Table of contents
- Learn German ASAP
- Don’t overthink starting. Just start
- It’s mostly about selling yourself
- Continue when it’s hard… Especially when it’s hard
- Rejections don’t matter
- Pick a boss, not a job
- Set yourself apart from the competition
- Look for jobs where you can apply your special skill
- Write an amazing cover letter
- Connect, Connect, Connect!
EU Alumnus Marco van Bree is currently working as the co-founder of NextGrad, a Munich-based company specializing in training graduates.
Through this experience and his other professional activities, he has acquired a polished business acumen and in this article for the EU blog he shares his top tips for business students who will find themselves entering the workforce soon.
EU students can also receive tips, advice and guidance from the Career Services Department on all of the EU campuses.
Learn German ASAP
There are a lot of jobs out there that don’t require German, but many do. To avoid being ruled out from the very beginning, it’s a good idea to learn at least some basic German.
If you want to be successful you can’t let excuses get in your way; decide to learn German and follow through!
Don’t overthink starting. Just start
Everybody gets hung up on the idea of starting at some point. The hardest thing to do is to get going but don’t think about it, just do it!
Your first job will probably not be the best one; mine certainly wasn’t. But the value and added experience that you get from these types of challenges help to prepare you for something better in the future. Managers respect employees who have struggled through entry-level jobs much more because they’ve been there.
Everybody started somewhere.
Failure helps you to move forward. It only hurts if you let it define you.
It’s mostly about selling yourself
My strategy when finding work has always been to try as hard as I can to land an interview. Once I got an interview, I felt very confident that I could get the job.
Good interviewing techniques are a skill that you can develop while studying – it’s not just about selling yourself, but also knowing yourself, your skills and your capacities. Learn to be comfortable in your skin and to be open and authentic. If you believe you are unique, others will too.
Continue when it’s hard… Especially when it’s hard
Not every job is fun, and some positions are extremely tough. At times, you may feel like giving up, but giving up is never the solution. Persevere and you’ll take so much experience away from your experience: the confidence you build from pushing through when it matters really helps to define your character. Are you a quitter or a winner?
Rejections don’t matter
Don’t feel too sensitive about being rejected. Unfortunately, it’s part of any job hunt and definitely not personal. It’s not an evaluation of your skills, and you shouldn’t let it affect your self-esteem; rather, you should try to see it just as an incompatibility issue.
Think of it like this – if you and a company are incompatible, the company is actually doing you a favor by not beginning a relationship in the first place. Being in a situation like that would only make you unhappy.
You can also choose to view every rejection as an opportunity for improvement. It may sound like a self-help guide cliché, but that is exactly what I did. I optimized every application and cover letter based on feedback from my rejections until I hit the sweet spot. And the sweet spot was good. Really good. Failure helps you to move forward. It only hurts if you let it define you.
Pick a boss, not a job
Perhaps this sounds like advice one would get from someone who has worked for a company for thirty years but, in my opinion, your first three working years are the most important.
Those are the years that will define your attitude, skill set and capacity to solve problems. My first boss was amazing. He was the best at everything; at finance, at excel, at marketing, at sales – you name it. He was a true leader, and I learned a great deal from him. Many people who have had what appears to be a more impressive internship on paper, were not as fortunate and didn’t come close to learning as much I did. The result was that, at interviews, managers recognized that I knew what I was talking about. You can’t really fake that in my opinion: either you know what you’re talking about, or you don’t. Experienced managers will always prefer someone with concrete experience over someone who didn’t really learn much from their internship.
Set yourself apart from the competition
Learn a special skill. Become a specialist at something! If you want an internship, a better job or a better salary – become an expert! What’s your unique selling point? Just like everything else in the world, there is high demand when resources are scarce. When demand goes up, prices go up. It could even be something as simple as being exceptional at excel. Just become amazing at something and make yourself indispensable: people will need you.
My ‘thing’ was chess. I was a player and teacher and used this as a strategic advantage to set myself apart. I emphasized my critical thinking and strategic skills. You don’t necessarily have to play chess, but you should do something that sets you apart from other competition.
Look for jobs where you can apply your special skill
By looking for these type of jobs, you immediately increase your chances of getting hired. People who offer jobs have a problem and they are looking for a solution. If your special skill or USP, mentioned in point 7, helps them solve it then you have already put yourself in the top 5% of applications.
Write an amazing cover letter
When you don’t have a lot of experience, it’s difficult to stand out. The important things to do are:
- Get started on something, anything – and;
- Write an amazing cover letter! Cover letters are incredibly important; they’re your first contact with a company, and they can help you get that first meeting even if your experience doesn’t. After that, it’s all about selling yourself in the interview. Doing this is how I beat people with significantly more experience than me and got my first real job as a manager at Freeletics.
Connect, Connect, Connect!
One of the most important things I did during my studies was to connect with people from Munich. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was adding all sorts of important people to LinkedIn. The point is that this idea you might have about business being distant and “professional”, is not really true. People are just people and if you connect with them, talk with them, show them kindness and simply ask for things that other people wouldn’t, you will find you’re going places that others don’t.
Get out of your comfort zone and do the things others are not. You may not have so much to offer at first, but even asking for advice from a credible professional could help you land a job in 6 months from now. Recruiters are always looking for trustworthy people with integrity. If you know you possess these characteristics – use them!