College students are preparing to make the trek back home as the school year wraps up, pushing some parents into a panic as their months of newfound freedom comes to a temporary halt. Discussions of “get a job” or “find an internship” are bound to occur. Yes, we want our kids to succeed, but keeping them busy instead of playing video games on the couch is also a motivating factor.
I get calls from parents asking if I can help. Sometimes my introductions lead to success, and sometimes parents report back that nothing came of it. What went wrong? Here are five big failure points:
1. No custom approach. From email to salutation to cover letter to resume…it’s all generic. When every single letter reads the same, how do you expect to stand out? “I am a multi-tasker who has a lot of skills.” Great. But where’s your research on the target company? Tell me how you plan to use your skills in my company? And please throw in a little personality! Lemme hear your voice.
2. You forgot the most important word in the English language. A name is powerful. When you know the name of the recipient, use it. Is that so hard? Having reviewed hundreds of applicants for jobs, I can report that the majority of college kids do not personalize email or cover letters. When you learn that the recipient is Allison, address her: Dear Allison (every time). Remember Stephen Covey’s best line from Seven Habits: the deepest desire of the human spirit is to be acknowledged.
3. Not asking questions. Walking in clueless as to what the company does, how you would fit in, or why the person seeing your cover letter was energized to work for this particular company is not a recipe for success. Think up 3 – 5 questions before the interview. These are your best tools to help the company get a good impression of you. I don’t mean “what hours are you open?” Ask good questions like, “How would someone like me, a history major, best fit into your company? Try this one: “How would a successful person in this position perform?
4. Lame follow-up. So the interview went well – and that’s great! What next? Probably not much more than a quick email. Here’s the thing: everyone sends a silly little follow-up email. After the interview, no matter how it went, send a handwritten note to everyone who interviewed you. This will be remembered.
5. What’s the word? Ah yes: Thank You. Finally and most important: if someone referred you in, go back to the person who made the intro and thank them. Send them flowers or chocolate. This will pay dividends down the road.
Parents, do not despair. Your child does not have to camp out in your house unemployed this summer. With a little creativity, personality, some research and follow-up, your son or daughter will be miles ahead of everyone else. And don’t forget I like extra-dark chocolate.