Recent graduates: how to find work you love

My friend Charlie Hoehn just released a free ebook: Recession-Proof Graduate and it encompasses a lot of ideals that I’ve learned over the last few years.

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Rethinking the typical “job hunt”

Charlie has done a great job capturing a lot of the secrets to finding meaningful work out of college. They include:

  • Steer clear of the beaten path: don’t send resumes everywhere, don’t do what you think you should do. Go find the people and companies you want to work with. Do this even before you graduate from college.
  • Offer to do a project for free: it’s a scary notion, but doing a side project before working for someone is far better than sending a resume and interviewing with them. This is how you set yourself apart, learn along the way, and do things on your terms.
  • Forget about the money: expecting to earn a big salary out-of-the-gate is a silly way to filter the world around you. Be realistic and realize you don’t get a “trophy just for showing up.”

Is free work a good idea?

I want to expand on Charlie’s point about performing free work. From both the employee and employers perspectives (I’ve been on both sides) free work can be beneficial to everyone:

  1. The individual finds something to do. You pick what you want to do, you learn as you go, make mistakes, have more flexibility, take more risks. This is ideal for the self-starters, self-motivated individuals looking for great opportunities (ie: you create them).
  2. The company can learn about you. From my few experiences, it’s becoming clearer that interviews are mostly wasteful and hardly indicative of how a prospect will perform. But, if you someone offered to do work upfront, I’m at no loss, I can become comfortable with your results, and I can bring you on to do many more excellent projects. Note: this is not solicited spec work.

Useful advice for graduates

Charlie then dives into some great advice on how to create the lifestyle and find the work that you want (not the job that everyone else is aiming for). To paraphrase Tim Ferriss: it’s lonely at the top, aim high because the rest of the world is competing for mediocrity. Sidestep the familiar routes and try some of these different approaches:

  • Find the people and companies you want to work with, not the ones that match your college degree
  • Start to define your desired lifestyle and aim for jobs that are aligned with it
  • Cut your losses and realize everything up to now is a sunk cost, stop basing future decisions on your previously invested time
  • Go learn something and bring some real skills to the table (not ‘Microsoft Office’ and ‘Communication’ skills)

This is exactly what I did

I’ve been on both sides of the fence and Charlie is spot-on with this book. I went through college trying new opportunities, working remotely on fun projects like helping organize a conference, I even met with David Cohen to talk about TechStars. But, I watched what everyone else around me was doing and I left college with a job lined up at a Big 4 accounting firm (the job matched my degree). I wrote about my lessons as soon as I left to go work for Crowd Favorite and haven’t looked back.

I recommend you check out Recession-Proof Graduate and subscribe to Charlie’s blog.

PS: Charlie asked me to contribute to the book so I wrote about building momentum through your online presence. Find me on page 22.