In the January 14, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a college student worries that not doing enough homework might hurt chances of getting a job.
I have a year to go until I graduate from college. I’m not the best student, but I do pretty well. I’m here to learn, but there is a lot more to college and I take advantage of it. But now I’m a little worried. My grades could be better. I could spend a little less time at the pub, and more on academics. However, homework seems like a redundancy to me. I learn in lectures, in section classes and in assigned readings. Don’t misunderstand, I crank out the papers and I get ready for tests. But doing homework? It has nothing to do with preparing you for the real world. Even people who work long hours leave the office behind at the end of the day.
I know my school has a good career center, and companies recruit there all the time. The purpose of the center is to attract good companies and jobs. My “job” is to interview well and get hired. I don’t think I’m that different from most students. I just want a good job when I get out of here. But something is nagging at me, and I’m worried as graduation gets nearer. I’m afraid I’ll get lost in the system or the system won’t work for me. I’m afraid I won’t get a good job. There, I said it. So what should I do?
People with jobs do homework all the time — at work, if not at home. Homework means studying extra material and practicing new skills, often on your own time. You may be able to avoid this, but not if you want your grades to be better. While I don’t advocate regularly taking work home from a job, or working 60-hour weeks, I also know that the more I invest in my skills and knowledge, the better I’ll perform at my job and the more successful I will be in my career.
College, jobs & homework
I agree that college is not just about academics — you should enjoy everything it has to offer. But those boring friends of yours who are cracking the books while you’re at the pub are probably several steps ahead of you. They aren’t waiting for someone to lecture to them, or to assign readings — they take the initiative to study more on their own. (I didn’t miss that you do read, and you write papers. That’s homework, but it seems you may be realizing you’re not doing enough of it.)
Life and work require lots of homework. The same is true about getting a good job. The purpose of your school’s career center may be “to attract good companies and jobs,” just like your professor’s job is to teach you through lectures. But you’re not going to be a successful student by consuming just what your professor delivers. Nor will you find a good job by waiting for your career center to deliver it. “The system” isn’t going to “work for you.”
Please hand-write this on a piece of paper 10 times:
“Finding and winning a good job is my own challenge. No one will do it for me. I will do the extra homework myself without excuses or I will fail.”
Sign it. Tack it to the wall in front of your desk. Every time you rely on the job listings at your career center, read what you wrote. Then do the homework of looking for a job yourself.
There’s lots of study and preparation that goes into getting a good job. Every step of job hunting and being successful at work requires doing homework.
- Finding a good job requires homework. (Pursue companies, not jobs)
- Getting a good manager’s attention requires homework. (Some tips.)
- Learning what a manager’s or company’s problems are requires homework.
- Preparing something useful to say to the manager requires homework.
- Figuring out whether a job is for you requires homework.
- Deciding whether to accept a job offer requires homework. (Protect yourself from exploding job offers.)
- Showing up Day #1 ready to impress your new employer requires homework.
- Doing the job well requires homework.
- Getting better at it requires homework.
- Keeping your job requires homework.
- Being successful requires becoming a master at your work. That requires constant homework.
In fact, your ability to do homework well — to study, learn, and practice — is what a company is paying for when it hires you after graduation. In the list above, I’ve provided a few tips to help you, but I’m going to leave it to other Ask The Headhunter readers to suggest examples of what kinds of homework will help you achieve each objective. Please check the comments below.
Don’t get lost in the system
Please read this article to learn how good managers hire people: Manager goes around HR to recruit and hire. It suggests that the “system” you’ve been told will get you a job isn’t sufficient. The manager in that article isn’t waiting for resumes to appear in e-mail. He’s doing his own homework to meet people who’ve done the necessary extra work to get his attention.
If you wait for a career center or a company recruiter to do the homework for you, you’re right — you’ll get lost in the system. So spend this year honing your homework skills. Start applying them to the job search that you ought to start today, a year before you graduate. Yes, it will take that long if you do it right. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to pubs.
How much fun you make it is up to you. I wish you the best!
Okay, folks! Help me help this college kid get a job. Please review the 11 objectives above that I think require considerable homework. (Feel free to add more.) Then, for each objective, please list one good example of “homework” our young friend needs to do to achieve it. We could be creating a new college course! Thanks for your help!