Your job search as a social activity

Did last month’s Senior Meeting cheer you up? 36% of Middlebury students in 2011 graduated with a job. 25% continued looking for a job post-graduation. And 11% got some sort of internship or fellowship. This is from a survey of 688 students in the Class of 2011 of which 69% completed the survey. And I’m going to take a wild guess that the other 31% of students who didn’t fill out the survey probably trended toward not having jobs.

How do those numbers help you? They don’t. They provide a “that could be me” reference point and serve to thoroughly terrify a good number of seniors into being overwhelmed.

The one good thing about the statistics is that it gets Middlebury seniors talking. And that’s a really good thing because it’s easy to make a job search a solitary experience. And I would argue that done right, a social job hunt would be better for a good portion of students.

Here’s what I mean. When you write a paper or take a test at Middlebury, you might do peer edits or study together but at the end of the day you and only you do the work. The baseline expectation in most classes is that your academic success is based on a solitary process (of hours in the Library or BiHall). And a lot of the time, Middlebury students are private about their resulting grades. It’s partly competition and partly wanting to keep the process kosher.

Why would you approach a job search in the same way? Sure, you might ask a friend to look over your resume or say “I applied to this job today.” But I rarely see groups of students approach the job search in a truly collaborative or social way.

The most obvious support of a group is emotional. Keep each others’ spirits high during an often long process. And listen carefully to your friends without spitting out random lines of job search “wisdom” back at people. As I’ve said before, stop saying things like “work on your resume.”

A moderate challenge for your friends is to look out for one another and share the details of your job search, so lots of people can learn from you. This is difficult because you don’t want your job search to be gossip fodder. I certainly wouldn’t want some random person hearing about how I failed in the final interview because I showed up fifteen minutes late. But the lessons and stories you learn from your friends are far more powerful at teaching than some blog post on CSO’s website.

The other part of this is to actively pass on leads, contacts, and prospects to your friends. Say you’re talking to an alumnus at an information session and you think, “This job is definitely not for me.” You could end the convo and walk away or you could say, “Hey, my friend Thor would be really interested in hearing about your company. He’s not only a computer science major but also loves legos like you do.”

The ultimate challenge is to sit down with a group of friends and hash out an active plan to help each other. This way you can maximize the use of stories in networking. It means being far more systematic in approach than simply just passing on contacts or serving as emotional support. I want to see a group of students really work the system from start to finish.

Approach it like you would a group project. Assign work. Create deadlines. Schedule check-in meetings. One of your friends can’t go to an info session? Go in place of him take notes, meet people, report back. Share spreadsheets that track what you’ve applied to, the strategies you used, and the response you’re getting. Share company research responsibilities. Yes, you’ll run into the same issues group projects run into (shirking responsibilities, uneven workload, etc.) but there’s also a good chance that you’ll get a lot out of it and remain sane. Finally, do not let the fact that you and your friend are looking for work in divergent fields stop you — there will be some similarity that will help you both.

I draw a lot of this advice from the many months blogging here (now ended), an experimental exercise of collective job hunting among some friends of mine. I’d say we achieved the moderate level of the social job search listed above. Other experiences welcome in the comments below.

Next post: Experiential street cred and how (just like a prayer) Middlebury will take you there. More career posts.

Photo via gurana.