Tips for Graduates: How to Land Your Career of Choice

— by David DiMartile

So you recently graduated, and are now looking to land a job in your field. But how do you know if the job you are pursuing is right for you?  

I have experience with many young professionals that were attracted to the fantasy of a certain career because of a title or label (i.e. engineer, accountant or manager), but they never took the time to really understand what is actually involved in being successful in that career.

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If you haven’t selected a career stream I would suggest that before you do, take the time to really understand yourself:

You need to accept all aspects of the career you choose (such as bad hair days).
  • Ask yourself what do you like doing and what don’t you like doing.
  • Figure out what activities give you a sense of pleasure or satisfaction and what activities you find boring or just try to avoid.
  • Know how comfortable you are with taking risks and what you fear.
  • Ask yourself if you prefer spending your time working with people or with processes.
  • Determine if you are most comfortable dealing with facts, figures and policies, or do you prefer tasks that call for your intuition or creativity.
  • Know when you feel comfortable having others perform a task, or if you always need to be involved.
  • Understand if you feel comfortable trying to predict what may be coming at you or the organization tomorrow, or if you are most comfortable dealing with the here and now.
  • Dig deep and ask yourself if relocation is truly an option for you instead of an obstacle.
  • Know what trade-offs you are prepared to make when it comes to work versus your family or your personal time.

Once you have spent the time really analyzing and understanding yourself, I would suggest that you talk to people in your desired field, and find out how they spend their time and what they perceive to be involved in being successful. Then step back and ask yourself if the requirement of the career you are choosing is in line with your likes and dislikes, and that you feel comfortable in accepting the responsibilities that go with that career. You need to be prepared to commit to all aspects of that career, because you won’t find an employer that is willing to have you perform only some aspects of that job.

For those individuals that have already made a career choice and are now ready to search for a job in their field, all is not lost. You too need to spend the time understanding yourself, and with that information you need to research what careers exist that are related to your field of study and try to determine which branch is most suitable to your likes and dislikes.

So you now are ready to search for job. Again, research is needed to determine what companies you are truly interested in. What companies have values that are most aligned with your personal values? Look for companies that truly value your chosen career and need that career in their company to make them successful.

I am often being asked when the best time is to pursue a job in my field. For most companies, hiring is generally done during a period of business expansion or business growth. But that is not the only time companies hire.

Every company has what they consider to be “critical skills,” or skills crucial to the success of their business. Every company will experience attrition in some, form whether through quits, retirements, deaths, etc. and when confronted with a shortage of skills in a critical area, the employer will look to fill that gap even if they are not in a hiring mode. As such, it is critical that you keep your resume current and on file with your companies of choice.

Before writing your cover letter (which is the first thing read by the HR department and sometimes the only thing that is read before a resume is discarded), spend the time to research the company that you are applying to. Find out what their business challenges are, what opportunities they are facing, and what areas of their business they are trying to improve. Craft you cover letter to demonstrate how your skills and experiences can help that company deal with their current challenges or opportunities.

It is now time for the interview. During the interview process, self confidence is crucial. If you demonstrate self confidence then the assumption is made that you will have confidence in your abilities and your work.

Do not hesitate to tell the interviewer your career choice, and how important working in your field is to you. Many companies have several positions that are related to your career choice, and internally they consider them separate careers. If you are offered a position, ask clarifying questions to determine if the position is in fact aligned to your career choice, or if it may be a pathway to get there.

I advise recent grads to use their first year following graduation to pursue their career with their company of choice, even if you have to take another job for financial reasons while pursuing a job in your career. You definitely want to try and avoid the situation where you are competing for jobs in your career with next year’s graduates, as the optics will be that you were not selected from your pool of graduates, and employers tend to lean toward current graduates.

I wish you every success in finding the right career for you in the right company.

David DiMartile earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial relations and has completed several post-graduate executive programs in organizational structure, human resource business strategy, and human resource management. DiMartile spent thirty-seven years in the auto industry. He is the president and managing director of DiMartile HR, and the author of Understanding the Secrets to Career Advancement.