HELP ME HELP YOU!
As a fellow “80s” kid I was lucky enough to have watched the movie “Jerry Maguire” when it was released in 1996. For those who have not watched the movie, I fondly recall the one famous “shower room” scene where Jerry (starring Tom Cruise), a struggling sports agent, was trying to persuade his client Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr), to work with him in order to secure a more lucrative football (American) contract. As Jerry’s advice for Rod to be more entertaining fall on deaf ears, he lashes out a final “Help me Help YOU” plea to him to change his ways. Check the scene out. It is hilarious!
The Hard Truth
So what does Jerry Maguire’s shower scene with Rod have to do with jobs? Quite a lot, actually. If you have ever experienced asking someone for a favor to be recommended for job opening, and you find yourself not hearing back from the person, you are not alone! As you’re reading this – I am going to give tell you the real reason why your contact has potentially not referred you – he or she does not trust or feel confident enough about your ability, or fit, to make a heartfelt recommendation. Strong language I know. Yet it is the hard truth.
Think about it. If the above two conditions were met and there is truly a job opening available in your contact’s company, such that he can put a good word in for you, why wouldn’t he do so? There is so much upside to this - if you get hired in and do so well in your career, he gets credit for doing a great service to the company in identifying and bringing in top talent. College campus recruiters too, in a nutshell, are simply gatekeepers of the company. They take a first pass of your candidacy by looking at your resume for supporting evidence that would make you a “safe” bet.
Ultimately, the natural tendency for people is to try to minimize their risk of recommending the wrong person as much as possible. And it is ultimately our job to convince them we are as good of a “safe” bet as possible.
Your Resume is YOU, on Paper
The resume, or Curriculum Vitae, paints a professionally picture of you, quite on a literal sense. To put things in context, a college-freshmen should imagine him or herself being handed a blank resume document at matriculation to college; and that this white sheet of paper will document every meaningful milestone, accomplishment, or wins that the student would achieve for the next four years.
Picture Source: http://www.hotfootrecruiters.com
While some students may have momentum to pull their noses ahead of the race, be it through connections or born talent, 99% of what is written in this piece of paper is earned. Anything good in life (bar the exceptions), especially at the career search front, does not typically get handed to one on a silver platter. This is especially apparent for any international student who is pursuing his or her education overseas and would like to stay in this country beyond graduation to work. If you happen to fall into this category, I can certainly empathize (having been in your shoes before) and understand that you might have to not only swim against a relentless wave of political and economic headwinds, but also excel against the local student competition in order to be gainfully employed in the country after graduation.
During the rough times when many of my men-tees receive countless rejection letters from prospective recruiters, I would share with them and inadvertently remind myself of this piece of advice - if what you want is so easy to get, then anyone could have it. If that were the case, then it cannot be considered as an accomplishment. Ironically, it is precisely because the task at hand is hard and difficult that it warrants a celebration when it is achieved.
What Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger
The logic is simple - flip the table around and ask yourself – if you are a recruiter, professor or mentor, what would you like to see from this international student such that you would be willing to stick your head out and recommend him for a job opening? By turning the tables around, it may become clearer as to what a student or professional may need to do to have a chance at a job opening.
Simply, you are far likely to get buy-in from mentors and the people you meet to help achieve your career objectives if you show evidence, or a proven record of past instances that exhibit grit, discipline, tenacity and hard work. Believe it or not, people want to help people who help themselves.
Make Your Resume and Career Search go WOW
Given that sheer hard work doesn’t necessarily warrant absolute success, it is therefore important to work smart, especially in the foreign context. If you are a current international student, be it in Asia, U.K, Australia, and especially in the U.S, here are some tried and tested tips and tricks that you can use instantly to give your domestic career search a massive boost!
Source: Pinterest - Kid from the Movie "UP"
Seek a Mentor - The modern equivalent of a Sensei (i.e. teacher), or the Miyagi in the Karate Kid Movie, a great mentor can be your biggest supporter, wisest coach and greatest advocate for your candidacy. Seek mentors that you look up to and whom have established a name for themselves in the field or industry that you wish to enter. It's better and definitely recommended if you are able to find the opportunity to demonstrate your skillsets, knowledge and ability to this mentor. That would mean getting involved in organizations, causes or initiatives that would expose you to such individuals (refer to point #5) . Conversely, it is frowned upon to do a cold call - that is send someone a LinkedIn text to someone asking him or her to establish a mentorship relationship with you without first establishing some level of familiarity or association. Ultimately, mentors can certainly be a great source of reference and guide for your job search process. For starters, if you are at the freshmen to junior level in college, seeking a mentor who's at their senior year can be a great choice given that they are still in college and naturally could be the ones with whom you can relate to the most.
Reach out to a Career Counselor- It is extremely crucial that you schedule time to meet with your designated career counselor (on campus) to identify a game plan as soon as possible. Career counselors can help you identify the types of industries and companies you should focus your time on based on your course of study and interest. This can significantly help save you time while increasing your chances of success simply by narrowing down your search pool! Career coaches are also likely able to advise you well on the immigration rules and country policies that influence the way domestic companies hire international students.
Developing Good Habits - In order to achieve a desired result, good habits need to be formed. Keep a journal or some form of log book to note down the activities that take up your time each day, so you get a clear idea of where your time and energy goes. Logging can allow you to identify some level of pattern for the activities that you do. Once you've identified those patterns, adjustments can be made accordingly to steer your time towards participating in activities that would add color to your resume.
Get Involved - Consider investing your time in meaningful endeavors beyond your primary course of study such as picking up a new skill-set (e.g. coding), joining a professional club (that has a strong career centered culture), or volunteering in a non-profit organization that aligns with your beliefs. Companies are looking for well-rounded candidates and not cookie cutter ones. That could mean doing something that you're extremely passionate in or run counter to everything else other people are doing. It can be anything that makes you stand out among the competition!
Practice and Accept Failing is OK! - No real surprises here. As Albert Eisenstein famous said "Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work". While there is no doubt that you may fall flat on your face doing something new for the very first few times, practice makes perfect! Be it learning how to interview for the very first time, reaching out to someone for advice (and getting rejected), or simply getting comfortable talking to a recruiter, don't give up just because you did not do it well the first time! It may hurt in the beginning, but it'll get better! Persevere!
KEEP WORKING GUYS!