Sunday, May 18, 2014

Getting the Job

Graduation season is upon us, so now is a good time to offer today’s new diplomates some actionable advice for their first jobs.

In fairness, the job prospects for today’s graduates are dismal. USA Today reports:

Dear Class of 2014: We regret to inform you that the nation's job market continues to force college graduates to take jobs they're overqualified for, jobs outside their major, and generally delay their career to the detriment of at least a decade's worth of unearned wages. Good luck on your continued job search….

Seniors who graduate over the next several weeks are poised to be yet another product of a depressing economic cycle that isn't their fault, but that they may never fully recover from. They and other recent graduating classes entered college and subsequently the labor market amidst a panoply of converging circumstances that will inevitably set them back: rising tuition, their parents' decreasing ability to pay that tuition, fewer jobs after graduation, and lower wages for the jobs that are available.

It’s good for USA Today to say that their bleak job prospects are not their fault. And yet, we must notice that they voted for the politician whose policies are most responsible for this mess.

As the old saying goes, you get what you vote for.

In the meantime, the easiest piece of advice for your first job is this: bosses are impressed by those who get to work early. (Via Maggie's Farm) Remember the proverb about the early bird.... Apparently, it's true.

Max Nisen reports on the latest research:

The belief that getting an early start to the day is virtuous is widely held. In fact, finds a forthcoming study, it’s so pervasive that managers rate workers who get an early start higher than those who get in and stay late, no matter how many hours they work in total or how well they do their jobs. And it could explain why other research has found that workers who have flexible schedules have less successful careers.

Getting to work early is the easy part. If you are both the first to arrive and the last to leave, it will surely enhance your career prospects.

But, the more important and more difficult part of getting and keeping a job is… managing your attitude.

Studies define the issue in terms of how you present yourself for a job interview, but the advice also applies once you are on the job.

The studies conclude that Aristotle was right. To manage your mood well you should seek a golden mean that lies somewhere between being too boastful and too needy, too arrogant and too desperate.

Kathryn Tuggle explains:

Whether you're desperate for a job or convinced you're the world's greatest hire, you shouldn't convey that in an interview. Experts say coming across as overly needy or boastful are the quickest ways to rejection.

In truth, the same principle applies to all human relationships. It even applies to first dates. One career counselor said:

[Employers] want to know about your accomplishments and how they relate to the job, but they don't want to hear about why you think you could do a better job than they can….

Confidence is attractive, but arrogance is a turn-off. Who wants to work with someone who has a big ego? ... Employers consider how you behave in the interview to be an indication of how you will interact with colleagues, vendors and clients on the job.

One consultant explained that applicants should gear their answers toward the job that is being offered, not toward what they really want to do in life.

He said:

If you oversell yourself and portray that you have a skill set beyond what the job requires, you're going to be perceived as inappropriate for the job…. You're basically saying, 'I could run the world, but I'll take this job,' and no one wants to work with a person like that.

How do you find the right level of confidence to project during an interview? 

Another consultant recommended that you study the company culture. In other words, get out of yourself:

If you have any doubts about the level of confidence you should portray in an interview, [research] the company culture before your interview. For example, if you find that the CEO doesn't have an office but sits out in cubes with everyone else, that's a cue that the company is more interested in teamwork than hiring a hero.

Initially, it appears, you will need to present yourself, even to tell your story. It's an opening gambit, but it is not the endgame. If you tell your story, present a picture of yourself that seems to be consistent with the culture of the company you want to join.

By my experience, success or failure, in an interview or on the job, has less to do with selling yourself and more to do with buying them… that is, buying into the company and its culture. In other words, leave your ego at the door.

If it isn’t good to be too arrogant, it also isn’t good to be too humble.

Tuggle reports:

Hiring managers are looking for strength, [consultant Dave] Sanford says. They want someone who can get up to speed quickly, assimilate into the company culture and take charge.

"If you're too humble, they're going to ask, 'How will this person be able to handle the things I am going to throw at them?' he says. "You're going to come across as too soft, too mushy, too wimpy."

Some people who are naturally humble may need to step up their game and be more confident in an interview, he says.

"If your approach is to assume that the other guy will read between the lines and figure you out -- they won't. They are not going to spend time digging through all of the 'Aww, shucks' talk to figure out who you are. You've got to be your own advocate," he explains.

Obviously, you are not going to go into a job interview and complain about how bad you have had it. If you’re down on your luck and have had a bad run, keep it to yourself.

Once you get the job you are not going to sit around complaining about your life or the company, either.

If you have been out of work for a time, de-emphasize it. One consultant explained it this way:

Avoid casting yourself as damaged goods. Tell them how you've been following the markets and keeping yourself active. Show that you've stayed up on the industry as much as possible.

Stayinig up on the industry also means staying up on their company.

We do not, of course, just speak with words. Gestures can also convey excessive strength or excessive weakness.

If your handshake is too strong or too weak, people will notice. An excessively strong handshake means that you want to crush the other person. An excessively weak handshake will say that you are too modest and humble, that you are not inclined to take initiatives.

Bad posture can also speak against you. If you slouch too much, cross your arms, or look tense the cues will tell your interviewer that you are weak and desperate.

You cannot improve your posture or your gestures by becoming self-conscious about them. Some Pilates classes will surely improve your posture. Yoga classes will help you to learn how to relax and focus. If you need to express more strength, try some Kung Fu.


JP said...

Harvard Business Review:

DrTorch said...

Very good summary of interviewing. But it takes more to get thru the gate and get that interview.

Tailor your resume to the the company and the job listing, and pay attention to format and that computer programs are screening.

And as this article said, emphasize your accomplishments and how they relate to the job.