The international business I worked for had an extraordinary chairman, a man with the ambition and charisma to build it to be one of the top 10 FTSE stocks. He took a great interest in our graduate recruits and, whenever he could, would speak to them during their 12 week training programme.
Before they met him I would tell these trainees a story about the chairman’s extraordinary memory for faces and assure them that, if they were to meet again in a bar on the other side of the world, he would remember them. I would finish the story by asking them what impression they wanted to make on him and how they wanted him to remember them.
The same message is just as important for anyone moving from education to the world of work. Building a successful career today is, more than ever, not about ‘who you know’, but about ‘who knows you’.
The fist stage of looking for a job is deciding what you would like to do. This is not about what you will be doing on day one, month one or even year one. It is about the work you’ll be doing in five years time. To find this out start talking to people about their work – most people are proud of what they do and are happy to talk about it. However, remember my story, while they will make an impression on you, you too, will be making an impression on them. Ask intelligent questions, show interest and follow up and they will remember you. If the work is of interest ask to shadow them for a day, arrive early, get to know their colleagues and offer to help where you can. If, at the end of the day, you decide it is not for you, you need go no further – thank them for their time and cross that career option off your list! However, if you like the work, you are well placed to ask for work experience, holiday work or even an internship. If you have done your job well they should be impressed. It might be they have nothing to offer you but could recommend you to another company and support your approach with an introduction. To make things more challenging I encourage those I coach to try and secure at least two job offers – so they are the ones making the decision.
Working in a role you know you want is a great way to start a successful career.