Job and Interview Advice for the Inexperienced

Over the last few weeks I’ve been approached by a surprising number of friends, each seeking resume, interview, and general job hunting advice.  Jobs are hard to come by these days, especially for graduates of low-to-mid tier schools, without much prior work experience.  Software Engineering is certainly an exception, with good software engineers still in high demand and good starting salaries not much below $100k.  I want to share some beliefs I have about the job hunt and how younger folks without much experience can distinguish themselves.

The most valuable and marketable characteristic of a young person is their enthusiasm and energy.  If you’re inexperienced you’re biggest asset in a job hunting setting is energy, enthusiasm, and general excitement about life, work, and learning.  Do not let your lack of experience bring you down.  Employers know from your resume that you lack experience.  Don’t worry about that, and don’t lie about that.  Instead worry about showing the employer that you’re passionate about learning, ready to crank, and motivated to succeed in a professional role.  Seriously, the more energetic and excited you are, the less your prior experience matters.  And companies are absolutely interested in hiring smart, motivated young employees that can learn.  Believe in yourself, and they’ll believe in you.

In terms of your resume try and focus your resume on your accomplishments, not your day-to-day responsibilities.  An accomplishment weighs in much more significantly than short-lived tasks you performed frequently.  For example, instead of saying you worked with VPs as a bullet point on your resume, focus more on a project you owned and accomplished.

Lastly, I recommend reading How to Win Friends and Influence People as well.  This timeless book doesn’t have job advice per se, but it provides great tools for networking and making friends.  Such tools will only help you give a lasting, good impression in any interview.