NEW YORK, May 11 /PRNewswire/ -- "As spring graduates enter the job market, avoiding five common mistakes will help them win the right job," says Nathan Bennett, who with Stephen Miles has written a new book for job seekers called Your Career Game (www.yourcareergame.com).
"There are signs that there will be a slight uptick this year in hiring new college graduates, but the market will remain fiercely competitive," says Mr. Miles, a top CEO coach and Vice Chairman of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that employers are planning to hire 5.3% more graduates this year than they did from the class of 2008-09.
"Every move you make is an important part of your overall 'career game' and can affect you and your opportunities down the road," says Dr. Bennett, a professor of management at Georgia Tech.
Mistakes to avoid include:
- Don't sabotage your personal "brand" – "I call this generation 'looking for your 15 minutes' – everyone thinks he or she is going to be a star," says Mr. Miles. "But managing your personal brand is about building a strong foundation for your career beyond a 15-minute timeframe, both online and off. Recruiters today begin our research on candidates by doing extensive web searches on people – including all of the social media hot spots. A misstep online, whether it's a compromising photo or an immature status update, can be a career-limiting move for a candidate – before they've even stepped onto the game board."
- Don't be afraid to jump on an "out of the box" opportunity – "Everyone understands how difficult the job market is for the class of 2010," says Dr. Bennett. "No one will question an 'out of the box' career move, such as teaching or working for a nonprofit; the economy actually provides great cover for you to do something you want to do. But remember that an unusual move will become part of your story that needs to compel future employers to want you on their team. You need to be able to tell a great story about how this experience was an investment you made in yourself. As a result, you've become a better buy for your next employer. To the extent you can do that, you will see this first move pay an ROI across your entire career."
- Don't be afraid to take the job "no one else wants" – "People constantly misunderstand the risk/reward ratio in opportunities like this," says Dr. Bennett. "This might mean working at an 'off-label' company, or in a less attractive place to live, or at a company known for destroying people's spirit – but still teaching a lot about an industry. Or there may be an opening at a company that is struggling or broken in some way. This can be an opportunity to find something and fix it, and your reputation will be enhanced."
- Don't miscalculate the tradeoff between breadth and depth – Some employers will provide you an opportunity to develop deep skills in an area, while others will allow you to experience rotation programs that expose you to many aspects of the business. Each has its advantages and disadvantages as "first stops" in a career. As Mr. Miles says, "Excellence does not come from doing many things at once. In fact, you typically get below-average outcomes when you try to master too many skills." On the other hand, Dr. Bennett adds, "When you leave school still unsure about where you can best make a positive impact on a company, the opportunity to learn on the company's dime makes sense."
- Don't be blinded by a paycheck – "You may have to sacrifice some on compensation for opportunities to make a real investment in your skills and experience," Dr. Bennett advises. "The best jobs are where you can learn the most and make the quickest impact. The sooner you can demonstrate your ability to make a difference, the sooner you will make yourself a tougher competitor for the next job."
"Many new grads this spring will be forced to take jobs they see as 'suboptimal' based on their own long-standing expectations of where they'd be after leaving a good school," explains Dr. Bennett.
"But we think it is critical not to despair. Your first job out of school is just one move in a very long career game.
"This first job will be prominent on your resume for some time – and you should consider what it will communicate to the next few employers down the line. But the key is in understanding how each opportunity you have will improve the quality of the story you tell about yourself as an employee and as an important contributor of skills and experience."
If you would like to speak with Nate Bennett or Stephen Miles, please contact Davia Temin, Suzanne Oaks, or Elisabeth Behr of Temin and Company at 212-588-8788 or [email protected].
Your Career Game: How Game Theory Can Help You Achieve Your Professional Goals is out this month from Stanford University Press.
Stephen Miles is a Vice Chairman of Heidrick & Struggles, overseeing the firm's worldwide executive assessment/succession planning activities. He specializes in CEO succession and has partnered with numerous boards of global Fortune 500 companies to ensure that a successful leadership selection and transition occurs. Mr. Miles is a coach to 10 CEOs/COOs around the world.
Nathan Bennett is the Catherine W. and Edwin A. Wahlen Professor of Management at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Bennett is a founding member and academic advisor to the COO Circle, a group of more than 100 Chief Operating Officers from the world's largest companies and leading non-profits. He is a frequent speaker and commentator in the business press and has spent over 20 years in the design and delivery of career development programs for executives in a number of Fortune 500 companies.
SOURCE Nathan Bennett; Stephen A. Miles