Ian D. Maltzman — Here are some words of wisdom for transitioning from college to career.
How did you get your job? That is often the best question you can ask someone when you are looking for a job in today’s challenging economic climate. The answer is usually very similar these days: I networked, or a friend got me an interview.
The best way to get a job is by telling the world you’re looking for a job. This includes telling all your friends, your family’s friends, and anyone you know that you are looking!
There are a lot of great secrets to getting your first job out of school. They include requesting an informational interview with the Human Resources Department, networking with alumni, volunteering or interning at a company, and even working part-time at the organization. All these options are informal ways to get your foot in the door of a company you may want to work for some day. You benefit because you gain some exposure and experience that could lead to a better opportunity. For example, if you intern or volunteer while an employee is out on leave, you can prove you’re a valuable asset to the company which could lead to a paid position.
If you are fortunate to have an interview, you need to be prepared. Arrive 10-15 minutes before the interview, dress professionally, and get a haircut one to two weeks before the interview. Always wear neutral colors to the interview. I would recommend a dark navy or gray suit with a white shirt and tie. Do not forget to turn off your cell phone before the interview and limit your jewelry to a watch. Always check out the organization’s Web site so you have an overview of the services the organizations provides to its customers.
Before you meet with someone, you may be given an employment application. It’s very important to complete one-hundred percent of the application even if a lot of the information is on your résumé. This will show the interviewer you are serious about the job. Once your interview concludes, request a business card of the interviewer, and send them a brief thank you letter that same day. Very few people do this important step, so it will definitely set you apart from other candidates.
If you do land that first job, there are many important pearls of wisdom I like to share. Always ask a lot of questions and take notes so you’re not asking your boss the same questions multiple times; arrive on time; do not spend time surfing the Internet or talking or texting on your cell phone; do not call in sick too often; keep your personal life stories and weekend adventures out of the office; and dress for the job you want some day. Most people make the mistake of taking it easy once they have the job. You always want to work harder than everyone around you. Offer to take on new responsibilities to show your boss that you are open to new challenges and assignments. It can pay off in the long run through promotions and salary increases.
Some important skills that you are not taught in school include maintaining confidentially and not gossiping about others. It sounds easy to do, but it’s often difficult to avoid. Try to walk away from gossip or negative conversations. Surround yourself with positive people and learn from them. It’s also good to look for a mentor, someone who will have several more years of experience than you and can teach you what they learned when they were just starting out. If there is a professional organization for your industry or field, try to attend those meetings. It will be an opportunity for you to develop new contacts and learn from others in your industry.
In conclusion, you should stay at your first job for at least two years. Keep in mind that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Plus, every organization has good and bad attributes no matter where you work. I also recommend working for the best companies you can, because you will learn from the best. This will help you develop a strong work ethic and a high level of competency early on in your career.
Ian D. Maltzman is the Practice Administrator at Fromer Eye Centers, a multi-subspecialty ophthalmology practice in New York City and the official practice for the New York Rangers. Ian is a frequent speaker to college students in NY and NJ on early careerist strategies and techniques, and a regular contributor to college and graduate school program newsletters on successful job and interviewing skills. In addition, he is a member of a Medical Assistant Program Advisory Board in New York City. Ian has his Masters in Health Services Administration and offers an internship program at the practice.