It’s graduation time so, once again, I’ve asked me to give a commencement address:

I’d like to talk to you today about the hardest job in the world, which is, very simply, looking for a job.  Whether you’re doing it now for the first time or will be in the future, it’s a tough task.  It’s demanding and emotionally draining.

You have to be honest with yourself.  Are you looking for a job, really looking, or are you hoping a job will come looking for you?

In today’s marketplace you can’t rely on what comes your way from placement offices, career fairs or internet message boards, you need to be pro-active; you need to aggressively seek out opportunities.

Let me be clear, you can’t feel entitled.  It can be frustrating and demoralizing.  Remember, you’re not alone.  It is not terminal and everyone survives.

So here are a few hints about how to go about looking for a job that may help you.  These are some of the things I learned as a job seeker and then as an employer.  We’ll talk today about:

  • Your Resume
  • The Cover Message
  • Research 1
  • Research 2
  • Interview Questions
  • Resume Nitty Gritty

Your Resume

  1. Make sure it’s easy to read, not too cluttered with content or small type.
  2. Include a photo at the top—a good head shot by a pro. Make sure it’s closely cropped in a square, rectangular or circle; women can consider an oval.
  3. Do not include a statement about what you’re looking for—that belongs in the cover.
  4. Keep it simple—no long explanations.
  5. Include your email address and phone number, as well as a website, if you have one. A home address is not necessary.
  6. One page is enough, until you get much further along.

(See the Addendum at the end, Resume Nitty Gritty, on what to include or not on a resume.)

The Cover Message

  1. Whether it’s an email or snail-mail, it should include a statement about what you’re looking for (which can be adapted for each prospect) and the highlight of what you bring to the table.
  2. Keep it short and punchy.
  3. A typical job opening attracts dozens or hundreds of resumes. In order to stand out, you need to consider being audacious.  Let me give you an example:  “I got a job once because my cover letter said “They say good men are hard to find.  Don’t let this one pass you by.”

Research 1

  1. Interview all your relatives and friends of your family to seek advice and counsel. If you’re interested in engineering, find adults who have experience in that or allied fields.  The same is true for healthcare, business, communications, any field you’d like to know more about.  Ask about their career history, how they got started, and what advice they can offer.  Ask them to critique your resume.
  2. To find a job opening, make a list of companies who you might like to work for because of reputation or product/service and, of course, by niche categories.
  3. Find the highest company executive in the area you think you fit or direct an email or snail-mail to the president. Send out six to 10 letters per week and follow up with a phone call.  Another approach is to make contacts with the same list.  “Can you give me 10 minutes of your time to give me some career advice”?
  4. Use the facilities of your school career center as well as social media, internet job boards, employment ads in daily newspapers, trade journals, LinkedIn. Look everywhere for leads.

Research 2

If you get an interview, use the internet, the library or anything else to find out as much about the company or organization as you can.

Interview Questions

If you want to know about benefits, do not make that your first question.  Make it your last.

Have at least three or four questions ready to ask your interviewer; i.e.:

  1. How many people have you hired in this position and what has been their track record?
  2. How often do you have a performance review?
  3. What’s the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
  4. Who owns the company (if it’s private)?
  5. What is the highest position someone who started in this job has risen to?\
  6. If you’ve done your research, you should have two or three questions about the company, their products/service or the industry.

Finding a job is a job, a hard one.  You have to work at it.  Chances of it falling out of the sky are not good.  It may happen by chance, and sometimes it does.  To rely on happenstance, however, I think, is too risky.  I wouldn’t do it.  My advice to you is, “Don’t depend on it.”

The best way to predict the future…is to create it

Resume Nitty Gritty

Hiring managers get tons of resumes—make yours stand out.  Do not include:

  • Your objectives—you’re already applied and it’s in your cover.
  • Unrelated work experience doesn’t need to get itemized. You can summarize in a sentence, i.e., waiter, camp counselor.
  • Marital status, social security number or any personal data
  • Hobbies, religious preference
  • Blatant lies—too risky if caught
  • Your age—graduation dates
  • Too much text—not enough white space
  • Time off—to travel, raise a family
  • References—available on request
  • Inconsistent formatting—everything in the same order
  • First or third person
  • An old email address like “bearlover@” or “cutechick@”
  • The words phone or email
  • Current business contact info email, etc.
  • References to social media sites
  • Use Times Roman – easiest to read; San Serif – hard to read; or fancy fonts like script
  • Be careful with descriptive words/phrases like “go getter”. Think outside the box – achieved
  • Reason why you left your last job
  • GPA unless you just graduated

Don’t give in to discouragement.  It won’t help.  Get lots of exercise and keep up social interaction.  The entry level jobs are the hardest.

1 Comment

Filed under Blog


  1. one thing to add: Learn to write the minutes from your interview meeting!

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