Graduation season is here! At Robert Half, we understand how exciting, yet also overwhelming, this transition can be. With that in mind, we asked several of our senior leaders to share their best job search and career advice. From focusing on listening more than you speak to having a strong network to help you open invisible doors, here are their responses:
- Open your ears and your mind, and close your mouth
- Always say ‘yes!’
- Always be networking
- Gain knowledge and experience now; it will pay you in the long run
- Performance and attitude are keys to career success
- Focus on your results, not how you are perceived
- You will learn from every experience you have
- Focus on what you are good at
- Think of both the short term and long term
- Have a strong network to help open doors for you
- Be sure to show interest in the job
Open your ears and your mind, and close your mouth
Looking back on my start in this business nearly 20 years ago, it’s easy to recognize one of the best things I had going for me. It wasn’t knowledge or intelligence or work ethic, or really anything positive. It was the sheer fact that I knew absolutely nothing about this business and was totally honest with myself about it.
One of my first leaders in staffing told me that if you open your ears and mind, and close your mouth, you can learn something from just about anyone. As I clearly had a deficiency in experience and knowledge, I decided to do just that. And while not talking was never a strength of mine, I kept my mouth shut and wrote down everything I heard until one day, miraculously, I realized I knew some things.
That was a great lesson I’ll never forget ... and to anyone getting started in anything new, I’d respectfully offer the same advice to you: Shut up and listen!
Always say ‘yes!’
The best piece of advice I ever received was to always say yes. Whether it was a new project, a new role, or an opportunity to work in a new country, saying yes got me out of my comfort zone and provided experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have had. It seemed daunting at the time because of the uncertainty, but it was the best thing for my career!
Always be networking
Think of the old adage, “It’s not just what you know, but who you know.” Always be networking to expand your circle of influence, knowledge, and connections.
Challenge yourself to set up one strategic networking meeting per month throughout your career and be curious — ask questions and challenge yourself to learn about different industries and career opportunities, and to expand your professional network.
Find ways to help those within your professional network, and leverage that same network when you decide to make a career change.
Gain knowledge and experience now; it will pay you in the long run
In the interview for my first job out of college, the CEO of the company asked me, “Do you want to earn, or do you want to learn?” While I wanted to say “earn,” I knew I didn’t quite know what I was going to do and how. I spent a couple of years in a rotational program which got me to the role I wanted, where I began to actually “earn.”
I give this same advice to all candidates who are early in their careers. That is your time to learn your craft and how work works. The money will follow, but the knowledge and experience you will get learning your craft will pay a much higher dividend in the long term. Pace your career with knowledge and experience.
Performance and attitude are keys to career success
The best advice I received during my first year out of college was to act as if I had the job I want tomorrow, today. Digging into that statement, to me, it means bringing the attitude, work ethic, and delivering the performance as if you had a higher-ranking role. Stay out of office politics and be a positive force for change if required. Additionally, assume everyone you work with may someday work for you. You want to be beyond criticism and someone who would be voted into a new role.
Focus on your results, not how you are perceived
Earlier in my career, I had the tendency to invest too much time worrying about the perception of my leadership team with regards to my performance.
A mentor of mine recommended that I repurpose the time and energy I was spending on speculation regarding how I was perceived to controlling what I could actually control: how my energy and efforts could influence the growth of my business.
At the end of the day, your results are virtually always the primary determining factor in how you are perceived!
You will learn from every experience you have
The best career advice I’ve gotten was from my wonderful mom: “You will learn from every experience you have.”
Perhaps a role outside of your chosen field will help you explore an area you never knew you’d be interested in — or maybe a job will teach you the kind of manager that best suits your style. It’s your opportunity to figure out what that experience has taught you, and then you can incorporate those learnings into your next step — and into your” Tell me about yourself” interview answer!
Focus on what you are good at
Upon graduation, you may have a degree that can take you in several directions. Focus on what you are good at and have a passion for. This doesn’t mean ignoring your areas of opportunity. This will help you interview better, be able to give applicable examples of how you could excel at the job, and ultimately succeed in the job.
Being strategic and focused on what you are good at, while job searching, will provide you with the ability to grow, achieve career goals, and be fulfilled. Remember, this is the first step in your career journey!
Think of both the short term and long term
As it pertains to a job search, the best advice I ever received was to think beyond the here and now. While understanding the day-to-day is critical, it is equally as important to understand the progression of the company and its employees.
Ask yourself if you can see yourself at this company in five to 10 years. Speak to as many people as possible to get an understanding of tenure and what has kept those people at the company. Long-term prospects are often as important as the current role. Be strategic in your decision.
Have a strong network to help open doors for you
Always be networking! When looking for a job, you want to reach out to everyone you know, as you never know “who knows who” and can help make an introduction/referral for you.
The same is true when you’ve landed a job — you always want to keep your external network strong, but you also want to grow your internal network within your organization. That way, you can learn and collaborate with others in different departments and have connections to help you get things done.
Remember that networking is a two-way street — give to get — help others any chance you can, and they will, in turn, help you!
Be sure to show interest in the job
A quick interview tip when searching for a job — always remember a hiring manager is looking for your interest in the job as much as your skillset match and prior experience. Keep it front of mind in your preparation for an interview that typically hiring managers are looking for three things:
1. Do you have the skills and relevant experience for the job?
2. Are you a good corporate culture fit for the team?
3. Often most importantly, do you want to do the job?
If you are interested in the job, always remember to tell the hiring manager during the interview. Good luck!