The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What advice do you have for college graduates entering the workforce?” is written by Marja Norris, CEO and founder of MarjaNorris.com and author of The Unspoken Code: A Businesswoman’s No-Nonsense Guide to Making It in the Corporate World.
You did it. You’ve graduated. Now you’re wondering how to set out on that rewarding, high-paying career you’ve dreamed about. It’s nerve-wracking passing over those easier-to-land seasonal jobs and holding out for the perfect job, especially as your savings dwindles.
In today’s competitive world, some advise targeting the job you want, not waiting for job openings. Seek out the advice of contacts in your chosen industries or ask to sit down with a department manager. You’ll up your chances of finding your dream job if you first tackle the prep work.
Leave them marveling at your poise and readiness to hit the ground running by following these steps before your informational interviews:
Chart your course
Plan out your career by first picking up a few poster boards at the office supply store or creating an Excel spreadsheet. Use the first board to map out your big life plan: dream job, dream town, dream home, dream family. Use another board to hone in on the search for your dream job. If your dream is landing in the C-suite, what field is it in? What town? How big a company? In what division will you start? List the fields and coveted positions you’d like to pursue.
Brainstorm your contacts
On another board, consider who to target for informational interviews in your field of choice. Didn’t Uncle Ben say he knows the senior vice president of a Seattle software company? Now is the time to network like there’s no tomorrow. It’s who you know that moves you past the receptionist and into the interview.
Make the call
With an informational interview, you can make the initial query through email or LinkedIn. But if you don’t hear back immediately, always follow up in a few days with an actual phone call. I know—it isn’t easy placing the call. I used to rehearse what I’d say and take several calming breaths before picking up the phone. But the personal connection of a voice on the phone (or voice message) shows you’re serious and not afraid to take initiative.
Show up prepared
You have one chance to make a lasting impression in your formal interview. Dress in freshly pressed business attire. If you’re not sure what to wear, reach out to someone in the field for advice. Spend a quiet 10 minutes on the morning of your interview to check in with yourself. Breathe, relax, and envision what you want. Take a superhero pose; it will make you feel more confident.
Always follow up
Within 24 hours of your interview, be sure to send an email reiterating your interest in the job, your appreciation of the person’s time, and how your skills dovetail with the company’s priorities. Make notes on your poster board to remind yourself of the details of the conversation. If you get a call back, you’ll have these to rely on to sound sharp and engaged.
Put that hard-earned degree to work for you, relying on your former study skills to prep. Consider the interview your final exam. I hope you nail it!