How To Land That First “Professional” Job – The Prep

My wife and I are so proud of our oldest son (Ian / 25) who just received his Bachelor’s Degree in Web Design and Interactive Media.

He has just returned home after attending the New England Institute of Art, in Boston. While in college he also worked at a retail store for pocket money and began paying down his school loans vs. letting the interest pile-up prior to that first “required” payment six months after graduation.

Now, it’s time to land his first “professional” job. This requires defining and executing his very first marketing plan.

So, here we go.

While details and approaches to landing a job may vary depending on the nature of the profession, there are a number of common components the job-seeker would include in their marketing plan.

  • Resume
  • Cover letter template (to be later tuned for each prospective employer)
  • LinkedIn profile
  • A plan to scour the net for opportunities and submit resumes

All of the above is good. And, this is (at least) what everyone else is doing. Consider this the foundation. That said, if this is all we do, we will NOT stand-out above the crowd, making it a longer road to landing the desired job.

Let’s now talk about the above items and “begin” to share strategies to make us stand-out, on a solid foundation.


It must be complete and concise, not overly burdened with text and highly polished (perfect grammar and spelling, consistency in formatting, use of abbreviations (or not), etc.) with the goal of projecting a professional image.

A new college graduate should “easily” be able to contain the resume on a single page (others of us would be wise to do so as well).

And, it is helpful to make it stand-out with some personality (without going overboard)

If you’d like to view what I would consider an outstanding example, my son’s resume is available on his website (by clicking here).

Cover Letter

The cover letter is a tailored introduction to the person we wish to engage in conversation with, about potential opportunities at their firm. In today’s world this would be a well-crafted email message which would contain our resume as an attachment. That said, we must make sure we effectively manage our email (the topic of a prior post) or we WILL quickly lose out on opportunities.

The content of the cover letter should include:

  • The introduction – Who we are and why we are contacting this person.
  • The main body – Why we feel we are an outstanding candidate for their consideration. This should include any special distinctions that would be valued by a potential employer. My son’s includes: a high GPA, resulting in him being on the President’s List of the college!
  • The close – An indication that we are aware that s/he may be considering many candidates and reinforcing the fact that we would intend for any conversation they’d be willing to have with us as a mutually beneficial investment of time. That is, we might have some interesting perspective to share with them based on our recent training and experiences, and we look forward to learning more about them and their industry.
  • Our contact information – The most important being our email and cell phone number.

LinkedIn Profile

A LinkedIn Profile has many facets.

The first step is making sure that it precisely matches our resume.

From there, it is important to be well-connected: with our professors, prior or existing employers and other colleagues we’ve shared experiences with.

In addition, we can showcase our work.

There is no need for me to go into the “how” here, as LinkedIn provides easy-to-follow prompts (a wizard, of sorts) to guide us through the process of doing ALL of the above – and more!. It is just a matter of doing it…

Finally, we must be aware that this tool is for “professional” use NOT “personal” (like Facebook). They are 2 entirely different things and must be managed accordingly and separately! If you haven’t read the prior post on this topic (of managing your online presence) you are encouraged to do so now (simply click here). This particular post could literally make or break your career!

Question: Is it now time to scour the net for opportunities and submit resumes?

Not quite. Before making any noise (sending out our cover letter and resume to prospective employers) it is important to make sure that a professional image is portrayed at each potential contact point. And, that we “test” things with our inner-circle. This includes:

Our email signature:

  • Containing our full name, title or area of expertise, URL and phone number. Note: If we don’t (yet) have a website or it doesn’t apply, we can provide the URL to our LinkedIn profile.
  • Setup to automatically drop into EVERY email we send (which is a basic feature available within email clients).

Our voice mail greeting:

  • Politely, professionally and positively greeting the caller with our name
  • Asking them to leave a detailed message, their name, phone number and the best time to return their call

Our “live” greeting:

From now on, we must consider EVERY call that comes into our cell phone as a potential employer. Want to “up” the chances that they will AGGRESSIVELY pursue us? Then, we must portray a professional image on answering their call – EVERY TIME!

Similar to the beginning of our voice mail greeting, all we have to do is politely, professionally and positively greet the caller with our full name. That’s it.

Time to Share – With Our Inner-Circle

Once ALL of the above is done we can feel comfortable that our “foundational” package is ready to share.

We begin by letting our “inner-circle” (family, friends, mentors, etc.) know that we are a newly degreed candidate for the specific area(s) of expertise. This can be done by:

  • Sharing an update about ourselves in LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Sending a well-crafted email (a generic version of the cover letter) with resume attached letting people know of our availability and asking if they, or someone they know, could contact us if they have a need for our skills.

This supports 2 objectives:

  1. Someone in our inner-circle may actually need, or know someone who needs, our services.
  2. Our inner-circle will provide feedback in the form of comments, questions or ideas which can help to hone our “package.” In fact, it is helpful to request such feedback when sharing our package with our inner-circle.

Once we’ve done the above we can feel confident that we are prepared to begin sharing our package with others we may not yet know, as we have taken steps to dramatically improve the first impression we will make on them.

In a subsequent post I’ll share additional strategies a newly degreed job-seeker can take to stand above the crowd and hopefully shorten the timeframe to landing that first “professional” job.

All the best!

Click here for the next article in this series.

4 thoughts on “How To Land That First “Professional” Job – The Prep

  1. beaverfood says:

    Go Ian!! You are the best.

  2. […] answer questions similar to what is typically in a cover letter). This (cover letter information, outlined in a prior post) is crucially important as it serves as a conversation opener, to answer the question: “Why […]

  3. […] – If you recall, the inspiration to post on this topic (How to land that first “professional” job) results from my son (Ian) receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Web Design and Interactive […]

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