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Letters to a Young Manager

What do I need to do to get a job?, #472
LTYM > Managing People -- How to Begin

Dear Sophie,
I understand from your recent presentation at the local university, you were asked the question about how to better prepare for the workforce. You did well to talk about your own path and what has worked for you. What are the things I recommend when students ask?

Having hired many professionals over the years, I find that five things are important for standing out among the competition:
  1. Credentials - Beyond the degree, what internships, certificates, part-time jobs, etc. do you have?
  2. Experience - Do you have relevant experience? (especially for nonprofits, volunteering counts; everyone can be a volunteer)
  3. Marketing - Does your cover letter stand out? (I once hired a new graduate, in part based on the boldness and confidence of her letter)
  4. Connections - Who do you know that can refer you? (build and work the personal network)
  5. Soft skills - Can you hold an engaging conversation? (This includes communication, negotiating, selling skills, and even psychological sensitivity)

When someone is not quite sure where they want to focus, or how to choose among jobs or internships, I recommend the following exercises (note that these are highly individual; it's about finding what's right for you.)
  1. Personal values clarification. See the bulletin I wrote, here: and see the template [1]
  2. The "umbrella word" exercise: (Note the comments for how I answered this)
  3. Personal adjectives exercise - similar to the above exercises, list as many adjectives that you and others who know you use describe you (if you don't know, ask them). You want a list of 15-20 things. Now cross off five. Pause, and cross off another 5. Repeat until you are down to 2 or 3. Now cross off another and another until you are left with one. This is the adjective most important to you.

Finally, for students who want to work in the nonprofit sector, I ask them to think about five continua (Ask yourself, where am I on these after researching organizations?):
  1. Mission alignment - There are thousands of nonprofit mission statements, from A to Z; which ones resonate with your values and interests?
  2. Geography - Do you have a preferred country, continent, and culture in which you want to work, or not work?
  3. Office - Do you want to work in the headquarters, regional or Field office?
  4. Size - Do you prefer large, medium or small organizations?
  5. Corporate Culture - Do you prefer a more traditional environment or a more entrepreneurial one (Ask, what's your bureaucracy tolerance threshold?)

The bottom line is that there are no simple answers when considering career advice, but the discussion should be one of personal discovery. And you are the tour guide!
Best wishes,

[1] Here is the values clarification exercise template:
VALCLAR-exercises v2.xlsx


Build your story a credential at a time

Discussion Questions:

1. Were the exercises useful or not? Why or why not?
2. What experiences of a personal decision-making process have you or someone you know had that resonates with you?

For Further Reading:

1) See the Weighted Matrix (#141)
2) For an enlightening exercise, see the StrengthFinders 2.0 book:
plus the StrengthFinders test web site: 
Note the "Redeem Access Code" button; you can get the code from the book.
The strengths-finders test is useful to find your top strengths versus their database of 20M people. (It costs $20 or you can buy the book on Amazon and get the code free):
3) The Keirsey profile test that clarifies your problem-solving/learning styles (it's free):

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