I’m currently writing this from the 4th floor of a warehouse - turned office complex in Boston on my first international business trip. Three weeks into a pretty intense month of training for my new graduate position at HubSpot - a tech company renowned for it’s culture code, for having one of the highest rated CEO’s in the world and for being one of the best places to work, globally.
(Plus they have dog friendly offices. I’ve seriously met a new dog everyday since I’ve started. It’s awesome.)
It was definitely not a clear or a straight path to get here. In fact, trying to get from university student to young, working professional is hard for everyone. The timing for graduate applications is always super inconvenient. If you're applying for Sydney based roles there is usually a bit of travel or Skype involved, and don’t even get me started on the applications, the psych tests and those pre-recorded video interviews.
It’s all worth it in the end, but there are some definite things I wish I had known, or at least figured out a little earlier in the university/grad job game. I hope these tips help you!
1) Balance Study with Experience
If there is one thing that will make your resume stand out to employers more than anything else, it’s experience. In fact, employers see relevant work experience and internships as the most important attribute in evaluating recent graduates. Prior to this role at HubSpot, I was working with a recruitment firm. When graduate roles came across my desk, candidates who had relevant experience always faired better than those who don’t. Even when those with no experience had far better grades.
This is because experience doesn’t just show that you have a practical understanding of your course work, it showcases your interest and the passion you have for your field, your ability to time manage and your ability prioritize. These abilities are hugely important - particularly in the kinds of roles graduates are successful in. More often than not you are working to support a team, or you are working on a ton of projects so your ability to manage time and prioritise will be crucial to securing and thriving in that particular role. There are a ton of different apps, tools and hacks that are focused on how to make you better at time and priority management - For example, I would always populate my calendar with all the daily tasks, reminders and things I’m likely to forget and then color code them. But if that’s not for you, there are tons of other ways! The important thing is to keep which ever way you choose to track your time and your priorities is consistent and easy for you to do!
2) Win the Morning, Win the Day
This concept was introduced to me by Tim Ferriss in his book The Tools Of Titans. It simply means, if you set yourself up for success in the morning, you’re going to have a successful day. Be productive in the morning and you’ll make much more momentum throughout the day. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to set an alarm for 5am and start reading your lecture slides at 5:15... It can be something really simple. Try and get out of bed within the first 5 minutes of when you wake up, then spend the next hour or so getting something done - anything! Get ready, make breakfast, go for a run, read! It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as you get up and do something. If you nail that first hour of the day, you’ll nail the rest of the day. I promise.
3) Work Smarter, Not Harder
Working smarter, not harder is a lesson that took me at least 2 years of university to figure out. For example, as a student I spent my first 2 years of Uni skipping the “Lecture Aims” slide. Do. Not. Do. That. It’s probably the most important slide there is. It’s an easy and quick way to decipher what you really need to hone in on for study. Essentially, working smart means finding little tricks that add time back into your day, without compromising the quality of the work you produce. Some of the tricks I use are super simple: anything from walking away from my desk and going outside for 10 minutes, using the meditation app headspace and trying to eliminate distractions. Find what works for you. If you have a day where you say “wow, I was really productive today!” Think about what you did or didn’t do that helped and try to replicate again and again.
4) The Interview: Preparation is Key
So what do you do when you actually get one of these coveted graduate interviews? Preparation is key. All invited graduates will look up the company that your interviewing for, so knowing their 2016 annual profits probably won’t be all that impressive. What will be impressive is your industry knowledge. Companies like Deloitte and PWC often produce industry specific reports that break down the current trends and anticipated future states of almost every industry. Give them a really good read and find a trend that you are particularly passionate about. Articulate your research in your interview - explain why it's relevant to the business and why it’s important to you. This will let them know you know the market they work it and it’s something you are interested in.
Secondly, be able to tell your personal story really well. One stock standard interview question you can expect to hear is “So, tell me about yourself”. The last thing you should say, is “well, I’m a business student.. I study at..” They already know that. Chances are, they have your resume sitting in front of them. Tell them something that they can’t find in your resume. Are you a passionate soccer player? A Swans fan? Theatre enthusiast? Absolutely keep it really professional, but don’t be afraid to show your personality and enthusiasm. These are the things that will stick in their minds long after you leave.
5) What to do once you’ve landed the Job
So now you’ve landed your first grad role! Congrats! Now the work truly begins.. Take the time to learn the business. The best way to do this is to approach people who are in your team, people you report to and people you're inspired by and have a meeting with them. Ask them for half an hour and ask them questions about their story, what is their role? How did they get that role? Why do they like it? What is their “secret sauce”? What advice do they have for you? They’ll appreciate that you appreciate their experience, you’ll learn a whole lot in the process and it shows to your manager that you are taking your role seriously, taking initiative and looking for more opportunities to learn. My second big tip? Book one - on - one meetings with your manager, and/or mentor that can spend time with you on a regular basis. Create a google doc to document any questions, ideas or thoughts you have between meetings and add your manager/mentor to the document. This is a great way to express feelings about your role, hear some feedback, ask questions and to start planning career progression.
The transition to from student to professional is hard. However, there are so many opportunities to learn about your strengths, weaknesses and goals throughout the process that will, in the end, make you a better professional. Hopefully you found value in one of the above!!
Feel free to reach out to me on Linkedin, I’m more than happy to answer more questions or give any advice (also, Hubspot is hiring! So if your looking for a new role, get in touch!). If you want to check out what I’ve been doing during these 3 weeks of training, check out my training project! Essentially we had to create our own business. I founded Capture Tours - a Travel Tours Company aimed at budding photographers wanting to improve their photography while they are travelling- I’m presenting it to our Australian Director of Sales on Monday! (Wish me luck!)