16 Tips for Grads Looking for Their Dream Job

Note: I published this post two years ago. It was shared thousands of times so I am hoping it was helpful. I just remembered it and read it again. All this still rings true. If you’ve just graduated, I wish you all the best on your next big adventure! Have fun. The start of things are always a bit magical.

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It’s that time of year again. There’s a whole new, shiny batch of graduates ready to launch out into the world.

And if you’re one of them, we have a thought (or 16) for you about applying and interviewing for jobs.

So for what it’s worth, here’s some collective advice from me and Mary Susan (the two of us receive most of the resumes around here):

1. Make your resume short and sweet.

I know a lot of people disagree with me on this one, but I want to know what you think is really important enough to include.

2. I’m a big fan of a photo on a resume.

Help me remember who you are. A confident smile helps too.

3. If I’m interested in someone, I google them.

Google yourself. No really. Just do this and make sure what you see first, second and third is something you’d want me to see. Make sure your linked in profile is up to date. Use the same photo on your resume that you choose for your linked in profile.

4. Stand for something.

Don’t put your objective at the top. I think that’s out of date and pointless. I know you want a job to use your skills. Tell me what you believe, what you’re passionate about, or how you can add value to my day.

5. Make your word doc resume a PDF.

I think it looks sloppy if you don’t. Name it, oh, your name. Or something REALLY interesting. If you’re a graphic person, have an online portfolio. If you’re writer, share some writing. If you are a business major or history major, share something you’ve done that you are super proud of. Most people are interesting to me. Why would you want to dull your brightness on a resume?

6. Always attach a resume or a LinkedIn page to your emails.

DO NOT just send an email asking if we’re hiring. Really stop that.

7. If you send me an email, YOU MOST LIKELY KNOW MY NAME.

I am not TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN. If you are sending a resume to an email like Jumponboard@brainsonfire.com, Say Dear Humans of Brains on Fire.  Dear Brains on Fire. Anything but to whom it may concern. As Mary Susan says so well, “We are people too. We don’t want to read some robotic email. Make it personal! We want to know that we could share a cup of coffee with you as well as be on the same team.”

8. You get a job by meeting people.

Try hard to find someone who might know someone to get you a meeting. That is your goal. Go places and practice introducing yourself.

9. If you get an interview or meeting, learn something about the company or person you’re meeting with.

Learn as much as you can. Google the person you’ll be meeting with.  Sometimes seeing their smile will make you less nervous. I do this often when I’m jumping on a call with someone I haven’t meet yet.

10. Write a thank you note.

Email is okay. Handwritten is better. If someone got you a meeting by calling in a favor, write that person a VERY special email or note. Introductions are always a gift.

11. Be nice to everyone and let everyone you meet know what you’re looking for and who you have talked to about a job.

Many great jobs are never listed. I can’t tell you the number of conversations I have heard over the years where when someone hears someone is looking for a job they say, “Oh, I know ______ is looking for a _______. ” It works that way.

12. Iron your clothes. Iron your clothes. Iron your clothes.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. In all my years of hiring there have been a lot of changes in how things are done. But this one remains a constant. We have a super relaxed dress code at Brains on Fire. It’s one thing to come dressed casually. It’s another thing to look like you’ve slept in your clothes. And don’t wear a lot of perfume or cologne. You don’t want to be remembered for how you smelled.

13. Do not chew gum in an interview.


14. Know your worth.

Research starting salaries for the jobs you’re applying for. Practice talking money with someone you trust. I honestly wish they taught a course in this.

15. Be interested.

Don’t worry about being interesting.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got this year. I really hope it’s helpful.
And know this.

You might not get the “perfect job” right out of college. You might not get the interview or the call back. You might have to have multiple streams of income, as in two or three “jobs”. But you will find work and when you do, do that work with enthusiasm and interest and passion. And I promise, you will have a big shiny future ahead of you!

If you’re reading this and you have some advice to share with recent grads, chime in!


OX, Robbin

P.S.  Goodness. I forgot our VERY best advice.  And this one is hard for me to say because I forget to do this all the time. PROOF YOUR EMAILS and RESUMES. Have someone proof them for you. Triple check EVERYTHING. It matters.

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