By Lisa Heay, Marketing Planning Manager at Heinz Marketing

Can you believe it’s June already? It’s graduation season! Though graduations look a little different in 2020 than we’re typically used to, there are still new college grads entering the workforce and probably wondering how best to transition from student to professional.

Inspired by a recent conversation I had with our own University of Washington Sales intern (Go Dawgs!!)  set to enter the workforce this summer, I thought it worthy to share with a broader audience some of the advice I shared with her on how to approach landing her first job.

Audit your online presence

Before you get started sending out resume and applications, take a quick scan of your social profiles. Google yourself, too. What are you finding? Are you portrayed as a reliable professional, or is your Facebook profile picture showing you doing body shots in Cancun?

According to a survey back in 2017 by CareerBuilder, a full 70 percent of employers “use social media to screen candidates before hiring,” and 54% have eliminated a candidate based on social media. This stuff matters! Employers get a lot of applicants and could use any excuse to move a resume to the “no” pile to narrow down their list of candidates. Don’t put anything on the internet you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see.

To take it a step further, do some research on the companies you are most interested in pursuing. What are their core values? Does your online presence line up?

Research the day in the life of the role you think you’re seeking

There is so much information out there on the internet, you have no excuse not to use it. You’ll have a leg up on your competition if you are familiar with the typical tasks associated with the role you’re seeking, which tools enable the role to be most effective, and what skill set typically lends itself to the role. You’re not just competing with other new grads seeking their first jobs—you could be competing with seasoned professionals. Just because you don’t have the work experience yet, doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive in putting yourself in their shoes.

This will also help you assess if this is even a role you want. Does it put you on the career trajectory you envision for yourself? Does the role typically offer the work/life balance you’re seeking? If the role requires long hours to be successful, it’s good to know ahead of time so you can think long and hard on if that’s the right move for you.

Network!

LinkedIn is a powerful tool. Connect with teachers, colleagues, friends, family, students, and influencers. You never know who your friends know, and sometimes a personal introduction can give you a leg up against the competition.

There is also a wealth of LinkedIn Groups on every subject matter you can think of. Join them and participate! Ask questions, network, and listen. These could be your future colleagues.

And, once we’re allowed to attend in-person events again, seek out industry events in your area. There is no better place to network than a room full of like-minded professionals with similar interests to your own.

Become an expert

I know you’re done with school, but now is not the time to stop learning. Gather and share relevant content related to the industry or role you are interested in pursuing.

There is a wealth of enrichment videos all over the internet. Sign up for newsletters (MarketingProfs, the American Marketing Association, and of course Heinz Marketing are great places to start for Marketing content!), and poke around LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, or YouTube. In addition, almost every marketing technology platform has its own university with courses you can take. Other industries likely have similar resources out there, you just have to seek them out.

Prove to potential hiring managers you have the drive to educate yourself (and others!) on the industry and role you are pursuing. This includes curating and sharing content that others have created, but you should also share original content, as well! It doesn’t need to be a large endeavor. A nicely written LinkedIn post or participating in group discussions online is a good place to start.

Keep at it

It’s tough out there. There are a ton of smart, qualified people. But persevere. You may not land your dream job right out of the gate—in fact, I can almost guarantee you won’t. But you have to start somewhere. It’s much easier to find a job when you already have one than when you don’t.

Stay humble, keep your can-do attitude and an open mind, and you’ll do just fine.

Once you land the job

You’re not going to know everything, so don’t pretend like you do. Asking questions is not a bad thing. But asking open ended questions can come off as unmotivated if you haven’t tried to formulate your own opinion.

Don’t get me wrong—I would much rather someone come to me with a question than go off and struggle on their own. Often, the deliverable won’t end up quite right, and we’ll both spend extra time in review/revision cycles.

However, coming to someone with a specific question and even an opinion on what you think the answer is or how you’d find it gives the person something to react to. They can say something like, “You’re on the right track, but have you thought of X?”, or “I’d approach this piece like Y.” When you ask a question like “I don’t understand”, or “How do I get started?”, it comes across like you’re not willing to put the effort into figuring it out yourself. You’re asking me to define the strategy or even do it for you, and I have my own job to do! And more often that not, vague questions will get you vague answers in return, and you still won’t get the clarification you were looking for.

Best of luck to all you 2020 grads! Don’t let this wacky year get you down—go take the world by storm! We need you.