NINJA to “Adult”: Dos and Don’ts for Landing That Job

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Career Advice

For anyone who has graduated college in the early 2000s (hello, millennials!), the economic downturn is neither news nor a joke. As a successfully employed millennial, I am here to help you get that job you have your eye on— whether that eye is pointed towards the sky and lofty ambitions or down toward the ground and that darn rent check.

Unfortunately millennials have a cruel reputation in the current job market. They are characterized as lazy, unreliable, unappreciative and worst of all, “NINJAS”: “no income, no job and no assets.” Now, let’s get down to how to overcome these stereotypes and land that job!

Author’s Note: Most of the advice is skewed towards a standard 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. workplace, where you will be starting from the bottom rung of the corporate structure. You all-hours types may pick and choose the advice you find relevant or chuck it all and come up with your own. I am all ears!

The First Rule: Show up, show up, show up! 

  • If a company has reviewed your resume and called you for an interview, your choices include:
    • Accepting and attending the interview.
      • With the provision that rescheduling is acceptable. Hey, we are all busy humans.
    • Declining with your apologies.
  • Your choices DO NOT include:
    • Skipping the interview without prior notice.
    • Ignoring phone calls from the company.
    • Sending someone in your stead, saying “Oh, but he/she is better than me at this.”
  • Once you have decided to attend the interview:
    • Make a “dry run” to the office a week to a day before. You don’t want to be searching for the building at 8:59 a.m. when your interview is at 9!
    • If there are any problems, contact the hiring manager or whoever initially contacted you for the interview. “Ghosting” may work for those pesky online dates, but it is most certainly not the right tactic for employment.

The Second Rule: Be prepared, part I.

  • Bring copies of your resume.
    • Yes, I said multiple copies. It may not be necessary, but it is always good to have a few on hand.
  • Learn about the position beforehand.
    • I know sometimes it is difficult to get a feel for the exact requirements of the job. But, you are out there in the real world! Figure it out!
    • It is the only way to market your brand (YOU!) effectively. You can get ideas from GlassdoorMonsterLinkedIn and even Facebook on what different jobs entail.
  • Learn as much about the company as you can beforehand.
    • Is it based only in (your state/country) or is there possibility of travel?
    • Is the company’s work mostly conducted on site?
    • What is the company hierarchy?
    • A lot of this information can also be found through a quick Google search or on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Monster or Facebook.

The Third Rule: What to wear, or rather, what NOT to wear.

  • You know that saying “dress for the job you want?” In this case, no. Dress in business casual. I don’t care if the interviewer is in Dad shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. He earned the right to wear that when he got the job.
  • You are trying to impress everyone you meet. You don’t have the job yet. This interview is not your chance to show others how you think they should dress.
  • So, unless you are interviewing for a job at a daycare, where a suit and tie would be out of the question…wear business casual.
  • If you don’t know what business casual is, Google it. Here, I Googled it for you.

The Fourth Rule: Market yourself correctly for the position.

  • Let’s be real here. If you’re a relatively recent grad, you are most likely applying for your first “real” job. Unless you were the E*TRADE baby.
  • As a result, you might not have a lot of prior job experience. If you were truthful on your resume, — Hello, TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year 2006”! — your interviewer will need to know that. So come armed with examples of “real world” applications of concepts you studied in school, or just relevant experiences from your past.
  • Don’t undersell yourself. This moment is really your chance to shine and impress.
  • (Did you Google “TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year 2006”? Guaranteed to make you smile!)

The Fifth Rule: Think twice about bringing your cell phone…and your mom.

  • I am not saying you can’t bring either to your interview. I get it. Both are important.
  • Cell phone: SILENT. No “buts.” SILENT and AWAY. I don’t care if you are bored waiting for the interviewer in the lobby. Your mother taught you better!
  • Speaking of your mother, it’s sweet that she wants to come along on your first interview. Ask her to wait in the car or go for a coffee or tea. DO NOT take her into the interview with you. You may think that she will help you land the job with freshly baked cookies, but she’s a variable you can’t account for. You have no idea what the interviewer will think.
  • This advice applies to dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, legal guardians, puppies, kitties, robots, pet rocks, any other pets and anyone or anything else you could think of to take your interview.

The Sixth Rule: Consider your long-term goals vs. your short-term needs.

  • This job may not be the opportunity you dreamed of as a small girl roaming the canals of Holland. But chances are, if you applied, it is something that will aid in your journey through life and adulthood.
  • Be honest, but not in a way that costs you the opportunity.
  • If the interviewer asks about your future plans, try to tie your answer into the position you are interviewing for.
  • Having your head in the clouds is perfectly acceptable, but stand tall and plant your feet on solid ground.

 The Seventh Rule: Be prepared, part II.

  • Know your commute.
    • Remember what I said about the “dry run?” That part is pretty crucial. Think about what that commute will be like in the dead of winter, in monsoon season, during the Euro World Cup, along the Pride Week Parade Route, what have you.
  • Be prepared for long hours in the beginning.
    • These are things you might want to consider before taking the job. Will you be content working from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. in the beginning to figure out the office dynamics and your workload?
  • Be prepared for “gopher” or “grunt” work.
    • Sorry for the reality check, but you will most likely be starting from the bottom. (Cue Drake lyric: “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”)
    • You have two choices: either you complain bitterly until nobody wants to hear it anymore or you use this opportunity to learn the corporate structure of the company and slowly and stealthily climb the ranks until the world is your oyster! I advocate for choice two, personally.

The Eighth and Final Rule: Try to enjoy yourself.

  • One day, you might look back on this experience and ask yourself, “why was I so afraid?”
  • If things don’t go in your favor, at least it was a learning opportunity.
  • Interviewers generally react to a smiling interviewee with a smile of their own. Unless you are interviewing to be in the CIA. Then you are on your own, kid!

Good luck, and may the force be with you!

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