Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hire Yourself

Nothing out there? No one returning your calls? No job in the foreseeable future?

Hire yourself.

"You must be on drugs. In this economy, and with my lack of experience, you want me to start a business?"

Well ... yes.

Many of the best companies started in crappy economic conditions (including loads of great, small companies). In fact, I believe conditions like these are great for starting your own business.

Here's the thing – maybe it works out, maybe it doesn't. But you'll learn, grow and gain valuable experience.

My most valuable learning experience happens to be my greatest failure. (I affectionately refer to it as "my bobsled ride to hell.") I was part of a start-up company that lasted only a year. We did everything wrong. And I learned more in that one year than all other years combined. It also set me up for the career I have now.

Several students/recent grads I know have started businesses. Check out Brendan's Love Sick Clothing, Chases' Wicked Threadz and Tosha's TYPOGRFX. Whether these businesses succeed or fail, the people will definitely succeed. Because they have that entrepreneurial mindset. 

I'm not telling you to stop your job search. I'm telling you to take control of your career. The business may grow into something big, or become a nice side project once you are employed, or may be that glorious failure that propels you to something bigger.

Plus, it will give you the answer to the interview question "What have you been doing since graduation?"

And saying "I started my own business" is a great answer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Your Full-Time Job Is Finding a Job

Congratulations on graduation and the start of your new full-time job – finding a job.


Your. Full. Time. Job.

Responsibilities include:
  • Researching possible employers // Find the firms who do what you want to do.
  • Targeting possible employers // Your cover letter, resume and all other communications should be specific to that employer. Don't just replace one name with another.
  • Constant networking // Keep yourself top-of-mind. You want people talking about you. And remember, for it to be true networking, you have to give back as much as you get.
  • Creating new portfolio pieces // Never stop improving your work. Always aim to knock the weakest piece out of your portfolio.
  • Keeping up with industry news // Know who's hiring, who's firing and who's the right fit for you.
  • Attending industry events // Best way to meet people. And make sure they know you.
  • Following up with contacts // See previous post for importance of this.
  • Finding a pro bono client // Gives you a professional reference, another piece for your portfolio and keeps your skills sharp.
  • Other duties as required // In other words, whatever it takes.
Hours: 9:00 to 5:00, minimum. Some evenings and weekends required.

Qualifications: tenacity, tenacity and, did I mention, tenacity.

Pay: your first professional job.

So, welcome to your new job. Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up

Large or small, your network of contacts is only as effective as the work you put into it.

Regular follow up is an important part of that.

Did someone give you a lead? Let them know how it turns out.

Did you meet someone at an industry event? Get their card and send them a quick e-mail telling them you enjoyed meeting them.

Did someone review your portfolio or resume for you? Let them know what changes you made on the basis of their advice.

You get the idea.

And it's not just about thanking them (which you should do). It's also about keeping yourself top-of-mind so they think of you when they hear of an opening.

Even now I regularly hear about job openings. If I haven't heard from someone in a while, I assume they found something and don't pass on their name. Or, if I've only had contact with them once or twice, I may not even think of them.

So follow up on a regular basis with your contacts. It can be a short e-mail, a quick phone call or a hand-written note (wow, that would stand out). It's all about developing an ongoing relationship.

People are more likely to help someone they know than some stranger off the street – which is what you'll be if you don't maintain contact.

Plus, you never know who may give you the lead or advice that helps you land that job.