A few years ago, a former student of mine came to see me before going on a job interview in Ottawa County. She had a peculiar problem, she told me; she had a giant tattoo of a dragon across her chest.
Yes, I said. I can see its tail. “Could that be a problem?” she asked. Might could, as we used to say in the South. “Do you have a ruffled collar?” I asked. “Wear it tomorrow,” I said. So began and ended my entire career as a fashion consultant.
Did she get the job? Well, no. But not because of the dragon. They did remark that her chewing gum throughout the proceedings was not seen as a plus.
You may think that is a bizarre story, but it is not all that unusual. For ten years, I directed internship programs in journalism for both Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.
Afterwards, I helped many of those students get full-time jobs, and in the process, interacted with many employers. I take great satisfaction in getting people jobs, partly so that there someday will be money left in the Social Security system for me.
So if you are a new graduate, or closely associated with one, here are some tips you might find useful if you really want a job.
First of all, ask not what your employer will do for you, tell what you can do for your potential employer. The firm you are trying to get to hire you is not run by a charity or your grandma. They are looking for people who can do the most for them. Tailor your resume and cover letter that way. Design them to be readable and to put your best skill set forward. Hint: grammar and spelling do count.
Along those lines, have a professional-sounding email name, like … [email protected] The following, which I have seen on student resumes, are not good ones: Boopsie, Dominator, and Hotmama. Those are e-mail names designed to drive away recruiters, other than recruiters for places your mama wouldn’t approve. Also, if you worked at Hooters or were in child beauty contests, a la Jon-Benet Ramsey, leave those experiences off.
Do put any relevant experiences on your resume, like knowing Power Point, Desktop Publishing or languages. But keep it short, muscular, and employer-friendly.
Today’s recruiters tend to be suspicious of today’s newest graduates on two grounds: Professionalism and work ethic. When you go to that job interview, do everything you can to allay such fears. Dress conservatively -- if anything, too much so. Keep your cell phone turned off. Do not, whatever you do, show up wearing an I-pod. Do not show up carrying a skateboard. Ask good questions about the company, questions that show that you did some research.
If you don't like any of this, tell yourself that someday you will change the corporate culture. And maybe someday you can.
But first, you have to get a foot in the door.