Lane on … June Stock
June 8, 2011
It’s the end of their junior years; one in college, the other high school. Occupied with the business of finals and massive reports, cars and boys and the routine activities of survival as a student, the future is, for now anyway, a faraway idea. Soon enough, it will be time to take stock and determine what is needed to maintain the desired trajectory. Whether it’s a job, or further education that lies just over the horizon, many of the activities to prepare will be the same. When I was teaching at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, I helped graduate students prepare themselves for careers in consulting. I thought I might share some ideas from that experience with my daughters, their friends and any of you that might be juniors or parents of juniors.
First it should be said, that if you’re just now thinking about this, you are at somewhat of a disadvantage. Preparing for college, graduate school or employment takes time and may involve selection of a major, establishing an experience track record and other activities that can literally take years to complete. So the earlier one gets started the more likely they will arrive at the appointed place and time with all the necessary relationships, training, experience and knowledge to capitalize on the opportunities available at the time and get first choice of job or school. However, if you haven’t prepared, there is no time like the present to begin. I hope the following list is not a complete surprise but perhaps a reminder to dust off and update some plans and skills.
Junior (now Senior) Action Items:
- Begin with the end in mind and list your top three choices for your final destination (school, employer, etc.). While it is my advice to you to focus on your primary goal, have one or two fallback choices in place in case the school or employer of choice falls through. You want to focus, but you also don’t want to be set back a year if your first choice doesn’t come through and you now have to start from scratch with a completely new first choice.
- Develop a resume. Not your resume, but the resume of the perfect candidate for the position you are seeking. This exercise will force you to do the background research required to know what it takes to get where you want to be. Who will be making the decision and what is he or she looking for? If it’s higher education, what score do you need on the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, etc. to get in? If it’s employment, what are the critical attributes your employer of choice looks at when hiring?
- Update your resume (you do have one, right?) with all your experiences and accomplishments since you last updated it. In fact, review those you already have in your resume for currency and punch. Focus on the impact you had. If you extended humankind’s knowledge, indicate that. If you made your employer more profitable, say so, but say it with numbers. How many people, or animals, or countries will this affect? How much more profitable did you make your employer? How much did you sell or reduce or increase?
- Conduct a gap analysis. Look at your resume and the resume of the perfect candidate. What’s missing from your resume? Be honest and brutal. It’s critical to get past self-deception in this step. Perhaps it would be appropriate to have someone else, someone you trust, determine the gaps in your resume.
- Establish a time phased plan to correct, and close the gaps. It’s important that this be time phased because your day job is still getting your diploma. Unless you have trivial gaps, you probably can’t close them all at once. Also, some activities take time and must be started earlier while others can literally be done at the last minute, as long as they are completed before you arrive. Some examples follow:
- Sharpen. If you need to raise your standardized test scores (ACT, GRE, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT etc.) get help. There are many sites, workbooks and coaching programs that can help you get over test jitters and help you make the best showing you can. There are even some individuals that will help alumni from their schools.
- Do. If it’s experience of one sort or another that you lack, put together a plan to get that experience. Even if it’s “just” volunteering your time, get exposure and get active. Candidates that can speak credibly about their experiences are far more interesting than those doing something unrelated to their chosen discipline.
- Write. Blog about your chosen field. Write short articles for trade associations or local newspapers. Or if you can’t find an audience, just write and put it in a drawer. The discipline of writing and the thought process required to organize words into thoughts carries its own value. If you can get published, read, it will add to your credibility.
- Meet. It doesn’t matter if your next step is graduate school, college, or a job; you need to be meeting people. People that work there, teach there, or go there. Meet the power people that make the decisions about who gets in: admissions, the hiring manager, dean, or the CEO. Meet everyone you can. Don’t be fooled, however, by the trappings of title etc. everyone who has experience with the organization can help you figure it out and may even be able to provide information that would affect your eventual decision about which organization to select.
- Prepare. When it comes time for a formal interview (or even an informal one), plan time to prepare properly. Find out who you’ll be meeting with, prepare insightful questions, review some of the myriad lists of interview questions online so that you won’t be surprised if they ask you to talk about a time when you failed etc. Read all you can about the organization and the people you’ll be interviewing with. Hopefully, you’ve already met them and establish a report and a first impression of being a go-getter or better yet a go-giver (look it up if you don’t know what one is).
Clearly, I have just scratched the surface here. Watch this space. I’ll return to this topic from time to time. It has been suggested that there would be demand for a workshop on this topic for students and young professionals at certain stages of their careers. Let me know what you think of that idea. If there is demand I would be happy to do it.
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