A common misconception is that your first job right out of college determines the rest of your career. Realistically, that first job is probably nowhere in the realm of what you’d eventually like to be doing. Though, it doesn’t mean that because your job hasn’t yet translated to your passion, you can’t give it everything you’ve got, and just a little bit more.
Recently, 20some attended Find Spark’s Hustle Summit, New York’s top networking event for setting up young creatives for career success. Hosted at Irving Plaza, the room was buzzing with innovative companies such as BuzzFeed, DoSomething.org, and Grey Advertising looking to recruit millennials eager to get their foot in the door.
We sat down with Krystal Mason, a member of the Talent Acquisition team at Grey, and asked her a few questions on how to succeed at your first post-graduation job. What started out as a conversation meant to solely inform, transformed into an inspirational anecdote of how our youth can make a serious impact in the workplace.
I began with the typical, “What are some tips to transform your resume?”
While most college graduates believe it’s their extracurriculars and courses that set them apart from the crowd, Mason said otherwise. What “grabs my eye is experience at a similar agency or setting.” This doesn’t just apply to the burgeoning world of advertising, but to every career path. Experience in the field that you are interested in gets you noticed. Make that the focal point of your resume, not your course on the “Philosophy of Ancient Greece,” when you’re looking to get into a specific career such as law enforcement.
“What are some pointers after scoring that first job?” I asked next.
I was expecting the standard “smile and do your best” answer. While sound advice, there are just times when I can’t fake my frustration from a terrible commute and “my best” is coming in with a fever because I’ve got too much to do. Instead, Krystal suggested this: Find something that no one else on your team wants to do. Learn it, get excited about it, and step up and offer to own it. What if you found something that was lacking within your team and you got good at it? You’d be valued. It makes you indispensable in a fragmented work field that is comfortable with running through talent like water.
As our conversation came to a close and the crowd behind me inched in closer to get their words of career wisdom from Mason, I asked her one last question—“What do you wish you would have known then about career hunting that you know now?”
“Intern like hell!” she exclaimed. “I wish I would have known that internship experience is everything. I would have sacrificed a 4.0 GPA for a few solid internships to put on my resume.”
We are taught in our undergrad to study, study, and study. That was the entirety of our secondary schooling’s philosophy. Mason just debunked that myth, and I’m sure all of you college students reading are rejoicing in the fact that your math exam doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of life. (Just get at least a 65, okay?)
Be yourself in interviews, like every day cool.
Mason told the story of how she wasn’t herself in her first couple of interviews. She strived toward perfection with over-calculated answers because she felt that was the sort of person companies wanted to hire. Remaining transparent in interviews is what gets you the job. You are special. Show who you are in an interview and don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Your colleagues have to work with you day in and day out, and if you’re one person in the interview and a totally different person at your desk, problems could arise. Trust your worth.
From undertaking a skill that no one wants to develop to trusting that who you are is enough for the interviewer, Mason blew my mind in a (less than) 10-minute career talk. Sure, we know how to spice up our resume (Legally Blonde said to dye it pink), and we understand that our GPA does not always provide a clear picture of who we are as a person and employee. However, what we learned from Mason and Hustle Summit was more than just tips and tricks, but lasting lessons that will set the stage for a prosperous future.