Career Strategy 3: Getting your First Real Job

Congratulations! You are almost in the real world. You’re close to finishing school and are looking to enter the work force. You will finally be able to eat more than Ramen noodles. But wait, you need to find a real job!

If you’ve followed Career Strategy 1; What do you want to be when you grow up, you already know what you want to be. Now you just need to develop the skills to get there. Your career strategy is a long game. Every choice needs to be made with the future in mind. So what is your strategy for your first job?

  1. Secure and leverage an internship
  2. Focus on entry level jobs
  3. Follow the general job search strategy
  4. Sell your skills
  5. Take a position that prepares you for your next role


Internships are the key to getting your first job. Paid internships are great, but any internship will do; preferably an internship in an area that you like, as this will be your only work experience going into the job market.

Start looking in November of your Junior Year. Any search engine will work.

Also, talk to people you know already in industry. Often companies are more willing to take a risk fo an internship because they don’t lose much if it doesn’t work out.

Entry Level Jobs

Missed out on the internship? Don’t worry. It makes this step a little harder, but you have a lot to offer, so you’ll be fine.

Just coming out of school, I thought I was awesome. I excelled in school, and had a degree in economics. Who wouldn’t want to hire me? Unfortunately, I didn’t actually have any work experience. Take this as a lesson. You don’t know everything you think you know. You may have been the big man on campus, but you are going to have to be humble and prove your worth again.

Your job search should look for entry level positions. You can actually just type “Entry level” in a search engine, ( and thousands of jobs will show up. Use your degree as a search term to narrow it down. Also use your skill list as search terms.

Job Search Strategy

Read the Job Search Strategy post.


Even though you don’t have any experience yet. You have a lot to offer. You are passionate, bright, and willing to work hard to learn what you need to. Make this come out in your interviews. Let them feel your excitement.

Talk about your skills and what you can do to add value. They know that you don’t have management experience, but have you ever mentored anyone? They know you haven’t presented to leadership teams, but have you confidently presented in front of an audience? Try to tie your experiences to the skills they are looking for.

Choosing a Role

Eventually, you’ll get an offer. Great job! Before taking the role, take an assessment of what it offers you. Your first job doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be adding something to your career. Figure out if it is a step that will get you closer to your dream goal.

You deserve to have your dreams come true, but you’ll just have to work to get it.


Career Strategy 2: Job Search

Three things are guaranteed in life: Death, Taxes, and Job Search.

Searching for a job can be stressful. Whether this is your first job, you lost a job, or you are looking for something different, there are a lot of emotions involved. Nothing else is quite like it. You are taking everything great about yourself and sending it to thousands of people hoping one of them will see something good about you and give you a chance.

Below are some tips to help you decrease your stress, and let your confidence shine through.

  1. Figure out what you want
  2. Clean up your Brand
  3. Apply to 5 jobs a day
  4. Reach out to old colleagues
  5. Use multiple methods
  6. Maintain a job pipeline
  7. Do something of value every day
  8. Interview with confidence

What do you want?

Read the post on Career Strategy 1; What do you want to be when you grow up.

Everyone is different. Your ideal role won’t be the same as someone else’s. It helps to ask other people for their opinions, but it is your career in the end, so you have to do what you like.

Clean Up your Brand

You are a brand. You want everything about you to tell the story of your brand. You know what you want to be, so craft everything so that you are seen as the kind of person who would excel at what you are trying to be.

These should all tell the same story about you.

  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Resume
  • Facebook (Yes, your future employee will search for you on Facebook. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a personality. They want to see who you really are, but it should reflect the current you that you are branding yourself)
  • Blogs, websites

Apply to 5 jobs per day

At the beginning, this is really easy. In Step 1 you just learned what you want to do, so you will search for those types of jobs. There will be many available to choose from. Use your best resume and apply. At this point you are playing a numbers game, you just have to get yourself out there.

Later in the process, it will get more difficult to find jobs that match what you like exactly. Keep applying. This will help you to feel productive, and you will discover new things about yourself as you interview.

Reach out to Old Colleagues

With social media, you are connected to many people in and out of your industry. Let people know you are looking, (be careful if you haven’t left your current role yet. You don’t want to put people, including yourself, into uncomfortable situations.). LinkedIn has a feature that allows you to make yourself visible to recruiters so that they know you are interested.

Don’t just ask people for a job. Explain to others what you are looking for and what you are doing to accomplish it. Often people will try to help you. Be humble and listen to any advice, even if you know it isn’t good. Don’t slam the door on people that are doing their best to help you.

Use Multiple Search Methods

Just applying may work well, but you want to round out your approach. It is just like investing. If you have a balanced portfolio of job search methods, you increase your chances of being seen.

Here are some to try

  1. Job search engines:,, careerbuilder, LinkedIn.
  2. Reaching out to old colleagues
  3. Direct networking. (LinkedIn search for people)
  4. Get references (ask your current network if they know anyone in this industry, company, etc)

Maintain a Job Pipeline

People will call you for interviews. Don’t stop searching for other jobs at this point. You want to have a pipeline of jobs at the different stages so that if one falls through, you haven’t lost weeks of time. In the end, it only takes one, but until that happens, you need to have jobs in many different stages so you don’t end up starting over with nothing.

Just do something

It can be frustrating when you don’t hear back from people. The process will move slowly at first, and will often tax your patience. It helps to do something of value every day. Read a book, write a blog post, exercise, help out a neighbor or friend, or make cookies. These don’t have to have anything to do with your job search, but will help you to have value in your life.

(Watching Netflix and playing video games don’t count. You can do this for fun, but try to do something that makes you feel productive.)

Interview with Confidence

When you do get interviews, be confident. There is a great Ted talk about power poses. Do a power pose right before the interview for 2 minutes to get your endorphin’s moving, and to project a sense of confidence. You have every right to be confident. They want you there. You just have to validate their opinion.

Good luck!

What strategies have you used in your job search?

Career Strategy 1: What do you want to be when you grow up?

This is the dreaded question. What do you want to be when you grow up? The answer is easy when you are a kid. My kids want to be the following: Author, Illustrator, Video Game Designer, Garbage Man, Pilot, and Batman.

If you have a choice to be Batman, take it. Otherwise; you’ll have to face reality like the rest of us and choose a career. But what is right for you? Here are the steps that will help you to discover what you want to be:

  1. Make a list of things you like to do
  2. Make a list of things you are good at
  3. Make a list of things you don’t like to do
  4. Compare lists
  5. Use a job search engine to look for jobs using your lists as key words
  6. Develop the skills that you are lacking
  7. Continue to discover throughout your career


Things you like

Start with a list of things you like to do. No one else will look at this list, so write anything down. Specific items will be more useful than general items. Do you like History class? What specifically about history do you like? Do you like to write papers? Do you like digging into the past? Do you like figuring out why people do what they do? Do you just like the teacher?

Dig deep in your topics to figure out exactly what it is you like. This can be hobbies, specific skills, specific activities, or anything.

Things you are good at

Now make a list of all the things you are good at. This will guide you down a path to understand what direction to take.

Keep in mind that if you aren’t good at something, but you like it a lot, you can develop the skill until you can add it to the list of things you are good at.

Things you don’t like

Work necessarily entails doing some things that you don’t like; but, if you hate talking to people, you should not look for careers in sales.

Use this list to really figure out what it is you don’t like. Dig deep on each item and figure out what it is you don’t like about it. Do you hate math? Do you only dislike it because you aren’t great at it? It is OK to dislike things, everyone has different preferences, just be open minded about why you don’t like things. (I sometimes said that I didn’t like painting. I actually love making art, it is just an area that I have to develop.)

All of these lists are fluid, and changing. You aren’t locking yourself into a position, you are just discovering at this point.

Compare Lists

Match up the first two lists. What things are you good at, and also really like to do. There should be a handful of items there that will give you a great starting point on what you want to be when you grow up.

What rose to the top for you? If you don’t like your answers, you can always go back and make a change to your original lists. (Economists have a joke, we always think we are right because if we thought we were wrong, we would just change our opinion so that our new opinion was right.)

Job Search

Open a job search engine. (Indeed, Monster). Use your matching list as search terms. If you haven’t had a ‘real’ job yet, you might not qualify for a lot of jobs, but you don’t worry about that yet. You should notice a pattern. A lot of jobs with the skills you are good at can be categorized into a few different buckets.

I don’t know what your buckets are, but try to figure out the patterns. If the same job title keeps showing up, it could be an indication for you.

Open up the jobs, and see what other skills are required. Straight out of High School, or College, you may not be able to get your dream job at the perfect company. That is OK. Figure out what skills it is going to take to get that job.  Start a new list of these skills. This is where you need to focus your efforts so that you can get that dream job.

Check back with your list of dislikes and make sure that there aren’t glaring dislikes on the jobs you are targeting. There may be one or two, and you may just have to deal with them as you prepare for your dream job. Just go in with your eyes wide open.

Skill Development

If you are still in school, start taking classes or participating in activities that will develop the skills you are lacking.

If you are working, try adding additional activities to your current job that will give you the experiences you need to land your next dream job.


Don’t stop discovering. Once you have your dream job, your career isn’t over. We all change and develop as we grow up. Keep adapting your lists as you grow, and always be looking out for your dream.


You are the strategy officer for your career. Make it great.