During the month of May, students will be graduating college and looking to enter the workforce full time. Though many students have had jobs, the time has come to begin a career. For those entering the digital marketing world, it’s never been a more exciting time to join. Digital marketing continues to evolve to the point where billions are spent each year.
To those entering the workforce, I’ve written a letter to you. As someone who interviews and works with entry-level candidates, I have a perspective that I’d like to share. I’ll speak to the traits and behaviors that I look for in candidates as well as tips for succeeding out of the gate. Additionally, I was in your shoes a decade ago. My experiences have helped to shape how I view candidates and what I expect.
“To Whom It May Concern,
Congratulations on earning your degree. Graduating college is no easy feat, but you have worked hard to set yourself up for the next stage of your life. The coming months will be challenging as you search for employment, but remember that you have the capability to persevere through challenging times. You will certainly encounter them.
As you search for jobs, have realistic expectations about what you are qualified for. For example, if you tend to gravitate more towards creative projects, don’t apply for a position that is heavily data-based and largely utilizes Excel. The common thought is that you should apply for as many jobs that fit your experience and criteria. Though you want to get your foot in the door, it’s better to weed out the positions you aren’t comfortable with and put your effort into the ones you feel most strongly.
When it comes to applying for jobs, remember that you aren’t the only one spending time finding the right fit. Many companies enlist their account managers/tactical people to review resumes and interview. Whatever time the employee is spending helping out with the hiring process is time being taken away from something else. In many cases, it tends to be client work.
Respect the hiring process and the individuals involved. Don’t take an interview and then back out because you have something else going on or you aren’t interested anymore. Unless you have an emergency, you need to honor your commitments. If you don’t take the process seriously, not only are you wasting others’ time, but you are also hurting your future chances of employment as word travels.
If you are able to secure an interview, make sure you are prepared. Preparation comes in a variety of ways, including:
- Reviewing the latest trends in the industry
- Subscribing to industry blogs and following thought leaders
- Reading the company blog
- Studying the company website to learn about services offered, core values, management team, and more
None of these items are arduous tasks, but they show the employer your interest in the position and willingness to prepare. In fact, I would argue that if you don’t have at least some knowledge of the company than you are at a disadvantage because other candidates will. I’ve written other tips for the interview process here.
If you are fortunate enough to be hired, make sure you are learning and making an impact every day. Not just for your new position, but also for your career growth, you need to push yourself forward. When you have your 30-day review, you should demonstrate clear growth from when you began. The same goes for 90 days and so on to the point where an independent observer can list your improvements.
This discussion of always improving plays into the notion in the working world that there are A and B players. A players are the best of the best as they excel at their jobs and are always hungry to be better. B players are solid workers that do their job effectively but don’t necessarily have higher goals. For example, an A player may be an industry thought leader while a B player does great work, but is content behind the scenes. Both types of employees are crucial for company success.
I’ve always been under the mindset that you should strive to be an A player in order to step out of your comfort zone. If you want to progress in your career you need to do things that will give you anxiety. That may mean more client communication or writing a post for the company blog. The point is that you should look to get out of your comfort zone sooner rather later by portraying your willingness and desire to do more on a daily basis.
Inevitably, you will start with tedious tasks such as reporting. That’s just par for the course when breaking into the industry. However, how long you do these tedious tasks is up to you. Even if you need to learn on your personal time, you will move faster up the ladder if you truly want to be better. In addition, it’s not just about learning, but also:
- Challenging the status quo by presenting logical and evidence based arguments
- Questioning and thinking critically about your day-to-day activities
- Becoming an active member of your industry’s community
- Assimilating yourself into the company culture
- Understanding and working toward company goals
If I can give one final piece of advice, it’s that you should embrace your job and be excited about what you are capable of. There are going to be ups and downs and times that you doubt yourself – that’s natural. However, you should trust your abilities and always strive to improve. Be gracious for what you have accomplished while respecting the work environment. You’ve made it to the next stage of your life. Now prove why you belong.
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