This Might Be the Most Important Job Search Resource. Are You Using It?


My foot hovers just inches above the grass.

Behind me, Matt is shaking hands with the university’s president. Soon he will be right next to me and I’ll be blocking the way, disrupting the flow of graduating seniors.

But I can’t make myself leave the stage. I’m not ready. In my heart I recognize the meaning behind that small step. Once I leave this stage, I’ll be an adult. When my foot hits that grass, the support and guidance I’ve always relied on will fall away.

Matt’s right on my heels. I stare desperately into the audience of college seniors and their families. The sight of my own parents should bring some sort of relief, but instead I can feel my throat tense up. How could they do this to me? How can they expect me to jump head first into this new world that I know nothing about? All I’ve ever known is school and studying.

I’m not ready to be an adult, but I have to step down.

Leaving behind the life you’ve known over the past 17 years can be terrifying, especially because it can feel like you have to do it all on your own.

Once the graduation party hangover wears off, you’re expected to get a job and start acting like a real-life adult.

The problem is, for a lot of us, we have no idea how to go about doing this. What job positions should a creative writing major be searching for? What is a résumé supposed to look like? Should you bother to include a cover letter? If so, how do you write that cover letter?

Those are the immediate questions recent graduates are faced with when they start the job search. And to make everything even more complicated, there are steps for finding a job that you don’t even know you have to think about.

Steps like reaching out to hiring managers directly, finding the right people to network with, understanding applicant tracking systems, or building up your résumé with personal projects (to name just a few).

Now, there are resources that you can use to find out more about these steps (ahem, the AfterCollege Blog for example) but perhaps the most important job search resource is one that we’re often hesitant to use: our friends and family.

In a conversation I recently had with a friend’s father, Michael Markrich, we discussed what it means to have an advocate for you in the job search, and why we (millennials) need to overcome our fear of asking for help.

Having a son and daughter who both recently graduated from college and became job-seekers, Michael witnessed firsthand the struggles that came along with that transition and also how they could be fixed.

One of the biggest problems he noticed (and that I’ve noticed as well) is that our generation of job-seekers wants to do it all on our own. We don’t want to have to ask for help.

We feel like we should be able to figure out this next phase of life without asking “mommy and daddy” to give us a hand.

The problem with that approach is that we’re missing out on a lot of really good connections and support.

Searching for a job for the first time can be terrifying, especially as those rejection emails roll in (or that painful silence that employers often use instead). It can be extremely difficult not to take it personally.

We have some great advice about how to deal with rejection in the job search, but it can still start to take a toll.

Your cheerleader and advocate

Having someone who is there for you, who wants to see you succeed and be your advocate, can make it a lot easier. They can put it into perspective, talk you through what may have happened, and then work with you to make some changes.

This support system will not only encourage you to keep applying, but will also help you to continue to send out your best résumés and cover letters.

Your key to personal connections and introductions

Also, keep in mind that your parents and their friends have been around a lot longer than you have been. They know people. And they know people who know people. If they know that you are interested in a certain career path, more likely than not, they’ll be able to put you in touch with someone for an informational interview. Maybe they can even set you up with a small project to do within that field. You never know.

People want to help you more than you think. Making it known that you’re searching for a job and are genuinely interested in a certain field can do wonders for your job search. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help.

Your side of the bargain

But that doesn’t mean you can just slack off and expect someone in your immediate network to find you a job. Asking for help requires hard work, determination, and gratitude. Michael explains that the job-seekers he has assisted have all come to him with a plan.

They know what they want to do. They’re looking for ways to build on their experience. They’ve done their research, put time and effort into understanding their industries. And if they get that informational interview or a hiring manager’s contact information, they’re ready to make the most of it.

So, when you ask for help, you have to be ready to follow through.

As Michael says, you should reach out for help in your job search, but once you get hired it’s up to you to prove to both those who have helped you as well as your employer that you’re worth the position.

Homework time! Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your job search! Reach out to family, family friends, anyone who is in your network. Accept the support they give you but be sure to follow through with everything. If you’re given a contact for an informational interview, do your research, come up with the right questions, send a thank you note to both the subject of the interview as well as the person who put you in contact with them.


6 Responses to “This Might Be the Most Important Job Search Resource. Are You Using It?”

  1. Elena Romanyuk

    Absolutely. When I was looking for my first position in my field, my best friend called me one evening to say that her mom had mentioned over dinner that there was an interesting job opening in her department. I inquired about it, but it turns out that I was wholly unqualified. However, at the time I was staying with another friend and his family, and his uncles had a friend that they casually (again over dinner) told about me and my plight. She was interested in meeting me, and after I came to see her I found out that she knew the head of the department where my best friend’s mom worked. She was able to set up an interview for me, the guy was impressed, and – even though I wasn’t entirely qualified – he created a new position and hired me. With the recommendation of multiple people he already knew (my best friend’s mom and my friend’s-uncles’-friend), he trusted that I could learn on the job. And I did; I ended up being in that position for 2 years. Casual dinner conversations for the win!

  2. Kayla Gehringer

    What do you do when your parents are as clueless as you are because they have only a) an Associate’s or b) never finished their degree? Or what if your aunt who is well-connected hates you? And her daughter, also well-connected, doesn’t want to help you? What about that uncle who is married to someone with ideals opposite of your own who, conveniently, is never around to help you? Furthermore, ha, the industry I am desperate to break into isn’t even headquartered in my state, but I can’t afford to move to New York. Looks like I’m stuck with my parents’ basement and working shoddy retail jobs until I die judging from this article. (Though I will die if I have to take another retail gig… that last one nearly did kill me.) My point is: what can I do if the odds are all stacked against me? (Aside from see a doctor about my depression and anxiety.)

    • Melissa Suzuno

      Hi Kayla,

      We understand your frustrations and anxiety, and we hope that by reading some of the other posts on this blog (by people from a range of backgrounds and circumstances), you’ll see that there’s not just one single way to get a job. We don’t mean to say that everyone HAS to use personal connections in order to get ahead; just that if you have them, you shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of them. There are plenty of people (even recent grads) who get jobs without the benefit of a well-connected network.

      It sounds like you already have an idea of the industry you’d like to work in. That’s a great first step! I’d suggest spending some time really researching this industry. Find out as much as you can about it and who the key players are. Then start reaching out to people to ask if you can do informational interviews with them. It might take a while, but you should be able to find a few people who’d be willing to chat with you on the phone or via Skype for 15 or 20 minutes. Ask them about how they got started. What advice do they have for someone in your position? Is there a way you can get experience even while you’re still living in another state? Do they know of any short-term opportunities so you could come for a week or two and see if this is really the ideal job and industry for you?

      It’s easy to feel frustrated and helpless, but don’t give up hope. I think this post might also be worth checking out – it’s pretty incredible to see how Pete approached his job search and networking (and no one in his family was helping him out):