Strap in, because this one is going to pull at your heart strings. I'm currently going through job recruitment - mostly looking for a job in either finance or management/strategy consulting - and let's just say I haven't gotten a job offer after applying to over 50 firms. It's especially unfortunate for me since all my friends have offers lined up and they can relax, but luckily for you I can talk a little bit about the mistakes I've made and about how to successfully land a job out of college.
1. Networking is the most important thing you can do.
No matter what your GPA is or what clubs you've been involved with on campus, in terms of actually going through the job recruitment process nothing is more important than networking with people at the firms you're interested in. Not only that, but you need to network far more than you think you do - there were a couple firms I applied to where I spoke to 4-5 people involved with the recruitment process and I still did not land a first round interview. Talk to as many people as possible, get your name out there!
In terms of how to actually network, it's not too hard. Here's how I did it for firms where I had no previous connections:
- Search on LinkedIn "FIRM YOU'RE INTERESTED IN + YOUR UNIVERSITY". For example, if I went to University of Illinois, I'd search something like "Google + University of Illinois"
- Find someone on your LinkedIn search who you have at least a handful of mutual connections with
- Google search "FIRM email format" to find out the most commonly used formats for that company's employee email
- Combine the email format you found with the name of the person you found on LinkedIn. It doesn't always work on the first try, but after a few guesses the email usually ended up going through
Of course, personal connections are always better, so before you go out cold emailing people ask friends and family if they might know about anyone who works at a company you're interested in.
2. Practice interviewing.
I practiced interviewing a ton my sophomore year and really had it nailed down, but since that was two years ago I was pretty rusty going into recruitment this time around - and it showed. Look up common interview questions on Glassdoor or other sites based both specifically on the company you're applying to as well as overall in the industry. Lucky for you, within the next couple weeks we should have our incredible Backlight Interview Guide up for sale on our main site that covers everything you need to know about crushing a behavioral interview.
When it comes to more technical interviews like in banking or consulting, find a partner who is also going through recruitment (or just a good friend) and try to do at least three technical interviews a week. I ran at least one case interview a day for three weeks with a friend also looking for a consulting job, and the difference from when I started to when interviews came around was immense. Not only that, but practice case interviews also actually made me a better problem solver!
3. Don't stress... too much.
This was probably my biggest mistake. I had one interview at an amazing firm - it was basically the one shot I got at possibly landing a strategy consulting role at a very prestigious firm, and I failed because I let nerves get the best of me. I wasn't nervous at all before the interviews or during them, until I made a mistake. There were two back-to-back interviews, most of which were cases. I did pretty well on the first case/behavioral interview, but the second case was relatively math-heavy.
I made one small mistake in the math and it all snowballed from there. Just from that one mistake I froze up, got nervous and couldn't think straight. It was simple math that I all of a sudden couldn't do, all because I let my emotions get the best of me - I fumbled my way through the rest of the case, and didn't get a second round interview. But what's the takeaway here?
The worst that could have happened has happened. I messed up the opportunity I had, but you know what? I'm fine. The sun will rise again in the morning. It's not the ideal situation, but it's not the end of the world - so don't stress yourself out too much!
4. Apply everywhere you'd be interested in working.
You might be too intimidated to apply to really prestigious firms, or you might be put off a little bit by something you've heard or read online about a company. Don't let those things stop you from applying to the place you want to work. And by apply everywhere, I mean that in terms of the company itself and where it is located.
You have to consider both geography and the company of the job you're applying to. If you want to work in the US auto industry but don't want to work in Michigan, unfortunately you're gonna have some tough luck. If you don't want to travel but you want to do consulting, I have some bad news for you as well. Obviously geography and the job itself aren't the only things to consider, but certain locations are more likely to have certain types of jobs, and you need to consider both aspects before diving in.
All in all, don't worry too much about it if you're young. There are a million different definitions of success, and for each definition there are a million different ways to get there. Just do the best you can, work hard, be honest, and I'm sure it will all work out just fine at the end of the day.
If you are getting ready to go through job recruitment, check out the rest of our site as well as our other blog posts to gain some more career advice in general or get some help with your resume. We're excited to help you out along the way!