In Follow Your Dreams

On Friday afternoon, I had the honor of returning to my alma mater, Lehigh University, to talk with the soon-to-be-graduates about building a career in Marketing. As I talked about my experiences in the pharmaceutical, technology and advertising industries, I realized that much of my advice could apply to anyone, on any career path. So today, I thought I’d share some excerpts of that conversation with you:

1. Network, network, network. The very idea of trying to establish a connection with a complete stranger strikes fear into the hearts of many, but it’s a key ingredient to any successful career; one that never loses importance, even as your success grows. A smile and a “Hi, my name is…” can go a long way and be the beginning of a mutually beneficial friendship.

2. Think outside the box. Sorry for the cliche, but when it comes to finding a job, this is exactly what you need to do. Unfortunately, the high unemployment rate means that traditional job search sites (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) are over-saturated. Now, more than ever, you need to get creative in order to get your foot in the door. Perhaps it means using non-traditional resources, like LinkedIn, to identify a common thread between you and the person hiring for your dream job. Or maybe it means volunteering to take on a short-term project to prove your worth. Also, keep in mind that not all job openings are advertised. If there’s a company that you really want to work for, try writing a letter to the hiring manager (which you can probably identify via LinkedIn) and include some of your observations about the company as well as the unique value you can bring. E-mail is so popular nowadays, that a good old-fashioned letter may actually have some shock value and get your resume moved to the top of the pile.

3. What’s in it for them? This is the fundamental question at the heart of any sale (and an interview, in many ways, is a sale…of you). Most of the other candidates vying for the job will have a similar degree, similar GPA, etc. What do you bring the table that’s different? And how will the company benefit from hiring you over someone else? Once you can answer these questions, you should be an easy sell.

4. Find a mentor. Some companies assign them, others don’t. But no matter who you are or or what your level, there’s always someone who’s been there before and whose experiences you can learn from. Mentors can be great resources when you come across a challenge that you’re not sure how to tackle and can help make sure that you continue developing the necessary skills and competencies to remain at the top of your game.

5. Don’t sweat it. Careers are a continual work in progress. By putting in the time and gaining experience, you’ll discover what you like and what you don’t. So don’t worry if you end up in a job that falls below expectations. No matter how good or bad the situation, there’s always something to be learned from it.

Anyone else want to chime in with some good old-fashioned career advice?

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