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Dude, where’s my job? Real life job hunting tips.


This is a three-part series written with Dr. Paul Kosempel, leadership faculty member, Assistant Director of the Pioneer Leadership program at the University of Denver. Paul also wrote his dissertation on the topic of mentoring.

Please join the discussion. (Jill Montera, we’re talking to you.)


Spring in Colorado is a reminder of an important life dictum. Just when you think you’re finished, ya ain’t. Life and work is a process.

A few weeks ago we had a 70 degree day on Thursday, and six inches of snow and a 60 degree temperature drop by Friday night. The parks were packed with energetic runners and smiling dogs on Thursday. Friday afternoon was a commute from hell. Wake up call.

Spring is also the time when undergrad and grad college students in their final semesters start waking up to the reality that it’s almost time to get a job. Some will start seeking internships, others begin realizing what their mentors meant by building a network before you actually need it. Damn. Shoulda done that.

Having worked at a university I still get asked the occasional favor to sit down with a student and chat about their careers. Not any more than any of us, I’m sure. But there are some things that really matter, in my opinion, but aren’t exactly easy to categorize and teach someone in a college career center. Tough-love stuff. Stuff that needs to be said but often isn’t.

To avoid the predictable and banal kids these days rant, I thought I’d turn to a former colleague, friend, and expert in this area to help me focus a few thoughts toward something productive. Paul Kosempel (Dr., if you please) has been in higher education for 15 years. He’s a faculty member in leadership studies at the University of Denver as well as Assistant Director of the Pioneer Leadership Program. He used to work in a career center and the topic of his dissertation is “Mentoring dialogues: An investigation of the dialectical tensions and management strategies in mentoring relationships.”

I’ve long admired Paul for many things, but one of them is his sustained, individual work with his students. He cares. Cares enough to know (like anyone who’s ever managed someone knows) that there are no favors in subtle and soft. In fact, it can sometimes enable. It does no one any good to beat around the bush.

So we worked together on the following three-part series. Think of it as the stuff that the career counselor wants to tell you but can’t.

Part One

The ramp up: Get your act together

You get your skis tuned before hitting the slopes. You put gas in your car before a road trip. You study before a test (meh….). So you gotta get ready before diving in to the process of finding a job.

First, stop spending money. You might feel like you deserve it after all your hard work in college. But you don’t have a job. Free yourself as much as you possibly can from financial obligations so you can focus on finding the right job, not just the right-now job.

As important, financial restraint is also a sign to those that will help you that you’re taking this seriously. That you know what it means to make a sacrifice. Why would someone want to give up their time and network to someone who doesn’t have any skin in the game?

Ditch the cable T.V. Stop worrying about your hair to the tune of $75 stylings. Park for free a few blocks away and walk. Go to coffee to network, not lunch. Do NOT get a new car. (By the way, once you get a job, you shouldn’t get a new car either. Do you really want to send the signal that your first financial decision is to buy something that loses half of its value right away?)

Then say this to yourself out loud every morning: No one owes me anything. If you think you already believe this, try it anyway.

Then come to peace with the fact that a valuable favor isn’t always what you think it is. If someone introduces you to someone else instead of helping you with the immediate, they have a good reason. It isn’t necessarily putting you off (although that will happen to you, too). It’s finding the right place for you to learn and get ahead.

Next, stop working on your To-Do list and make a To-Be list. This is a blatant rip-off from a line written by Amber Singleton Riviere in a WebWorkerDaily post.

People who want to help you can’t unless they know where you want to be. They can’t give advice about the tactic you put in front of them unless they have a sense of your bigger plans. And most importantly: people want to help people who are going somewhere, and are turned off by wanderers. They have better things to do with their time.

If you can’t articulate a basic sense of purpose, then be transparent and ask people to help you with that instead of helping you find a job.

Transition your social web imprint. Right now. Delete your party and vacation pictures. Set your privacy settings so only friends see pictures of you, especially those that were uploaded by other people.

Remove anything you possibly can that you wouldn’t want to see on the news. Or anything you wouldn’t want a creepy HR recruiter looking at.

Start dumping social media friends. In the post-college world, no one cares about quantity. We care about quality. Remove friends and followers that you even remotely don’t trust. The guy that will keep reminding everyone of your night in Vegas? Dump him. The enduring booty-call person who sends updates about their recent special friend? Gone.

Here’s a succinct post on this topic from a – let’s call him a well respected thinker – if you don’t believe us.

What did we miss? Please let us know your getting your act together tips.


Up next:

Part Two

Networking: There are actual people behind your contacts


Part 3

Tactics: Finding a job is hard work

3 thoughts on “Dude, where’s my job? Real life job hunting tips.

  • Jill Montera

    Thanks AT for the call-out and I too greatly admire and appreciate Dr. Kosempel! In terms of getting your act together, I always encourage people to think broadly about their network. It’s easy to judge a book by its cover and assume that people in your network who are more senior and experienced are going to be more “valuable”. But it reality, everyone has great value and perspective to add and you should not close any doors. You truly never know who might be interested in offering some help!

  • Aaron Templer

    Thanks for stopping by Jill. Couldn’t agree more: you just never know. Part two will be more about networking, so hopefully you’ll find time to comment on the next post. Thanks again!

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