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What Do I Do? Tips for Starting Your Career from Lindsey Pollak, Author & Millenial Expert

In this episode, you’ll hear from Lindsey Pollak, millenial expert and author of Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World. Lindsey shares her advice on finding the right career, landing an interview, and preparing for life beyond college.

Lindsey Pollak: The biggest question I get is, I have so many interests, what do I do? The biggest mistake is to not take action, so don’t let fear of making the wrong decision overcome you.

Elissa Ellis : That was Lindsey Pollak, author of the book, Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to do Before you Join the Real World. Welcome to our second Career Lab Podcast, I’m Elissa Ellis, Director of the Forte Foundation. This episode we’re going to hear Lindsey’s advice about how to jumpstart your career based on interviews she did with recruiters all over the country.

Lindsey: One of my favorite tips is really about email and your online presence. These days email is the primary form of communication for pretty much everything, so understanding, first, what’s a proper email address, meaning your name and a professional sounding URL rather than my sister’s email, which was, pookie@aol.com, is probably not the best choice. Everything from that to the subject line, which should be very descriptive and professional to a very professionally written, specific goal orientated email asking somebody for help, for a job, whether it’s a cover letter, a networking email, having a signature line at the bottom of that email, so they can contact you.

Making sure the tone is right and not to young sounding and probably the tip that most people comment on as being a big change for them is not having to many exclamation points in an email because there’s no better way to look young than having an exclamation point at the end of every sentence, so watch your email and you’re already ahead of the game.

Elissa: We asked Lindsey what questions she gets most frequently from women who are just starting out.

Lindsey: One of the top questions is, I’ve gotten the name of somebody that I should contact from somebody I know, what do I do with that? My advice on that is to write an email asking them for a 15 minute conversation for specific advice. A lot of people feel like they’re using people when they ask for help, but if you ask for information and advice you can never go wrong, so switching the mindset from asking for a job and feeling desperate to asking for advice.

Elissa: Lindsey also talked about how to test drive your resume.

Lindsey: Hand someone your resume for 60 seconds and if they can’t tell what kind of job you want, go back to the drawing board because the biggest problem with entry level resumes is, they’re all over the place. I interviewed a recruiter and she said, “If I see a resume and I don’t know where it goes in my company, I throw it in the garbage.”

Elissa: We asked Lindsey how she advises women who are struggling to decide on the right way to begin a career.

Lindsey: I always say, “A job is not a soulmate. There’s not one out there that’s absolutely the one for you and until you find it, you cannot rest.” I’m 10 years out of college and I don’t have a single friend who’s in the same job that he or she was in after college, so I don’t think you can make a mistake. You can go to law school when you’re 25. You can go to med school when you’re 30. You can switch from entertainment to banking when you’re 27. You can do anything you want and actually, doing something that you end up hating is a really good thing because great, that’s one thing to cross off your list of million things. The only thing that I caution students against is not doing anything. At least temp, work part-time, do something, get some experience, move forward and you’ll be getting somewhere, so don’t let the paralysis take over. Do something.

The biggest issue that people are looking for is a good fit and what that means is the student has to know why he or she wants to work for that company. The biggest complaint that recruiters across the board told me on a job interview is when the student doesn’t know anything about the company that they’re applying to, so you can’t just go in and say “Tell me about your company and why I should work here?” You need to do that work first, so they want somebody who’s focused enough to know why this company would be a good fit.

They don’t want to make a mistake. It’s so expensive to hire people, takes so much time and energy that their worst fear is that this gung ho student will drop out of the workforce in a month because they hate the job, so they really want somebody who seems to know what they want and I always say to students, if you go in saying, “This is the job for me and here’s why,” and the next student comes in and says, “I’m not sure. I’m looking at the few things.” Who’s going to get the job?

Fear of selling yourself is a question and a fear that I get from women students that I never get from guy students. Guys don’t seem to have a problem selling themselves at all. I don’t think that we’re raised to talk about how great we are. One of the pieces of advice I give people is, think about your strengths, write them down for yourself and rather than saying, “I’m a great leader. I’m a strong student,” think of stories that explain that and say, “One of the ways I showed my leadership skills in college was by founding an organization. Was by leading a project. One of the things that makes me a good team player is that I did this,” so rather than just making the statements and sounding too bold, I think you should come up with stories.

The second thing is, bragging takes practice. Practice saying these things in a mock interview with your career services office. Moms are great for this stuff, to talk about how wonderful you are. Ask your friends what they think you’re good at. I don’t think you should ever walk into an interview without having said some of the uncomfortable things that you’re going to have to say to sell yourself. Writing it down on paper, showing your cover letter to some people and saying, “Am I coming across to strongly or not strongly enough,” and I hesitate to say it, but I think a lot of girls should go and talk to their guy friends. Read their cover letters and say, “How do you say it?”

Because most guys I know apply for jobs way over their heads and most girls I know are overqualified for the stuff they apply for, so take a few lessons for the boys on this and just trust that it takes practice and it will feel weird at the beginning and that’s okay, but you have to get over it because if you don’t, you won’t get a job and I feel very strongly about that. If you don’t sell yourself, no one is going to come pick you out of a crowd and notice you, so you have to get over the discomfort however you can.

Elissa: Lindsey’s book, Getting From College to Career is available in bookstores everywhere. For more information, visit gettingfromcollegetocareer.com. In our next episode we’re going to hear some advice from hiring managers at top companies across the country. They’ll share tips and tales from the trenches. This podcast is sponsored by the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Visit mba.com for more information about the GMAT, test preparation, careers in business and finding the right school for you.

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