Howdy. I’m a 2013 Graduate Seeking a Job In…

I’m a member of an alumni network on LinkedIn and I cringe every single time I see one of these posts: “Howdy! I’m a Dec ’12 Grad B-school grad looking for a job in marketing/HR/customer relations/project management. Any leads would be helpful.”

Which happens to be just about every day.

Yes, some of these posts actually get responses. We will attribute that to the “Howdy” and the fact that the Texas A&M network is extremely strong and loyal, particularly in Texas. That, and there’s always a few companies looking for entry-level sales associates willing to cut their teeth for commission.

Here’s the brutal truth: This strategy doesn’t work. For an Aggie graduate it might be a step up from submitting the same resume to 100 different jobs on, but it’s still a garbage approach.

Here’s 4 things wrong with that approach:

  1. It’s lazy. You’re basically telling hiring managers that you’ll take any job that is in the realm of your major and that you’d like them (or a member of your alumni network) to do the legwork for you. Thanks for contributing to the reason everyone thinks Gen-Y is entitled.
  2. You haven’t identified what you really want. Part of me admires the fact that you’re willing to take any entry level job, but hiring managers just think you want ANY job and that at the 1st sign of the job you really want (or one that pays a bit more) you’ll bolt. I’m hiring people that WANT to work in a specific role, in which their skills align, and for a company they really want to work at.
  3. You’ve added ZERO value. Oh, you want a job? So does every other graduating senior. How can you provide value to my organization?
  4. You’re not differentiating yourself AT ALL. I see this same nonsense approach almost every single day. What makes you a better fit than your peer doing the exact same thing? Doing what everyone else does will get you the same results. Those aren’t the results of top performers.

Brutal truth number #2: Nobody gives a shit what you want. Fine… Your parents think you’re a special snowflake, but they probably don’t “get it” either. They paid for all or part of your college and can’t understand why you don’t have a great job from the day you graduate. After all, that’s the promise higher education sells, right?

Here’s reality…

Top performers invest time up front to understand exactly which companies they want to target, then they relentlessly find warm connections to these companies through Natural Networking. (And yes, everyone has a network.) By the time they’re ready to submit an application, it goes through a warm contact and is disproportionately likely to result in a job offer. — Ramit Sethi

Most of you are going to call me an asshole, tell yourself I have no clue what I’m talking about and go on wasting your time.

For the 7 of you that read this and actually ask yourself what you could do differently, here’s my recommendations:

  1. Determine exactly what job you want. What do you want to do? What skills did you acquire in school and through internships? Get specific here. Pick a couple of titles: “Account Manager” at a big agency, “Marketing Coordinator” for an oil & gas company.
  2. Use job sites and LinkedIn to determine which companies (that you’d like to work for) have jobs like that. If they’re hiring for those roles, great. But even if they’re not you can proceed to step 3.
  3. Interview people who work for the company and/or people who work in the job title you (eventually) want.

“Now, if I’m interested in working for a company, the first thing I do is interview a ton of alumni who work there. I ask what their pain points are. What keeps the managers up at night? This is the info I really need to know. Once I have that focus, I can take the next step. Figure out how to address those needs.” — A top performer

4. Leverage those pain points to craft a strategy  detailing how you can solve that organizations and/or hiring manager’s problems. And yes, this is way more work. Doing this for ONE job you want takes more time than submitting your resume to 10+ online job postings.

If you refrained from getting “butt hurt” (see: your feelings hurt) during the first half of this post and read this far, then chances are you genuinely want to separate yourself from your peers and get a job you really want.

Here’s the best primer you’ll find for finding your dream job.

Full disclosure: I’m not affiliated with Ramit’s dream job course in any way, shape, form or fashion. I wrote this post because because I want to help you. Mostly, I wrote it because I wish someone would’ve written it for me 5 years ago.


  • Shari Boothe ’85

    Very insightful. Worth reposting periodically as a reminder.


  • Thaddeus H. Adams, PhD

    Thanks for spending the time and providing some insight about the success of these postings. I will take your advice and apply accordingly. Gig’em!


  • NUMBER THREE AND NUMBER FOUR! (of the second numbered list) My little bro never finished his undergrad degree and wants to go back to school/build a new career, and I keep telling him over and over again to conduct one-on-one “interviews” with people in positions he thinks he’d like, THEN choose a degree (or not–the info he gets may make it clear he should forget school and focus on gaining experience instead. Or simultaneously. Whatever.) So yes, new grads, never-grads, and perhaps all job seekers: be strategic–and be specific. Great post, Ryan.


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  • Found you via IWTYTBR – love this post. I coach a lot of friends in job hunting and see so much of this type of lazy, sloppy “job hunting” (ugh, it makes me sick calling it that). It stinks of someone who just wants a wage rather than wants to help someone/a company, which is ultimately what working is all about. Of course you need to be compensated for your time, but no one will even look at you if you’re not putting in the effort in the first instance.


    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    @disqus_hB78ZKeZU2:disqus – I couldn’t agree more; however, I think that as humans we’re inherently a little bit selfish and focused on ourselves. Beyond that, school teaches us that if we “do what we’re told” and “get good grades” and “listen to our teacher” then we’ll get a good job and be compensated accordingly.

    It probably wasn’t until I’d been out of college for 18 months that I shifted my thought process from what a company should give me vs. what value can I offer this company such that it’s easy for them to compensate me for my time and effort.

    It was a small mindset shift that made a world of difference.


  • Amira Aly

    Great post! I find the concept of “interviewing” very interesting. I’m wondering though why would the person I’m trying to interview say yes, what’s in it for them? I mean, won’t they view the person asking as a nosy “competitor”? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks!


    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    @amiraaly:disqus – Good (and fair) question, but I think you’re underestimating how much people are willing to help others if approached the right away. Let’s unpack this invisible script you’ve created for yourself.

    1.) What’s in it for them?
    In a way, this is up to you to decide. A lot of people, especially top performers, get asked for their advice all the time. It’s very likely that they’re busy people and the majority of these people are wasting their time, so they often put up barriers to avoid those disrespectful of their time. But if YOU demonstrated that you’d taken the time to think through X, Y and Z and then asked a well crafted question or two, they’d likely be impressed. People like being associated with and knowing others that take action, rather than just talk about what they’re going to do all the time.

    Remember, you aren’t even an employee yet (and may never be). You might be providing insight into something they haven’t thought about that can help them in their current role.

    And *always* remember to close the loop. After you’ve asked for and received advice, take action. Then circle back around and let that person know how you used their advice to do A, B and C. They will get the satisfaction of knowing that they helped someone who does 90% more than most people they encounter.

    2.) Won’t they view the person asking as a nosy “competitor”?
    Sure, some of them might, but then those probably are not the people who want to be talking to and connecting with anyway. Often, you’re asking about a job opening that they’re probably not going for themselves anyway. If you’re doing it right, then you might even be asking about a job that doesn’t even exist yet (i.e. just asking about how that individual got to where they’re at, what their organization’s pain points are, etc.)

    Finally, I encourage you ask for the interview and make them tell you no. That’s truly the worst that can happen. There’s no reason to disqualify yourself before you even try.

    Best of luck to you! Also, if you put these tactics to the test, I’d love for you to let me know how it works out for you.


    Amira Aly Reply:

    Thank you @ryanstephens:disqus 🙂 Unpacking the scripts was a real eye opener for me. I’m planning to contact 5 people for interviews within the next week of 2014. I’ll let you know how that goes !