From Backpack to Briefcase: Practical Advice for Finding a Great Career

Today, I introduce you to Henry F. Anthony, a Chief Human Resource Executive who has spent a decade of his career enabling people to find their niche at work. I asked him to write a blog on what he would say to a recent graduate who’s launching their career and is looking for some wise counsel.

I have spent my entire career in corporate roles, the last 25 years in the senior Human Resources role for four companies and the last 15 years as the Vice President of HR for Rollins, Inc. During this 25-year period, I have helped hundreds of people find a job. In recent years, I have focused mostly on college students and recent college graduates. Here are just a few practical ideas I have shared with people I’ve coached to help them have a successful career search. These ideas all revolve around one simple concept: Networking.

Write down the names of every person you know.

I mean everybody. Not just your professors, but every person you know, because everybody knows someone who is a decision maker. One person told me that she got her best referrals from the person that cuts her hair! So, include on your list: your minister, Sunday school teacher, high school coaches, family attorney, family insurance agent, sorority/fraternity alumni, community organization leaders/members, etc. Everybody.

Next, call them.

No, don’t text them or email them. Call them. Life is about building relationships and that’s what networking is all about. Tell them you recently graduated from college and would like them to introduce you to people they know that can help you with your career search. No, don’t ask them for a job or if they know if someone has a job opening. You might get lucky, but that has the same chance as winning money in Las Vegas. By asking them to introduce you to their personal network, you are accessing something worth more than gold, something that has taken them years to build and nurture.

Call the people your personal network has given you and say your “Elevator Speech” (as you probably already know, that’s only 10 to 15 seconds). Your Elevator Speech starts the conversation. It has three elements:

    1. Who you are
    2. Who referred you
    3. Why you are calling (to get access to their personal network, too!)

Most people won’t answer their phone, so leave your Elevator Speech on their voicemail and tack on your phone number at the end. Because no one will ever give you the name of someone who doesn’t like them, you will never have to make a “cold call.” You will develop a list of hundreds of people in a very short time, which leads to our next step.

Get organized.

You don’t want a contact to fall between the cracks because you never know when it is THE contact to THE job! Get a 3-ring binder with January through December calendar in front, A through Z tabs and three-hole punch paper. Each piece of paper will list every person you talked with by their last name. So, if I gave you some contacts, you would have a sheet of paper for me filed under “A” for Anthony with notes of what we talked about. Your calendar will keep your appointments straight. I know this is “Low Tech,” but it works. I’ve talked with dozens of Millennials and they have reinforced this is a simple, inexpensive way to stay organized. Contact Management Software packages can cost hundreds of dollars and you must carry your laptop/tablet everywhere. This binder is easy to carry around and you can quickly turn to the right page when someone calls you back.

Now, get started! I’ve never seen this method of Networking to fail. It takes a lot of effort, so be patient and persevere. Think like Johnny Appleseed. Each call is planting a seed. Something WILL germinate.

Good luck and get started on your networking!

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From Backpack to Briefcase: Practical Advice for Finding a Great Career