Don’t Be That Guy: The Unprepared Graduate

I’ll spare you my horrific karaoke rendition of “the children are our future”.

You’re welcome.

One of the things that I did recently was a return engagement with a class over at Lawrence Tech.  It’s something that I’ve done a few times now over the years, and I really genuinely enjoy it.  Basically, it comes down to speaking to a group of students about the importance of networking and how it can help you.

Well, at least that’s how it started

First, let me start by saying “thank you”.  Thank you to both Bill Elwell for inviting me into his class, and to the class itself for taking the time to listen to me ramble while I answered their questions.

College kids are curious creatures to me, and it led to some interesting observations as I look back on the event…some of which make me nervous for them.  Perhaps some of it is my inner “cranky 80 year old” coming out that’s blinding me to my own idealistic youth and past…but I don’t think that answers all of it.

Everyone has a laptop.  Most have a smart phone sitting next to their laptop.  Only two people had (gasp) an actual pad of paper and a pen…and, coincidentally perhaps…those two were the ones who made the most eye contact with me while I was speaking.

Many of them have a vague idea of a field that they might want to get into when they graduate in a month or two…but I don’t think any of them are really prepared for it.  One student asked “I’m graduating with a degree in IT next month…when should I start hitting these networking things?”

My answer, “eight months ago”, brought laughter to the class…but drove home a frequently hit upon point from our other blogs and entries – you can’t wait until you need a network to start building it.  Imagine if your company was moving to a new office building…and waited until the day everyone showed up for the first day of work at the new place before having the installers come in to lay down network cable and had the file and mail servers arriving later that afternoon.  Not good, right?  Right.

So naturally we talked about networking events.  Ours (duh) and others out there – what they should look for, what they should expect, what different kinds of events can offer, etc.  A few of them pulled up our site as I was talking, and started checking out the various events and blog entries that were being discussed, as well as just taking a look around.

We also spent a decent amount of time talking about resumes, and I’m still sticking with Bad Resume Guy being required reading for anyone looking for a job.  There were questions about format, length, what to include and what to leave out, how to handle gaps…which actually led to an interesting conversation.  A question from one student led down the road of how to handle a job that you didn’t really want to talk about and, really, wanted to leave off your resume.  Simply put…you can’t.  Omission is a form of lying…and, quite frankly, it’s bound to come up at some point.  I told them that they needed to figure out a way to address the situation in a manner that made them as comfortable as possible…but leaving it off was a red flag.  If someone sees a ten year gap on a resume…where that job once was…they’re going to ask about it.  And once they realize that there’s something “there” that you’re trying to hide for one reason or another…they’re going to dig and dig until they know why – after all, that’s the job of HR and recruiters everywhere.  So just find a way to answer the question of why you’re not there as comfortably as you can, and make it a casually dismissed topic by not drawing attention to it.

The various social networking sites were brought up, and I gave my standard analogies:

Twitter accounts are like phone numbers.  If I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if you called me on a published, accessible phone number, feel free to follow or hit me up there.

LinkedIn is my office.  If I wouldn’t be totally taken off guard if you showed up to chat with me at work one day…by all means, become a connection on LinkedIn.

Facebook is my living room.  If I don’t know you well enough for it not to be “weird” if you stopped by the house unannounced…then don’t try to ‘friend’ me.

All in all, it was a great hour and a half, and I absolutely enjoyed myself.  But again…I can only hope that I helped them realize that the need to prepare for the real world in ways that they may not yet have learned inside the walls of the classes they’ve taken.  I hope to see them at future events, and look forward to welcoming them into the “real” world of IT in the coming months.

Good luck folks.  It’s a little crazy out here right now.