Interview with Debra Shigley, author of The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide: 5 Steps to a Recent Grad’s Career Search

Look up go-getter in the dictionary, and you’re sure to find a photograph of Debra Shigley. She encapsulates it all: Harvard-alum, journalist, author of The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide,and now creator of her internet cooking show, Deb’s Kitchen, that features quick and healthy recipes. On top of it all, Shigley is a mom of two! So how does a go-getter girl like her start a fulfilling and satisfying career? Here are five steps to follow straight from Debra Shigley:

  1. Schedule informational interviews instead of just blindly applying for jobs. As you might have guessed, most of the best positions are already filled by the time the post hits the Interwebs or a job listing. As annoying as this may be, you can use this to your advantage by being top of mind to a manager the minute something new opens up. Get on their radar with an informational chat long before formal interviews even begin.

  1. How do you get informational interviews? You have a real, legit interest in working for that company or for that person (maybe you admire their career path), and you send a short email describing your credentials and interest and asking if they have a few minutes for an informational chat or coffee. Another angle: work your alumni connections. Make use of your recent grad database, along with contacts from any clubs you belonged to as an undergrad or your sorority/fraternity. When it’s a few degrees of separation, people are much more likely to respond favorably to your chat request. Also, try not to leave an informational interview empty handed. Before you leave, while it can be tacky to ask outright for a job (but hey, if you’re bold, don’t let me stop you! just go for it!), it’s less off-putting to ask for other “suggestions” of contacts or resources you should be aware of. Maybe they can give you two other names of contacts to help you in your job search.

  1. Apply for post-grad internships or fellowships. There’s a bit of a shift happening in the internship world (thankfully) — more of them are paid these days. Maybe not your ideal starting salary, but an internship is still the best possible foot in the door. It’s like a finite “crucible” period where the employer can see how amazingly talented you really are and what an asset you’d be to the company full-time — not to mention a period for you to test the waters yourself and see if it’s a good fit for you, too.

  1. Utilize “niche” job boards. With all due respect to big job sites like Monster and Careerbuilder, I’m a much bigger fan of smaller, industry specific and school-based job sites. Why? Because you’re likely to face a lot less competition in terms of sheer numbers of applicants/resumes. If you’re searching for jobs online, find the right ones for your industry, and make sure to utilize your career services login for your college.

  1. Proofread everything and lead with your BEST stuff. I recently hired a post-grad intern, and I was AMAZED at the kinds of “application” emails people would send me. Just because it’s email (let’s be real: that’s the preferred way to apply to jobs these days) doesn’t mean you should have typos everywhere, sentence fragments, and grammar issues. No one really reads attached cover letters, either. Put your strongest three credentials/attributes in the body of the email, right at the opening — whether it’s your top college/graduating with honors, your specific experience, the close friend of theirs who referred you, etc. Also, consider jazzing up your subject line. “Great Candidate for the Marketing Assistant?” or something like that might just encourage the person to click the email open.