There’s this strange lurch that happens when you finish university. Suddenly, from a world of academia and studies, you’re thrown into a wholly different place, where the goal is no longer to fill your brains but to fill other people’s pocket books.
To be honest, I feel the universities are at least partially responsible. Many of them are focused on teaching students to be good at university, rather than teaching them to be good at life. But that’s a hard thing to change and it doesn’t help those of you coming out the other end.
Instead, let’s talk about what you can do to make sure that lurch doesn’t debilitate you for too long and have you end up sitting in your parent’s basement.
There’s this fascinating study which Professor Cialdini reports on in his book “Influence”, where they had a man jaywalk across a street either in workman’s clothing or in a suit. They then watched how many people jaywalked as a result of this man starting to cross the street. The man in the business suit was followed by three times as many people as the man in workman’s clothing.
That’s jaywalking, which is really something we don’t expect businessmen to be any more knowledgeable about than workmen. And yet the signal of authority was enough to convince those people to follow in his footsteps.
Imagine how much dressing the part could help you if it’s actually applicable, like in an interview? So, make sure you look the part. Make sure your shoes are shined, your suit isn’t threadbare and perhaps consider getting rid of the dreadlocks. People shouldn’t discriminate based on them, but they do.
A form is at least as important as substance. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what the company you’re going to visit is about, but it does mean that even if you know what it’s about, if they don’t like you, you’re not going to get hired.
So work on being likable. Get people to tell you about annoying habits you have and then work on correcting them. Some things to look out for are turn taking, appearing interested in the person you’re actually talking to and knowing what you should and shouldn’t talk about. So don’t tell them about the bong hit you just had in the parking lot. No, not even if you’re in a state that’s legal.
Also, establish similarity. We like people that are more similar to us. And so, if you find any area of similarity (born in the same place, like the same sports, support the same team) then mention that similarity. It won’t turn a ‘no’ into a yes, but it might just do that to a ‘maybe’.
Interviewing is a skill. So take the time to learn it. That means applying to lots of jobs and going to lots of interviews, even if you’re not necessarily that interested in the position. That way, you can start working the kinks out, so that if you do land an interview that you’re actually interested in, you’ve already got a bunch of experience under your belt and you won’t choke.
Perhaps stage some fake interviews as well (in case you still think this is a waste of time, in order to avoid them search for reviews of companies on the Internet). Do you know somebody who actually runs a business? Tell them if you could perhaps try role-playing an interview with them and if they can perhaps point out areas where you could have done better. You can also try doing it with friends, but note that they might well not know what interviewers are actually going to be looking at, so their ideas might not be worth quite as much.
There are a lot of difficult interview questions. You have should really be prepared for them. So sit down and work out your answers to these questions before you go in, so that you’re not surprised or stumped. Because if that happens, anxiety might creep in and we all know what strange things you can say when you’re anxious!
Also, run your answers by others. Sometimes you think that something sounds perfectly okay, only to find out that it sounds needy, angry, or dismissive to others. That’s not a situation you want to find yourself in. So run it by people who care.
Yes, you might not have to do any more homework from university, but that does not mean the homework of life is over. If you’re interested in a job then have the decency to at least know the facts about the business as well as the industry. A good bit of fact dropping at the right moment can make all the difference, as it can serve to make the person realize that you actually know a thing or two about their sector.
And they’ll like that – both because it creates similarity and because it shows you care. So take the time to check. It won’t take more than a few hours and if it’s a sector you actually want to work in, it should be interesting besides.
Don’t let yourself get too stressed out. There have been lots of people here before you and they all did find. What’s more, HR managers know all about new graduates and how they feel. They’ll take that into consideration and cut you some slack.
So don’t worry about it too much. It will only be counterproductive. It’s when you get that first fire engineer job after being a student that you should stress out! Just kidding (kind of).
And don’t forget about the fact that you’ve been taught everything about fire engineering at your university, so you have nothing to worry about. Good luck!