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College graduates: How to land your first job

March 21, 2015, 3:00 PM UTC
David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global

The Leadership Insider 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 are three tips for nailing a job interview?” is written by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.

Now, it’s a vague memory. I can barely remember what I said, but I can still remember the nervousness I felt deep in my gut that day. My arms shaking as I handed off my resume. It was my first job interview; I was 15 years old and I desperately wanted it. At the time, I never could have told you why the Colorado Springs Sky Sox ended up choosing me to work in their clubhouse that summer. After all, I was an ordinary kid — passionate about baseball and eager to do anything to land my dream job.

But looking back now, after doing a lot of hiring myself, I know exactly why I got that job: it was my passion and willingness to learn. In hindsight, maybe I should have asked for more than minimum wage! As graduation approaches, it would behoove new graduates to heed a few lessons from my younger self:

Be passionate, but prudent
Without question, the people who are the most successful are also the ones who are overly passionate about what they do. It’s not just a job, but something that you genuinely enjoy. It’s much easier to be committed, creative, and show initiative when it is. Many employers seek out individuals who are passionate about the company’s purpose or product. Make sure to demonstrate this during the interview.

Look for jobs that align with your career goals, your natural talents, and your values. But, don’t allow your passion to become obnoxious. There’s a big difference between a hobby and a job. Be deliberate about the value you can add and articulate why your passion will benefit the company.

Be confident, but humble
If you don’t have confidence in yourself, why should somebody else? Your prospective employer is looking for someone to be part of a team. They’re looking for you to demonstrate an ability to contribute. When I first graduated from college I found myself back in the interview chair. Much to my surprise, I quickly landed a job at a marketing firm – building websites – despite the fact that my only experience building websites was from a few HTML classes I took in college.

After I got to know the hiring manager fairly well, I asked him why he chose me: “Confidence,” he said. “You clearly demonstrated that even if you didn’t know all the answers you were confident in your ability to figure them out.” Confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job is an essential trait for new graduates. But overconfidence and a lack of self awareness is potentially even more damaging than a lack of confidence.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What are three tips for nailing a job interview?

Why you should treat a job interview like a first date by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

Why an impressive resume won’t get you hired by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of

Birchbox co-CEO: How to nail a job interview by Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-CEO of Birchbox.

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