“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
It’s a tale as old as time. As much as it would be easier to focus on the grades, it stands up for reason. If recruiters have 100 applications for one role, and every applicant did the same degree as you, how else can you let them know that you’re the right person for the job?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to your career and that’s why you need to make sure you can give yourself the best shot at standing out from the crowd.
Do your research
Research is an imperative part to any new venture – job hunting included.
If you want to work for a specific industry, learn more about what they do and the impacts they have. Or, if you have your eye on a specific role that can be transferable across multiple industries, focus your research on the role instead.
Taking the time to learn about the wider function of an industry or role will set into course a new form of critical thinking. And, as you dive deeper, you’ll start to consider how these functions apply to you and whether your values are shared with the wider role.
When it comes time to meet with recruiters or representatives, your research and depth of knowledge will start to come through even in the initial conversation which is a sure-fire way to separate yourself from the pack.
Some starting questions to ask yourself:
- What draws you to this industry or role?
- What do you think drives the people who are already in this industry or role?
- Why do you think you’d thrive in this industry or role?
With time, it will start to come naturally.
Keep your finger on the pulse with industry news
Between trade publications, Twitter accounts, podcasts, LinkedIn profiles and updates or the good old-fashioned business pages, there is no shortage of ongoing industry news. But for every engaging story you’ll want to read over and over, there are 100s that can be hard to get through, because, let’s face it, most industry news is pretty dry.
Never fear, though, it is possible to stay up to date. The key to keeping up with the industry news is to pick a couple of reliable sources that you actually enjoy listening to or reading.
It could be a matter of setting up a dedicated Twitter account to connect and engage with others in your industry. Or maybe someone in the industry has a monthly newsletter where they pick all the best news pieces for you. Podcasts and TED Talks are also great free sources of information for industry-specific news and to learn more about the process.
Meet up with people for coffee and pick their brain
We’re going to let you in on a little secret… people who excel in their industries don’t just rely on social media to connect with others.
If you want to meet someone, email them to ask for a coffee. Let them know who you are and why you want to meet – and be honest. It’s okay to email someone you admire and ask them for a coffee, you’d be surprised how many people are up for it.
Networking isn’t just feeling socially awkward at industry events. Every interaction you have with someone in an industry is networking. As you start meeting people in the industry, your professional network will start to build.
Putting yourself in situations where you are discussing industries and asking lots of questions will build up your basic conversational skills, specific to your industry. The bonus of that is, if the wheels are already oiled with practise, it will come to you way more naturally when it’s time for an interview.
Taking this approach to meet people demonstrates initiative. Professionals can detect proactive people – and time wasters – a mile away so stay genuine in your approach.
Intern (if you can)
There is a lot of controversy around interning. One side says, “good opportunity” and the other “unpaid labour”. Interning is a personal choice. If it’s something you want to – and can – pursue, just make sure you’re smart about it.
When agreeing to an internship, be sure to read through the terms of your internship thoroughly and make sure it will give you the experience you are after. This will be different for everyone. One person might be happy to push papers just to get inside the building, where as someone else might want a more structured internship with hands-on learning.
A good way to figure out which way you want to go is to spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of it. Unless you’re enrolling in a graduate program, internships should typically last around 3 months maximum.
Take extra classes
The learning economy has exploded in recent years. There are now hundreds of courses, workshops and masterclasses you can be a part of in just the touch of a button.
Whether you’re looking to upskill or there’s an interest outside of your career trajectory you want to invest a bit of time in, enrolling in an extra class, one-off workshop or even attend a networking breakfast event is a great way to show potential recruiters that you’re serious about putting yourself out there.