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Archive for April, 2008

Graduation means a lot of different things to college seniors, but the chance to start your “real life” is usually the most attractive option. Find a job, answer to absolutely no one, become a full-fledged adult (not boring like your parents). One of the biggest factors in starting this new life is picking the right city.

Do you want a big city? To be near the water? To walk everywhere? CBCampus.com and Apartments.com crunched some numbers and compiled a list of the best cities for recent college grads. They factored in entry-level job openings, rental prices for a 1 bedroom apartment, and a plenty of fellow young 20somethings.

Here’s the top 10 list of the best cities accompanied by the monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment.

1. Philadelphia $962

2. Boston $1,343

3. New York $1,520

4. Phoenix $741

5. Chicago $1,029

6. Dallas-Fort Worth $755

7. Los Angeles $1,435

8. Houston $778

9. Detroit $699

10. Atlanta $773

Hopefully this helps you know where to go once you’ve walked across that stage this spring.

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So, one thing that everybody – employee, boss, student – looks forward to is the weekend. Even on the most grueling of Monday mornings, you know that in five days you’re free!

I think it’s healthy and wise to leave your job behind on the weekends. After all, who wants to ruin a good time by checking company e-mail or brainstorming about a project while you’re at a bar? You need that little mental vacation.

However, you should remember a few things when out on the town enjoying yourself.

  • Pictures are worth more than a thousand words. Visual keepsakes of your keg stand on Friday night or the tequila shot that made you brave (or dumb) enough to jump from the roof into a pool shouldn’t go on your social networking profile. Employers look at these sites during the hiring process and could hold them against you. And even if you are employed, they can help co-workers form an idea about you and your work ethic. Tacking the pictures up in your cubicle is also a no-no, if you hadn’t realized.
  • It’s a small world. So don’t go on a drunken tirade in front of a bar full of strangers and namedrop your company and your boss. You never know who’s in the room, the boss, their friends or relatives, or just a gossipy co-worker who can damage your reputation. Really, all inebriated antics in a public setting are risks to your work.
  • Come to think of it, sober rants are risky business. If you’re going to bash your company or officemates, make sure they’re not sitting behind you at a restaurant. (And probably look for a new job if you’re that unhappy.)
  • Bragging rights are for office achievements only. Talking about how you had to vomit with your head out of a cab on the way home Saturday night does not make for good office conversation. Talking about how you’re still hungover on Monday morning is even worse.
  • Think about who you’re inviting out with you. Happy hours are one thing, because you’re probably out with a bunch of co-workers. But inviting a person or two to socialize with you is fine as long as you know they’re the kind of person who’s not going to use your nights out as ammunition against you. Even if you behave perfectly, you don’t want an annoying co-worker telling everybody what they heard a friend of yours say and spreading rumors about the type of person you are.

This isn’t a case against going out and having fun. It’s just a reminder that there’s a certain level of responsibility associated with weekend fun and your professional life.

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Jobs with Benefits

In an ideal world, every job would come with full benefits that cover every expense you’d ever run across. Hopefully you’ll find a job that covers medical, dental, vision, etc. But look at all of the benefits that will come with the position that extend beyond your health needs. Or if you already have a job, look at what you do (and don’t) have.

Are the basics covered? What medical needs are covered? If you have certain health issues, can you afford not to have coverage? Are you still on your parents’ coverage so this isn’t an issue?

How flexible is the schedule? If arriving at work by a specific time is going to be difficult (because of traffic, trains, or your tendency to hit the snooze button 3 times) or you’d prefer to arrive early some mornings so you can leave early (to catch your daughter’s soccer game, to go to night classes, etc.), find out what flexibility you have.

Whom will you meet? If you know this job isn’t The One, but it’s a good stepping stone, do some investigating to see if you might rub elbows with some important players in the industry. Will you be at a desk where you only interact with your colleagues, or will you come in contact with higher-ups in the company? Networking opportunities are invaluable.

What are your odds of promotion? If the job sounds so-so, but you know you can do it and it’s on the direct path to the position you want, it can be worth a shot. Plus, the company might have a history of promoting within, even from entry-level positions. It could be a chance worth taking.

What’s the dress code? I know I mention workplace attire often, but friends are constantly telling me how much they love what they get to wear to work or they hate what they have to wear. Everybody’s different. If wearing a suit every day doesn’t bother you and you’re okay with the cleaning bills, then that’s not a problem. If you honestly hate wearing anything more formal than business casual, is it worth the headache? Are you getting paid enough to have your clothes cleaned and to be buying dress shirts? This is a factor that’s really specific to each person, so think about what it means to you.

Remember that, while benefits are important, this should be asked in the final steps of the hiring process. Asking about salary and benefits immediately will make the employer think you’re after a paycheck, not a career. So once the offer’s on the table, or the hiring manager has brought the topic up, you can begin to ask questions. And don’t be afraid to ask people you know if they’ve ever worked at the company or what they’ve heard about it. A lot of information—not just bad stuff, but the good things, too—can come from people who experienced it firsthand.

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Job Buffet

One of the more fun aspects of job hunting – and I promise it can have enjoyable moments – is that you get to see some new things you might’ve never thought about before. The offices tucked away in buildings you always pass but never go into, the positions you didn’t know existed, the people you get to meet. Regardless of whether or not you take a job with anybody you interview with, you sort of walk through a buffet line of workplaces.

How should you get the best sampling of the delicious job platter?

1. Do some legwork. The Internet’s a fantastic job hunting tool (see number 2), but the serendipitous nature of walking (or driving) can’t be beat. When you’re looking for work, you’ll suddenly notice businesses you hadn’t seen before (such as an advertising agency whose sign you always ignored).

2. Log on. Of course you know to look online, but don’t limit yourself to a narrow, targeted list of jobs. You might think you know the job title you want, but don’t be afraid to enter keywords that appeal to you – you might be surprised to find jobs you never thought of that suit you perfectly.

3. Be willing to go on a lot of interviews. Even if you’re not sure you really want the job, don’t be afraid to show up and see what they have to say. Unless it’s a monstrous day-long interview, you only have an hour or so of your life to lose, and you could end up actually liking what you hear. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to practice your interview techniques.

4. Pick up the phone. If you know of a place you’d like to work (either because of its reputation or word-of-mouth), contact them. They might not be hiring but they could be willing to sit down for a quick interview with you or to hear you out and keep you in mind for a future position that might open up.

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When you’re looking for a job, you really don’t want to think about anything other than “Can I find a job that I’ll love and that will let me pay the bills?” And while those are two very – if not the most – important questions you should ask yourself, you also need to think about whether you’ll fit in the company culture. Even if there is nobody in this world better at you than sales, if you can’t stand the people you work for and with, you won’t care how big your paycheck is.The culture depends on a lot of things – the dress code, everybody’s sense of humor, the rigidity or flexibility of schedules, the expectations for socializing during and after work. A lot of these qualities aren’t something you’ll find in a job description or even in a first interview, but they’re important.

In the Job Hunter’s Questionnaire entry a few weeks ago I mentioned the importance of culture, and I think it’s worth devoting more time. So here’s what to think about during your interview and interaction leading up to a job offer.

  • If you’re given a walk-through of where you’ll be working, note if people look relaxed or are talking to each other or if they’re focused (maybe too focused) on their work.
  • “How often does the team/department meet to discuss goals and progress?” This can give you an idea of whether you’re seen as on your own or if a team camaraderie is stressed.
  • “How would you describe your management style?” You can get a sense of the manager’s tendency or refusal to micromanage.
  • “What is your typical day like?” or “What kind of schedule can I expect?” You don’t want to sound like you’re trying to come in late and leave early, but you’ll probably get a quick sense of whether you’re expected to arrive before the clock strikes 8:00 or if you have some buffer time. That can tell you a lot about the general climate.
  • “How would you describe the kind of person are you looking for to fill this position?” Some hiring managers will mention a sense of humor or a laid-back personality or a hard worker. If the description is entirely about work ethic and doesn’t mention personality type, then there’s a chance the department is focused on results and doesn’t spend a lot of time interacting with each other (for non-business reasons).

The thing to remember is that there’s not a single right or wrong answer for everybody – only for you. You know what suits you, so do what feels right.

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