a position that was more related to what I had studied finance. And so I went to the bottom and to my boss at this first company and said, listen, I’m really sorry. I’ve got a job offer from a different firm that’s just much more closely aligned with what I studied in school and I’ve decided to accept it. I know this puts you in a bad spot. I know I’ve been here for under a month. I’m truly sorry. And he said, that’s fine. I get it. Thank you. Can you stay till the end of the week? And I said yes. And so he understood it wasn’t ideal. He wasn’t happy. So what I’m trying to say. But he did understand there just once you decide what to do, just be clear and professional about it and communicate and. They might not be happy, but they should understand if it’s a professional reason everybody makes mistakes or takes a job and then decides it wasn’t what they thought and that does happen.

And in terms of this context is we’re talking about someone who is just getting started on the career, so my guess is that an employer is going to be a bit more understanding towards someone if it’s just their first or second sort of real job and they have a change of heart immediately and saying this is going to go in another direction, that’s what you expect it to do at the beginning. It’s probably harder to get away with that, maybe taken more personally if 20 years down the road you become really flighty and just skip out on a job. Right? So play that card and use your youth to your advantage in that case, I guess. And if you’re in a great company but you just don’t love the role, then you can talk to them about that too. You can ask if you’re if you could try different responsibilities, they might say no. But if you’re if you’re at the point of wanting to quit anyway, it can’t hurt to ask, you know.

LENSA: Good point, and it goes back to what you said earlier: don’t necessarily look for a good job – look for a good boss. So if you have someone who you can ask that question to, who can help you find a better role within that company, that’s interesting that that could be a better solution than just quitting and giving up. Right, yeah, a good boss should want to help you. And it’s part of their job to help you develop as an employee. So, yeah, find a great boss and then it’ll be a lot easier to ask a question like that. Ask what other opportunities there are or. Before we wrap up the conversation, if there are any projects that you want to plug, things that you’re working on that you’d like to tell people about?

BIRON: Just my website, Careersidekick.com, it’s got more than two hundred free guides and articles on everything from job interviewing to answering salary questions to writing and resume and cover letter, everything like that. 99 percent of everything on the site is free. So that’s it. That’s my full time project. And a lot of jobseekers tell me they’re glad they found it and they send it to friends and family. And so I think it does help a lot of people.

LENSA: I really like the way that it’s structured. It’s very easy to navigate and find information. So I also recommend your blog and website. How can people contact you if someone wants to get in touch?

How Can People Get In Touch With Biron Clark?

BIRON: Linkedin is a good way. I’m on LinkedIn. I usually accept your request if it doesn’t look like you’re about to pitch me something or sell me something. I don’t I don’t offer individual coaching, so I don’t want to waste anybody’s time. I’m not like a resume writer. I do have a book so I can recommend it, but I’m very happy to connect. And I do share a lot of my newer content on LinkedIn. So if we’re connected there, you’ll also see all of that new stuff as it comes out.

LENSA: Perfect. Biron Clark, thank you so much for your time.

BIRON: Thanks for having me. It’s been great, great questions, I’m glad we got a chance to do it.

Lensa Insights
Lensa Insights
Work is changing faster than an angry retrovirus. For jobseekers, that means one thing: adapt or die! Lensa Insights is your survival guide, offering actionable career tips to keep your future in focus.

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