Do you have any advice for a recent graduate looking for a job?


Dear Anonymous

Getting that first job can be tough.  Depending on your major, you may have to work hard to get it.  I’m sure you have made use of UVa’s Placement services.  I will touch upon multiple key considerations but the one advice I emphasize is network, network, network and get yourself a mentor.  Unless you are the one of the few who is recruited and sort after, most jobs are acquired via connections so networking is imperative.

So how do you network?  Make use of everyone you know, and participate in school, professional and social connections.  Much of your effort should be getting to know who is doing what and what’s out there on the off chance there’s something for you.  Also you should work to become knowledgeable about different industries, organization types and interpersonal relationships.  This is hard work and a mentor can help.  One place to get a mentor is through an organization like AAPAAN (or through the UVa mentoring service).

There are many considerations for job hunting.  Here are some to think about as part of your networking effort.

Should you hold out for your “ideal” job or settle for something “less”?  Early in your career, you will benefit from most any work experience.  You might learn and develop a passion for something you’ve never heard of.  You could use most jobs to demonstrate and develop skills that you can use to market yourself for your next job.  So if an opportunity for a reasonable (but not ideal) job is offered, give it some thought.

Are you flexible on location?  If you can go anywhere, then there should be more opportunities.  But of course you have to consider what impact some locations will have on your personal life.

Learn to market yourself.  Most people have problem with this one.  It’s especially crucial for Asian-Americans because they get fewer chances to present themselves.  Academic studies have shown that your Asian sounding names will lead to less follow-up opportunities.  I know it is unfair, but you’ll have to make the most of your fewer chances.  Dear AAPAAN has a number of past write-ups related to this subject so go check them out.  When presenting yourself, don’t be shy.  When talking about working on a team, focus on your contributions and not the team results.  You can stretch a bit but don’t lie.

Get to know yourself.  Be honest on your strengths and weaknesses and what you want out of life.  There’s a temptation to be whatever your interviewer wants.  That is a mistake.  You’ll come across as insincere and wishy-washy.  Do your homework on the companies/organizations you are seeing and develop a good story line on why you match what they need and why they should hire you.

Good luck.