When I applied for my first job at McDonalds in the city where I grew up at 15 I was knocked back. Apparently there were other people better than me at flipping burgers. When I turned 16 I applied for my second job cleaning a supermarket in the early hours before school started for a wage, that let’s face it, would be tantamount to child labour in today’s terms. Before getting that job I had applied for about twenty things and my confidence was shot. All I wanted to do was earn some pocket money.
When it came time to apply for my first office job before I turned 20 I had already made the decision to try and throw caution to the wind and make myself stand out by not being conventional. Now the job was nothing special and I had convinced myself that it would be a stepping stone to other things – and it was. So, before the job came up I had called a whole lot of large companies in New Zealand to send me their annual reports (keep in mind this is before we had the internet and those magic digital cameras with the ability to photo shop images!).
Eventually about ten arrived in the mail and back then those annual reports had colour photos on the front cover and through-out the publication. So, I sat down with a pair of scissors and I cut the photos out. In the middle of the front page of what was to become my resume were the words “can jump buildings in single bounds.” Around the big bold text were the images and photos that best represented who I was – the result was, I got the job and from there my career really began.
Now, if you had have told me back then that I would end up running multi-million corporations, representing my nation’s businesses and company’s at the United Nations, sit (or Chair) Boards of public and private company’s and academic institutions I would have said you had rocks in your head! But there it is. Having led one of the world’s oldest recruitment companies I can tell you I have seen tens of thousands of resumes and I have hired everyone from CEO’s and General Manager, to sales people, customer services professionals, blue and white collar workers, people in Government and the not for profit sector – I have literally seen it all!
So, I learnt some valuable lessons along the way – and these are the “10 Things” I would tell my teenage self about getting a job”:
Be creative with your resume don’t be like everyone else: your resume needs to stand out – it cannot be like everyone else’s and it must show who you are, tell your story and make a connection with the reader. Design a front cover that goes “wow” – because just like an advertising company is trying to sell you on the product when it comes to the job hunt you need to think like an advertising agent.
Your resume needs to speak to the job you are applying for: what is the point of sending out the same resume to 100 employers when it’s probably only relevant to a handful. You need to invest the time in each job application and the resume should reflect the job you are applying for. If you don’t do this you will get rejection letter after rejection letter and that just destroys your confidence.
Apply for jobs you BELIEVE you can do: you always need to apply for things you can BELIEVE you can do because you have the experience, qualifications or passion to do it – not just because it’s there and you can. I call that the “scatter gun” approach where you pretty much just shoot for anything without any investment in time in winning the role because you really want it.
Ditch the cover letter: I am sick and tired of getting cover letters that don’t tell me anything about you other than you are a good time manager. I want to know your story – I want to know what drives you and what makes you tick. What are you passionate about? I want to know that I am going to have a member of my team that fits in with work family. So, ditch the cover letter and spend your time writing a page kind of like an autobiography – as if you writing a Wikipedia page on yourself. Why? Because when someone understands your story and they make a personal connection with you it becomes harder for them to say no – the oldest sales technique (I think) in the world.
Dress for success: Don’t turn up to a job interview looking as if you have just crawled in from a nightclub! Also, dress for the job not some other job. For example, if you are going for an interview that is white collar – where I tie and jacket not a jeans and a t-shirt (although that may be ok if its IT) and if it’s a blue collar job don’t wear a suit.
Be confident not arrogant: there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Don’t go into an interview thinking you know everything about everything and being cocky – people see a dickhead and think “you’re not working for me”. That’s arrogance. Confidence is more about being confident in the fact that you present well, know what you have applied for and why you think you could be asset. Confident in mind, presentation and knowledge. Never mistaken the two.
Research your potential employer: it is a mistake to go into an interview knowing next to nothing about your employer. I mean seriously? If you are applying for jobs it is a valuable investment of your time – so, research who your employer is and what they do. Have a look at the news section of the website or have a look at what they are posting on social media. Why? Because you should try and create conversation points during the interview about what you have learnt that shows you have indeed taken the time to learn about them.
Don’t lie: if you lie on your resume then it’s only a matter of time before you get caught – and you will get caught. It is too hard to hide the real you anymore because the one thing people get wrong all of the time is the fact they just don’t bother to understand the depth of the lie and therefore how many people they have told a different version of it to. It always makes me laugh when I read someone’s resume and then Google them to find a completely different story on the internet or the resume doesn’t reflect the LinkedIn profile – I means seriously? Are you that stupid?
Always wear pants on Facebook: I love social media but wow … the things people post right? I mean you sit in front of me in an interview dressed nicely and coming across really well and then I Google you and on your Twitter and Facebook feeds your rants about everything are pretty bad. I don’t think I want to employ someone who has bagged out their former employer, looks as if they get drunk every night of the work, discriminates or is racist towards others. Yes, you would not believe what people put on Facebook (actually you probably do).
Choose well, the effects can be life changing: whether you are applying for your first job or looking to change jobs the reality is we need to choose well not just because the situation we found ourselves in lends us to be desperate. Plan the move even if the role you are applying for will be a stepping stone to something else. Ask yourself this question: where do I want to be in five years and set yourself career goals and objectives – in doing so you will arrive at a point you always knew you would. Even though I tell people I am surprised that I am where I am today – the truth is, I had two five year plans that were executed at the right time with goals, timelines and objectives. I executed both and today the world is still my oyster.
So, there it is – the advice I would give my teenage self about the job hunt. The truth is when I applied for that first job with the resume and the front cover entitled “can leap buildings in a single bound”
I knew it was the first part of what would become a well-executed career plan. I stayed the course and this is where I am today. Happy with my lot – it is not complicated, you don’t have to lie, tell tall stories (and yes I have told a few!) or be despondent if you follow my advice.