4 Tips for Soon-to-Be Grads Looking for Work

“It’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you.”

This piece of advice, provided by Heather Koehn of Project Light It Up, inspired me as I sat at a networking event back in February. Throughout college, I was constantly told, “It’s all about who you know,” but Heather’s comment shattered that image a bit—in a good way.

Like most people I know, I landed my job by knowing the right people. Or, rather, making sure the right people knew me. I was lucky enough to have a few informational interviews with the woman who is now my supervisor, which meant when a position opened up at Olive & Company, I was on her radar. (Stay tuned for an informational interview how-to guide, coming soon!)

I am constantly grappling between whether I was lucky, or whether it was my persistence that landed me this job. Maybe it was both. For those of you facing graduation in a few short weeks, you may be a little stressed out at the proposition of finding and securing a job.

You have a few short weeks to make sure the right people know you. How do you make that happen?

As a recent grad, I hope the following pieces of advice will help you feel more prepared to face The Real World™ in the next couple of months.

Believe You Have What It Takes - Erika Voeller Career

1. Believe You Have What It Takes

So many of us refrain from pursuing what we want out of fear that we might not get it, or that we’re not quite qualified, or that someone just won’t like what we bring to the table. Go for it anyway.

It’s incredibly challenging to be a student with little to no work history, trying to land a job that requires experience, references, and groundbreaking ideas. It’s easy to feel defeated. But you have to try anyway. Someone once taught me that you can apply to jobs even if you don’t meet every single requirement, and it blew my mind.

Most the time, jobs are not a carbon copy of the description found online. If you’re a motivated, dedicated, and hardworking employee who is eager to learn, employers will like you. The first step is believing this. Believe you have what it takes to tackle a new job, because you do.

Reach All-Star Level on LinkedIn - Erika Voeller

2. Use LinkedIn

Seriously, if you’re not on LinkedIn yet, you need to sign up immediately after you finish reading this post. Admittedly, I’m kind of a LinkedIn nerd, so I’d argue that your LinkedIn profile is even more important than your physical resume (depending on your industry, of course). Your online brand, in general, speaks volumes to who you are as a person and how you might be as an employee.

If you’re unsure how to get started ramping up your presence on LinkedIn, check out my post: Reach All-Star Level on LinkedIn.


3. Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Save up your change and take everyone you meet out for coffee. Networking is intimidating, even for an extrovert like me, but it’s so important in order to make connections and get your foot in the door. And, with LinkedIn, it’s never been easier to reach out to professionals you want to meet. Simply send them a message and ask them if they’re available to grab a drink. When you do, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always format your message professionally, starting with “Hello, [person’s name],” and ending with your own name. Be sure to proofread your message before hitting ‘Send.’

  • Make the message about them, not you. Acknowledge work they’ve done, a blog post they’ve written, a panel they spoke on, etc. Let them know their work inspires you, and you are eager to learn more about how they got started. Keep it short and sweet.

  • Make plans on their terms. Offer to buy them a coffee, and ask them what time and place works best with their schedule. Let them recommend a coffee shop that’s close to them, and arrive on time.

  • Always send a follow-up after your meeting, thanking them for their time.

When you’re out for coffee, make sure you have a few specific questions prepared, and try your best to relax. Pro tip: if there’s a lull in the conversation and you find yourself at a loss for what to say next, take a sip of your drink. It comes off as natural and opens the floor for the other person to continue sharing their expertise.


4. Ask For What You Want

In sixth grade I stumbled upon the Madonna quote, “A lot of people are afraid to ask for what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” As always, Madonna was totally right.

If you want something, you have to ask for it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. It can be awkward. That’s The Real World™ for you! Last October, as I was starting to look for work, I sat down with my contact at Olive and asked, “Is Olive hiring?” I was practically shaking with nerves, but I knew I wanted to work there, and I knew the time was now or never. The answer was no. At the time, Olive wasn’t hiring. And that sucked, but I was still glad I asked. And because I did, my contact knew I was interested, and once a position was available, I was top-of-mind.

Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
— Benjamin Mee