Five tips for recent grads—and anyone entering the job force during uncertain times

By Kelli Kiemle,  AIF®, Director of Marketing and Client Experience

I was one of the lucky ones. When 2008 hit, I was already working at Halbert Hargrove – but had been at the firm less than a year and had graduated from college only two years earlier. You’d think I would have been let go, but my colleagues saw something in me that I didn’t and were committed to keeping all associates employed. That’s the kind of place HH was and still is today.

Drawing from my experiences on both sides of the table, here’s some advice for those of you who are entering the workforce in uncertain times. Sure, things are ‘different’ in 2020, but these suggestions are evergreen.

1) Perfect that resume

When we are hiring, my colleague Cecilia and I read 100s of resumes. Every time, we are at least a little disappointed. We can’t believe how many applicants don’t spend the time needed to perfect their resumes. This is our first impression of candidates and we constantly find typos, grammatical errors, and sloppy work. Just so you know, those resumes are tossed immediately.

Spend the time on this single (yeah, we have a pet peeve about two-page resumes too!) piece of paper: Quantify, add adjectives to start sentences, and make sure there are no grammatical issues. Have parents, friends, and those super-annoying people who are super detailed and catch everything review it!

2) Practice Interviewing – ON CAMERA!

Interviewing is hard – there is no other way to put it. But it can get easier if you put the time and work into it. As a senior in college at the University of Southern California, I spent endless hours in front of my bathroom mirror or while sitting in traffic throwing myself interview questions. I downloaded a list similar to this one: https://www.themuse.com/advice/interview-questions-and-answers and practiced my answers for months. As someone who was fairly shy, I wasn’t perfect, but I was prepared.

And perfect – no, master – the ‘tell me about yourself’ question. Again, this is almost always the first question you’ll be asked, so have a prepared answer. This is your first impression with interviewers. And times have changed – skip the mirror and get yourself a free zoom account and watch yourself on camera. It’s annoying and weird, but trust me, it will help!

3) Don’t be too picky – be open to opportunities

All through college, I struggled with math-type classes (as a business major, I couldn’t get away from them!) so I said I would never work in accounting, finance, etc. So of course I balked at interviewing at Halbert Hargrove. My dad convinced me to go and the rest is history – 13 years later I still work in finance but I have been able to find my niche within the company.

Don’t shy away from industries, job types, or locations. Be open, as you will learn something from every opportunity and it will make you a more well-rounded candidate in the future. Try stuff you think you would like (mine was sales right out of college – not for me at the time!) and give other opportunities a chance that don’t seem like a good fit too!

4) Stay busy – volunteer, take internships, learn a new skill

We are going to ask this of every person who interviews with us – so keep yourself engaged during the quarantine. Find ways to sharpen your skills – take an online class, learn a new skill, take up a new hobby, learn a language, volunteer – really, anything. Have a story and be proactive in telling it during the interview process. Truly, no job should be “beneath” anyone at this point. Take any opportunity that comes your way, as you will learn something from the process.

Also, use your networks through school, parents, friends, etc. to connect with and have conversations with professionals about their jobs – you have time, so use it wisely.

5) Don’t give up!

I know this is a tough time if you’re a recent graduate – you worked so hard throughout college to get that diploma and then the pandemic hits right as you are about to pursue a career. As many of my mentors have said to me – ‘this is a teaching moment.’ Everything depends on how you respond to this trial, how you regroup and move on. Be frustrated and be disappointed, but don’t let that linger. Look ahead to what you can create for yourself in the years ahead! And be as prepared as possible for when we get back to ‘normal’ – whatever that turns out to be.

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