Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Find the Right Job Straight Out of College

I sometimes find myself dispensing advice about job hunting. Lately, one question - how to find the right job - has come up often enough for me to notice. So I've decided that I'm just going to lay this question to rest right here.

You're a college student. It's your last year. Have you started looking for a job? Do you even know what you are even looking for? How do you find the right job?

I've seen a lot of people flail around looking for jobs, enough to know the pitfalls people fall into. These pitfalls are numerous, but I've picked one I believe to be so common that it has to be dealt with. Why should you take my advice? Well, because this is how I proceeded with my job search, and it worked out very well. Some of you may just think I just "got lucky," but I know better than that, and you should, too. There was a lot more to it than just getting lucky.

So let's just jump right into it. Consider the following two statements:
  1. A company you've actually heard of and find interesting will most likely have a position relating to your field of study.
  2. A company that has a position relating to your field of study is one that you've heard of and find interesting.

These two statements are logical inverses of each other. Which of those two statements seem more likely? Is it if A then B, if B then A, or both?

On inspection, the first statement seems to have merit. If I've heard of a company, and I have had enough interaction with them to establish they are interesting, then chances are they are diverse or large enough to need every kind of person under the sun, from marketing to sales to tech to whatever. Do the experiment. Rattle off the top companies you like. If that's hard, name some products you know a lot about or just couldn't live without. Enjoy listening to your Apple iPod, you say? Then they probably have a position for you.

"But I'm not technical, I don't know how to make software or design hardware, and that's what Apple does, right?" That's extremely near-sighted. You didn't take to heart what I just said, did you? Someone has to sell the thing, someone has to market the thing, someone has to manage their public relations, someone has to balance their books... Are you really that ignorant to the workings of companies? Come on now.

The second statement is obviously complete garbage. S.S.S. Inc. needs marketing people, but you've never heard of them, don't know a lick about them, and you obviously don't have a clue as to whether or not it would be the most horrible experience of your life. What if I told you S.S.S. stood for Shit Shoveling Services. Do you really want to market Shit Shoveling?

You may say, "Well that's a drastic example," but if you have no history with the company (from using/enjoying their products) and have never heard of them, how do you know they don't shovel shit? You see my point.

Now if this is so obvious, why is it that when most college students search for a job, they sit down at their computer and type "[insert field of study] job in [insert city]" into their favorite search engine or job site. An example would be "marketing job in Boston." Naturally, they get back an enormous list of jobs, with not a clue where to start or which ones they'd enjoy. At this point, they are completely lost.

But we know better. Instead we go back to our example from before. We know we like iPods, so we do a search for "Apple job openings." Well look at that, first result is Oh and look, they have a page about information and/or interview sessions happening at colleges around the country. "But I go to Boston University and I don't see an event." Look harder, there's one at MIT, just a skip away. "But that's not my school, I can't go to that." You think Apple cares? 99% of the time these things are open events. At least look into it. If you let a simple thing like that hold you back, then you probably don't deserve the job anyway.

By now you should see my point. Knowing who you want to work for is infinitely more useful than searching on your field of study alone. Not only does it help you narrow down your search, but you are also likely to do better in an interview with a company whose products you enjoy. Take this advice, tailor it to your field (i.e. focus on companies you know relating to your field), and you'll be headed in the right direction. All you have to worry about now is passing the interviews.

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