4 Outside-the-Box Career Tips for College Grads

Looking for some pointers prior to graduation? Appearing in the Huffington Post, this piece will give you tips when looking in today’s job market! Please read the full blog here 4 Outside-the-Box Career Tips for College Grads!




Job Trends in the New Year

For those planning to seek a new job in the New Year, where are the best places to look?  It is hard to identify a specific industry since companies within the same industry are recovering at different rates.  There are some key areas for opportunities in the year ahead:

Small and Mid-Sized Companies – It is easy to assume that there are more jobs in the largest companies but in reality there is more hiring in the small to mid-sized companies and these are the organizations that will be leading the recovery.  Do your research to identify smaller organizations in your target industry and location.  Smaller companies are often looking for a broader set of skills.  They don’t hire someone to do one very specific thing, they need strategic thinkers who can grow and change with the company.  Project management, strong communications skills, the ability to work across functional areas and the ability to change directions quickly are critical in this environment.

Supply Chain – Jobs in this field continue to be hot.  Whether it is in procurement, operations, transportation or logistics, these skills are in demand.  While once found only in manufacturing environments, we are seeing a significant increase in demand for supply chain knowledge and experience in financial services, healthcare, retail, and distribution and technology organizations.  Often effective management of the supply chain is one of the few areas for companies to still identify savings and efficiencies.

Marketing – In many organizations, the marketing staff was hard hit during the economic downturn.  We are seeing many firms investing in their marketing functions again.  Skills in the new technologies are critical – web marketing, social media, etc.  Product management and brand management are also critical needs.  We are seeing an increased demand for marketing analytics for market research, consumer insights and timely information to make business decisions.

Finance – The biggest demand we are seeing for finance professionals in the corporate finance world.  Companies of all sizes need to close the books every month, plan, implement and monitor the budget, analyze the results and support business decisions.  Strong financial skills are still in strong demand.

Across functions we are seeing increased demand for strong analytical skills, communications skills, project management, working with teams and negotiation and persuasion skills.  You often need people in other parts of the organization to do something in order to meet your deadlines without having any authority over them.  Negotiation and persuasion skills can make or break your success in many organizations.

The New Year is also the perfect time to commit or recommit yourself to your search.  Here are some suggested resolutions.

A Good Rep Goes A Long Way!

How does one enhance their own reputation at work? Check out “A Good Rep Goes a Long Way” by Dawn Klingensmith on Job Week, Content that Works!

For more of Lynne’s advice on how to become a rising star and develop a good reputation, see Lynne and Dawn’s Question & Answer interview below.

Courtesy of Google

Dawn Klingensmith (DK): If one wants to build or enhance one’s reputation, I imagine it’s important to first determine what one wants to be known for. A subject matter expert? A creative genius? A problem solver? A disgruntled client whisperer? This may sound silly, but is there an exercise someone can do or questions to ask themselves to determine how they’d like to be known to their boss, colleagues and in the industry?

Lynne Sarikas (LS): While it would be great to know what you want to be known for, in my experience it becomes obvious over time.  I’ve observed that the problem solver or subject matter expert in one job often becomes the same expert in another position and often even in another company.  We use Career Leader which helps identify where skills and interests intersect.  This can be helpful in determining career paths but doesn’t specifically address what you want to be known for.  Self awareness is critical.  There is also a level of inherent ability.  You may wish you could be the creative genius but if you do not have that skill set it is not likely to happen.

DK: I imagine there are behaviors one must do consistently to build a relationship as a solid, reliable, loyal employee — in other words, a good hire for the company. What are some of those? Which of those behaviors and habits overlap when one is trying to go beyond that to develop a reputation as a rising star and a standout in the company and industry? Someone born to be a leader? Which behaviors/habits must one cultivate to be known as the shining star?

LS: Before you can become the rising star, you have to build a reputation as a solid, reliable employee.  Do you job and do it well.  Be the first to volunteer for additional assignments and new challenges.  Deliver results consistently and in a timely manner and it will be noticed.  Commit yourself to continuous learning on the job.  Be willing to train others.  Set high standards in all you do and meet or exceed those standards.

 DK: What are some worthy relationship-building goals, and tactics for getting achieving them?

 LS: To become a rising star you need to build strong relationships.  You should ideally have a mentor in a more senior position who can advocate for you and offer guidance.  You need a strong relationship with your manager.  Make your boss look good.  Build collaborative relationships across the organization.  Many people box themselves in by limiting their interaction to their own department. Know how to get things done across the organization by building a strong network.  Be someone that others want to work with.  Be someone they will request when they are putting together a cross-functional team.  Never speak poorly of your manager or your company in public.  Respect confidences. 

 DK: How important is image? How does appearance play into that, and what else besides appearance? (Poise in meetings and public speaking, voicemail and email etiquette, etc.)

 LS: Image can enhance or detract from your reputation for getting things done but it doesn’t replace the critical work being done and the relationships being built. For roles that involve client interaction, image becomes much more important since you are seen as a representative of the company and their brand.  Communication skills are paramount in building a strong reputation.  Public speaking, managing meetings, voicemail and email etiquette as well as general business etiquette are all important to rise within the organization.

Are you too essential at your job?

The best advice for this situation is to avoid it at all costs.  Early in my career I had a manager who told me his goal was to make himself expendable.  If he got me trained so well that I could handle his job, they would have to find something new for him to do – and they did!  He was a very enlightened manager and progressed well in his career because he always had someone ready to step in and take over his current role.

I also worked for a VP of Finance who constantly reminded staff that any of us could be hit by a bus including him.  His point was that the business would go on without us but that we should have process and procedures documented in case someone else had to step in.

Both true stories.

In reality, there are times that people become so good at what they do that they seem to own it for life.  This inhibits career growth for the individual.  If you are in the situation here are some tips to consider:

  • Let your manager know that you are very interested in taking on new responsibilities.
  • Suggest a plan to train others on the team on what you do so well.
  • Document your process and procedures so you can assist others in learning the job.
  • Develop a plan to phase out gradually so others are learning from you while you do less and less of this work on a daily basis.
  • If your manager is not open to this, remind him that if you were to give your notice tomorrow they would have to find a solution in the next two weeks.  You would prefer to stay with the company and are willing to offer a longer transition period.  Don’t threaten, let them know you want to stay but tactfully  point out the reality.  Or, you could be hit by a bus.
  • Employees should not to penalized for doing their job very well.  They should be given opportunities to grow.
  • Absolutely do not let the quality of your work suffer.  High quality work is your ticket to more responsibility.

See more in the article “Are you too essential at your job?” by Debra Auerbach on The Work Buzz!