How To Get Your First Job: Smart Talk (via Twitter) from Prof Tressie Cottom

Want some great, honest, real advice on how to get your first job —advice that, to date, has been 100% effective?   Over on Twitter, Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom, one of the illustrious members of our Steering Committee, tweeted the advice she gives to students looking for jobs.  It’s real talk. Real smart. And she gave us permission to reprint her informal, frank, wonderful tweets here.  She also reports that 100% of the students who have taken this advice have gotten jobs.

Tressie Mc @tressiemcphd

Read on Twitter

One of my informal department tasks is helping our students transition to work. I don’t know how it became my task but that is neither here nor there. I do it most often for sociology masters students but also some undergrads. A few things:

The week you graduate isnt too late to look for a job but it is too late to look for a job that will pay your next months rent.

About a year before you graduate turn your new social science skills onto yourself. Do topic modeling of job ads you find interesting. Do a content analysis of jobs by different occupational codes. Find the underlying tasks and skills embedded in them.

Take your previous course assignments and do the same thing. Visualize the themes. Count the themes. Do they match up? Now describe how they match to a person without a degree. Once that person understands it, you have a career target.

You won’t get that job but it is a beacon. You will get a crap job. Almost everyone does right after graduation, especially in this labor market. But crap jobs are field studies. Learn from them and keep job searching. You never stop job searching, sorry.

As you’re doing all this work on jobs and your skills, you need to talk to people. Your professors are people. You can talk to us. Ask me who I know and if I would introduce you to them.

Talk to at least twelve people about their jobs and ask them if they can refer you to anyone else to talk to. Actually talk to those people. You rememeber that thing you wrote until your non social science degreed person could understand it? Useful here. Say that thing to people

Keep doing that until you know enough about your local job market to say what industries hire for what and how. A full semester before graduation apply for public sector jobs. Those apps take a long time to wind through the bureaucracy. They’re also great practice.

Get a resume and job application on file with: hospitals, local/state government, school systems, universities.
The summer before graduation is a great time to take at least two technology workshops or classes of any kind on campus. Any of the most basic tech skills set you apart in the job market and after you graduate these cost money.
These classes are everywhere on campus: the library, the business school, the school of Ed, etc. It really doesn’t matter what they are. Just do a skills grab.

Compile a list from all of those people you talked to. Take that topic modeling and content analysis and straightforward description of your career goals that your homeboy understood. Put it on a website. Edit it. Edit it again. Send that link to that list.

Then send them thank you notes.

A few weeks before graduation if nothing is lined up add to that website that you accept contract work.
Departments: write job transition protocols. Buy 10 starbucks gift cards to give to students so they can do informational interviews. Share good student job pages or eportfolios as examples.

Connect students to your alumni
Units: hire @SusannaDW to do this for you.

How to have the informational interview (a guide for introverts):

You’ll be great at this because you should listen more than you talk and it’s not a group thing. Just practice your hello with friends before-hand.

How to have the informational interview (a guide for extroverts):

For the love of God, shut up. Listen 2.5 times more than you talk.

How to have the informational interview (based only on me):

Ask for exactly the amount of time you intend to take. Ideally 15 minutes unless person suggests more. Ask them what’s close to them. Make it easy for them to come talk to you. Be honest and forthright.

If you don’t have money? Say, “I can treat if it’s at this place I have a gift card for!”. Most people will recognize the signal in that. If you can afford a cup of coffee? Ask them for exactly that and say in your note that you will gladly buy them a cup of coffee.

You are not there to ask for a job. You’re there to see what they do what they think someone like you should know.

Ask permission to follow up with them. You have only ONE ask: is there anyone you recommend I speak to? That’s it.