I always feel a little guilty when a recent grad, resume in attachment lands in my inbox. I wish I could help you with your job search, I really do but I’m probably not your best resource for you at this stage of your career. The problem is I have a soft spot for entry level candidates. What’s not to love? The creative enthusiasm, unlimited possibilities, hope and willingness to work hard.
So, while I’m not able to directly assist you allow me to offer a strategic approach to landing your first job. This one goes out to the newbies.
Select a Market Segment
Choose your market segment and choose wisely. Want to work in Fashion? Don’t apply at Columbia Sportswear. Your first employer can pigeon hole your resume into the types of companies who will even consider your candidacy for future employment. And the next, and so on. It’s a domino effect. We humans like to put people into boxes. I know you think you’ll be able to make the jump from The North Face to Nordstrom, and maybe you will but it won’t be easy. Why make life hard? Hiring managers like to see a theme of companies within a specific market segment. Down the road, consistency adds value to your resume and recruiters will be calling. Maybe me.
Popular market segments include, Active or Athletic Apparel, Outdoor, Action Sports, Contemporary, Denim, Fashion, Intimates or Ready-to-Wear.
Identify 10-20 companies you’d like to work for keeping in mind the market segment per the former. What not to do: apply with any company who has a job posted on the internet. Sure, I know what you’re thinking, you need a job. It’s tempting, I get it. A word to remember, equanimity. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Target only those companies you truly want to work for and eventually you’ll find a way in. Promise. Remember, your first and second job has the propensity to dictate your career path so choose wisely.
Let’s pretend for a self-indulgent moment that one of your well identified companies has a job opportunity immediately available. Great! Apply online, get the job and live happily ever after. Back to reality. That’s often not the case. The companies you want to work for may not have any positions available. That’s where networking and directly targeting becomes invaluable. How do I mean? I’m not going to talk about how leveraging your network is a good idea. That’s obvious. If you have a friend or contact at a desired company, obviously reach out to this person. There are plenty of blogs and websites that discuss this in great length. Instead let’s look at a direct approach to getting in front of the hiring squad.
Start by identifying human resources and corporate recruiters within a desired company. This can be done on LinkedIn by running an advanced people search. Type in the company name and title (HR or Recruiter) and presto! A list of names should appear. Once you have a name you can then contact them directly via email or you can send them a message on LinkedIn provided you share a group. It’s free! I wouldn’t recommend calling or leaving voicemails. The ROI is about as high as direct mail and frankly, it can be perceived as a nuisance.
Next, I suggest crafting an introductory email, similar to a cover letter but more engaging. Get creative. Tell them who you are, what you do and why you want to work for their company. How do you personally relate to the brand? Are you and end user? Include your resume, link to portfolio if appropriate and then express your interest in future career opportunities their company may have to offer. You may receive an acknowledgement email response, or you may get nothing. That’s okay too. Instead of sending your resume into the abyss of online applications you’ve positioned yourself directly in front of someone who has the power to interview.
The timeline of finding a job can vary depending on several factors. It’s best to blend your efforts. Combine the direct, targeted approach with joining appropriate LinkedIn groups and leverage your network. Don’t compromise on the direction of your career. Finding the right fit may take some time but we promise it will be worth the investment.