Monday, August 24, 2009
Post-Grad Jobs -- The New Endangered Species
I've recently been faced with a bittersweet reality -- the school year is starting up, but I'm not heading back to a classroom. I will not be a student for the first time in 16 years. Wow. I have very mixed emotions about this strange revelation. On one hand, I am certainly not going to miss cramming for tests, working with unruly group members, listening to truly boring lectures or sleeping until noon one day and waking up at 7 am the next. On the other hand, I really love school. This wasn't always the case, of course, but as I grew older, especially upon entering college, I was hit with the reality that this was the last chance I had to learn about topics that interested me in a structured setting without having major obligations outside of school. Why not make the most of it?
I can confidently say that I am very satisfied with my experience at DePaul University. For the most part, I had extraordinarily talented and educated professors that were not only helpful, but also made learning fun. I maybe had 3 or 4 professors over the span of four years and 48 courses that I felt were not suited for their role as educators. Not a bad ratio. You have to expect to get some bad eggs thrown in from time to time. Don't worry DePaul, I made this very clear on my teacher evaluations!
While I am confident about my college experience, I am not so confident about life after college. I think it's safe to say that I am a pretty optimistic person. The only thing that I feel really bitter about is having to graduate into a recession. You have undoubtedly seen all the articles out there: For the class of 2009, degree doesn't mean a job or Another casualty of the recession: Recent college grads. Not quite welcomed headlines for college graduates.
In my mind, I did everything that I could do to succeed: I worked hard in school and out; graduated Cum Laude; repeatedly made the Dean's list; held down two jobs for a while; worked as an marketing intern. So explain to me again why I don't have a job right out of college?
That's not entirely true -- I have a job. It's part-time with no benefits, but it's a job none the less. Unfortunately, it's not quite the position I hoped to have upon graduation. My current position focuses mainly on traditional forms of marketing and sales, whereas my career goal is to work in Internet marketing. My role for the last year has given me great experience, but I've been keeping my eye open for other opportunities since April.
Those who have graduated in 2009 know as well as I do that finding a job opportunity requires one to have a very watchful eye. There is even a new movie, Post Grad, that addresses this troubling dilemma of young twenty-somethings. I exhausted every resource I could to find any sort of entry-level position. Unfortunately, I came to the realization that most entry-level positions had now been transformed into intern opportunities -- did I mention these were unpaid? Not exactly an ideal choice when you are trying to afford a life in a big city.
I managed to trudge ahead and stay aggressive in my hunt for a job. I learned the hard way that sites like www.Monster.com and www.careerbuilder.com are not the best sources for job opportunities. My email address was exploding with opportunities to "Make $500 a day by sitting on your couch" or "Become a millionaire in one year". Sure it sounds appealing, but I would like to think I am intelligent enough to spot a scam when it smacks me right in my Gmail.
Okay, time for Plan B. I finally felt like I uncovered the holy grail of job searches. Listen up college students, because I'll only reveal this once -- DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF NETWORKING. I heard time and time again that networking was a great tool and finally I decided to test that theory. Over the last few months I have tried to connect with anyone I could that worked in the field of marketing communications. I was not expecting to meet someone who was just going to hand over a position to me easy-peasy, but I figured, "Hey, these people have jobs. The must be doing something right. What do they know that I don't?" So I asked.
Speaking with others lead me to more credible sources for job hunting. Two sources include LinkedIn Jobs and professional organizations such as CIMA, WOMMA and PRSA.
LinkedIn is useful because you can create your own professional profile, search for individuals with positions similar to the one you hope to acquire and the LinkedIn job search results prove to be more credible than those offered on Monster and Career Builder. As part of a school assignment I had to interview a few people working in my intended industry. I found all three of my interviewees via LinkedIn. I searched for companies I hoped to one day work for and emailed employees that held positions that I hoped to one day have. The response was overwhelming. Each person I contacted was more than willing to offer insight and advice.
LinkedIn certainly offered me a few good leads, but the professional organizations proved most helpful. To begin, most all websites for professional organizations contain some type of job postings, volunteer opportunities or networking events. Secondly, these organizations are very targeted to a particular aspect of marketing communications. I could type in "marketing" on the LinkedIn search engine and my results could range from traditional marketing, to Internet marketing, to viral marketing. The options are endless. When I search the job listing on CIMA's website, I know I will find a job opportunity in the field of Internet marketing. Finally, the companies that post jobs on these industry websites are often, if not always, members of that particular organization. I don't know about you, but I personally feel better about working for a company that is actively participating for the greater good of the industry. Do a little research. I am certain that every single niche industry has some type of professional organization associated with it.
This last week I have landed two interview opportunities by searching the websites of professional organizations. I had one set of interviews last Thursday and I have another interview with a different company tomorrow morning. I can offer two more pieces of inspiration based on my interview from last week.
If you're reading this blog, you probably realize that anyone can have his or her own blog. Sure, it takes up little time if you're really passionate about keeping it current, but it is worth the effort. Several of the women I interviewed with last week were impressed that I had my own blog. Not only does it show that I am interested in the field of Internet marketing, but it also is a great tool to display my writing skills and general interests.
Finally, be proactive. My interview last week was for a position in search engine marketing.I felt confident that I knew enough of the background of SEM to qualify me for the position, but what did that matter if I had never actually done a paid search campaign? SEM is something that I have tried to introduce at my current place of work. I put together a little presentation for my boss and we decided to put a halt toSEM until or website was updated and we actually had a reason to send people to our website. Since that was a dead-end I shelled out $10.00 and created my own paid search campaign for this very blog. Do a Google search for "Christine O'Connell" and my ad is at the top of the list! Call me a dork, but it is a thrilling feeling.
I created this campaign the night before my interview. My interviewers' admiration for my blog, was nothing compared to how impressed they were that I created my own SEM campaign. I am still waiting to hear back about the whether I got the got or not, but I am thankful that I was aggressive enough to create my own SEM and show my interviewers that SEM is something I am truly passionate about. While creating your own SEM campaign might not be the answer for your professional ambitions, I am certain that there is something you can do to make yourself stand out among the others that are trying to steal that position away from you.
I am trying to stay optimistic about my current situation, even though its not always easy. Plenty of sources out there are saying that things are on the upturn, but it is still hard to be a recent graduate in this economic climate. Of course, There are countless other recommendations and sources for obtaining a job in these difficult times than the one's I have shared, but these are certainly a few tips that have been useful to me. To learn about more job hunting tips, check out 10 Things Marketing Professionals Starting Out Should Do by Mark Singer over at The Future Buzz. Singer offers a great list of tips for young professionals looking to start their careers.
8/26/09 Follow-up: I got the job!