Be open to the unexpected, these opportunities can result in the most interesting career journeys.
Leadership Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What are three must-have skills to land your first job? is written by Donna Morris, SVP of people and places at Adobe.
When I graduated from Carleton University in the 80’s, navigating the job landscape looked very different. There was no LinkedIn, Facebook, or Glassdoor. Armed with our newly minted university degrees, we literally pounded the pavement–called friends of friends for career advice, set up informational interviews with alumni, and dropped off paper resumes at companies. Today’s digital applications and virtual networks have transformed many aspects of the job search, but the skills that will help you get your first job–and the second and the third–are pretty timeless:
Do your homework
It worked for you as a student and it’ll work for you as you pursue your first job. You may not have much experience yet, but you can show diligence and intellectual curiosity in your questions and comments during the interview. Do research on the company, financials, products, and people. Find out who the main competitors are, what employees say about the culture, or why analysts and influencers think this is a company to watch. I’m always impressed by candidates who have a thoughtful point of view and are eager to learn more. This is true of whatever stage you are in your career, but especially important when you are first starting out.
Demonstrate your work ethic
Forget trying to spin how your stint lifeguarding at the university pool applies to the job you’re trying to land. Focus instead on the breadth of activities you juggled successfully in college–academics, sports, part-time work, and even volunteering. Show how multi-dimensional you are–all organizations seek individuals who can bring a rich diversity of experiences. This demonstrates how well you can manage competing priorities, and how hard you will work.
Be open to the unexpected
Remember: there is always more than one path to getting to where you want to go, and taking surprising turns can result in the most interesting career journeys. While you may already have your heart set on one specific area, I encourage you to be open to the unexpected. Consider what you can learn and discover by taking a role that isn’t exactly what you imagined for your first job. A first job in sales, for example, can be an incredible foundation for any field, from finance to marketing to human resources.