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It feels like the past 4 years of college have flown by and now with only one month of school left I have never felt the days pass more slowly.

There is still a ton of stuff left to do for school-work and what I like to call “administrative” tasks like making sure important forms are filled out so that I can graduate. You think that this would be stressful enough yet on top of all of that I am transitioning my role as student to employee.

Looking and interviewing for your first “real” job can be a daunting task and without the help from others that have done it before me, I would have been lost. Below are some of the things that I have learned in the process of becoming a new employee that hopefully you can use when you are doing the same thing.

Before Interviewing

Know what you are looking for

Do you want an office job? Do you want to move around? How about work on large teams or by yourself? These are all things that you should consider when looking for your first out of college.

There are some things that are going to be the same everywhere you go (sorry, there aren’t really any jobs where you have to work 0 hours a week), but there are some things that differ form company to company. For example if you work for a large consulting firm you may have to move around and work for other companies that you may not mesh with.

Know what the company is looking for

It’s great to start your job search knowing what you are looking for, the problem is that most job seekers and potential employees stop there and just apply wherever they think that they want to work. What’s important is for you to understand what the company that you are applying to is actually looking for.

Back to the consulting idea, if you are looking for a place to go to stay for an indeterminate amount of time and not have to move around that much, then consulting probably isn’t for you. Consulting companies are looking for people that aren’t afraid or even like to move around on a regular basis. Knowing what the company is looking for in an employee is something that you can use to your advantage when applying and interviewing.

Research the company online and check out their site

This is not a suggestion. You have to know what the company does that you are applying to and understand what they are known for. You would be surprised out how many people have no clue. During the interview process they will surely ask you why you are attracted to their company and an answer like, “you will help me pay my bills” will probably not help you.

Just check out their site, read, and take notes of what they are about.

From Interview To Offer

Make sure to speak

So much of our communication now-a-days is in the typewritten form through email or text message. There is something to say about email etiquette for sure, but if you want to make a big impact to a company that you are in the interview process with, consider talking to them on the phone or if you can in person. Email can only portray so much of yourself; speaking on the phone not only shows them that you aren’t some scared animal behind a keyboard, but also what kind of person you are, if you have a sense of humor, etc.

With so much of our communication through text, it is a breath of fresh air to speak to someone in person.

Learn about benefits and ask questions

Something that tends to happen to new entrants into the working world is that they get scared that if they ask questions about things that “they (think) should know”, they will look like an uninformed neanderthal to everyone that they talk to. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In my limited experience of interviewing I have found that asking questions is the only way that you will find out what certain benefit packages mean, including health insurance options, 401k, profit sharing, etc. HR reps are there to help you with anything that you may need, so asking questions just shows them that you want to be more informed; not that you are a blabbering idiot that knows nothing.

Learn about company culture

One excellent thing to do is to learn about the company culture from non-HR people. I have found that HR reps are very pro- “their firm” and tend to sugar coat almost everything. If you want the nitty-gritty of how teams inside of the company work, suggest to your HR rep the idea of meeting with some employees that would be on the same team as you or even middle managers. Most times you will meet them anyways, but if not make sure to mention it.

It seems that once you get outside of HR types, employees are much more candid. There is nothing like the impression you can get from someone that has been working on the front lines of the company. Asking questions like, “how do managers work with the subordinates here?” or “how stressful is your work environment?” are types of questions that will help shed some light on company culture.

Transitioning from student to worker and creator can be a very stressful and challenging endeavor, especially if you have no clue what to expect. These tips just brush the service of what you should do while you are looking for and interviewing for potential jobs. The most important thing to remember when you don’t understand something or are confused is to reach out to others that have been through the process and ask questions.

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