Editor’s note: Do you know a recent college graduate who’s looking for work? Here’s an insightful essay about that unavoidable right of passage into the adult world: the first job search. It was written by Dave Giordano, a Lake Bluff dad and president of Chicago-based Technology Services Group.
By Dave Giordano of Lake Bluff, president of Technology Services Group
That First Job – What to look for:
At TSG, much like other companies, we are in the middle of our fall college recruiting season. With campus interviews complete, we have recruits from six different schools coming in to visit our office over the next two weeks. For our visiting college hires, as well as long-time readers of our blog, this post will share some of our thoughts on what students should look for as they compare career options between different companies. This post is not a complete list but highlights several items that students don’t always consider in making that “first job” decision.
Focus on Career First
For our visiting college hires, I typically have a chance to talk about jobs versus careers. From a definition standpoint:
• Job – A regular activity performed in exchange for payment, especially as one’s trade, occupation, or profession.
• Career – The general course or progression of one’s working life or one’s professional achievements.
One of our mantras at TSG is “Career First”. We have always felt that by looking out for our employees’ careers first, we do right by our people, our clients, and ultimately the company. In looking for that first job with a career in mind, students should ask:
• What am I learning that will help me progress?
• What habits am I developing that will help me progress?
• Who am I meeting that will help me grow professionally and personally?
• How will all of the above help me achieve my goals over my career in regards to professional fulfillment and compensation?
The remainder of this post will discuss some of the key areas to look for in that “first job” with some thoughts on TSG.
Look for learning
Too often, a student’s view on different job opportunities can fall into an “I learned X in school and they are hiring me to do X”. In a constantly evolving job market, a career-focused individual should really be looking for “I know X and they are hiring me to do X but learn Y and Z.”
A good first job should have a focus on learning, not just in training classes, but learning by doing. Classes from college as well as training classes on the job are great for establishing a baseline, but students should look for what they can learn while doing the job. Some key components of learning on the job include:
• What am I being asked to do? In order to learn, the task should be somewhat outside my comfort zone and push me to learn more.
• Who is guiding me in my task? Is it someone that can help me complete the task while pushing me to understand and learn? Do I have a team that I can learn from as well as help teach?
• Is it is a learning culture? More than an emphasis on training, is the environment something where being challenged and learning is encouraged?
• As I advance in my career, do I have the opportunity to teach others?
The best analogy is a residency program for a doctoral candidate. While the resident might know many of the tasks from his/her schooling, the challenging tasks along with experienced doctors and a learning culture help the resident develop the actual skills to have a successful career as a doctor. Candidates should look for a learning environment where inexperienced employees are always learning from experienced employees. Candidates should see a clear career path where they can quickly evolve into experienced professionals.
At TSG, we push for a learning culture, one that offers challenging tasks with experienced resources to help our staff learn. We think the types of jobs we sell (short time frame) push our folks to be flexible and continually challenged while learning new technical, business, and professional skills.
Look for developing professional habits
Good habits are core components of a rewarding and effective career. For college students, habits, like studying, have developed over time. As a student enters the professional environment, additional professional habits need to evolve as those habits have a huge impact on their career and personal effectiveness, either good or bad.
Developing professional habits include understating:
• why and what to do (knowledge)
• how to do it (skill)
• coupled with the motivation to want to do it well (desire)
Students should look to companies that provide the right environment to help them develop the right habits (and avoid the wrong ones), which will serve as the foundation for their career. One of the better books on habits is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Good career habits include:
• Work Quality
We particularly see the work quality within IT consulting as something that differentiates over time for a career. Often times, students, particularly those with computer science degrees, will be used to developing their own code for an assignment; they need to develop the team coding skills and structuring habits that are an essential foundation for a career in IT, but typically not taught in the college classroom.
At TSG we constantly push for good professional habits from all of our employees. We also recognize that habits can also include work-life balance as a successful professional career involves not just work, but also a balance with other good non-work habits (family, exercise, other interests…..).
Look for Culture
Company Culture is the binding force that supports the learning and professional habits. Culture is also the most difficult category to “put a finger on.” Bottom line, does the company culture support a place where candidates can see themselves working?
Some of the items we always discuss in regards to TSG culture include:
• Managed Travel – rather than road warriors or working at the client 100% of the time, we really focus on our people being together to manage the burden of travel to the client site.
• Work Smart, Not Long – We believe in working efficiently. Too often consulting can focus on small groups working long hours inefficiently. We try to sell the right size projects and staff them with the right number of people to avoid overtime.
• Project Based Work – We feel that project based work gives the best opportunity for staff to advance
• Work Hard, Play Hard – having fun together is an important part of developing an effective team, particularly after difficult projects.
For more, look in our careers section of our web site: http://www.tsgrp.com/careers
One question our longest college hire, George (13 years and counting), gets often is why, in an environment where people change jobs often, he has remained at TSG for 13 years? George typically replies that he “likes the work and likes the people,” and that for his career development, TSG provides both.
In looking for that first job, candidates should try to take a look at what’s best for their careers and see how the environment (learning), habit development (professional), and culture establish a solid foundation for a successful career.