It may seem far away now, but four years of undergraduate study goes by quickly, and when it ends, suddenly it’s time to face the real world. If grad school isn’t in the cards — or even if it is; but not for a few years — students will eventually be faced with the prospect of finding suitable, interesting and worthwhile jobs. The economy may be in a slow recovery as defined by national economists, but entry-level jobs are still really hard to land, and many companies are not hiring at all. So where will you focus your job search energies, and how do you position yourself to win the job you want?

To land the position you want, you might begin by clarifying for yourself what type of job is right for you at this stage of your life.  Most Georgetown students aren’t typical and won’t be satisfied in jobs that are typical, either. Georgetown students are smart, hard-working, high achievers with a broad world view. The types of jobs that meet their career needs will be the ones that challenge them and reward them, that provide global opportunities and that take full advantage of their intellect and drive. The more specific you can be in defining your interests, the more likely you are to find a job that will really make you happy.

If you go to work in a big company, you’ll learn how to do things right from the start of your career.  From there, they’ll say, you can go anywhere you want.  Small- and medium-size companies love to hire people who’ve worked for and been trained by the big companies in their respective industries.  All of this may be true, but it’s not universally so.

Small companies generally have less well-developed training programs and fewer resources to help you get started, but they have other benefits that may not be so apparent. Because they have fewer people to get the work done, they’re likely to want and need you to do more than their large counterparts. This means they’ll give you more responsibility faster and let you run with the ball. Less structure and broader responsibilities mean you have a chance to learn more, spread your wings wider and grow more quickly in your new career environment. Small companies often operate at a faster pace than large ones, too, which is generally much more satisfying for young professionals.

What’s right for you can be answered only by you.  If you choose the large company path, identify companies that are the true leaders in their fields and pursue them. Do your research and know what they’re saying about themselves in the public media. Read the investment bank research analyst reports about them, too, so you know what the unbiased experts are saying. This way, you’ll be well-informed when you get to the interview stage.

No matter which path you choose, develop your list of target companies and go after them.  Don’t be waiting for the phone to ring, and don’t be afraid to ask for help getting your foot in the door.  If you know someone with a connection, use it.  Everyone is ready to help a graduating student get their important first job.

 

R. Douglas Kahn is executive chairman at Tetragenetics Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., biotech company. He previously served as CEO of two high-tech public companies and three venture capital-financed early stage technology companies.

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