CAREER START – How to choose your first employer?

Choosing the right employer for your career start is a key decision. You will find here tips on how to select companies to target and how to be best prepared to apply for your dream job. This will help you putting all the chances on your side for a great career start!

I am frequently asked about advice on how to choose the right company to work for. Especially by students, who need to make that important first career decision. Let me share my recommendations here in this article.

This might be useful for those who have to choose their first job, or for those of you who have people in your environment who may ask you similar questions.

I would like to cover 6 topics:

1) How to connect already during the studies to the corporate world?

I would recommend using every opportunity to connect with organization that could potentially be of interest already during the studies. I know from my discussions with students that the corporate world is sometimes perceived as a bit of a black box. This can be overcome if you use project work, a thesis or a report that you have to do in the context of your studies to connect with companies or organization you are interested in.

Chose a topic that is of interest for a potential future employer and seek to exchange with this organization. You will discover that people will be very happy to engage with you and to share information, perspectives and advise on the topic of your project. This is not only a great way to learn more about this organization, but also to build your network.

2) How to conduct a “due diligence” on potential future employers

Once you are ready to apply for jobs, it is very important in my eyes to conduct a thorough due diligence about each company / organization you are interested in. I would recommend that you check how successful this organization is. A lot of information is available online, such as financial reports or comments from financial analysts.

Focus your search on companies that are successful. It is much more fun to work in an organization that is growing and that has a healthy economic situation compared to an organization that struggles. You can usually find that out quite easily.

I would also recommend that you get information about the climate and the culture of the organization through medial such as glassdor. This will allow you to focus on the right targets and to gain a lot of relevant information in preparation of your interviews.

Finally, I would recommend that you check if the company can offer you an international assignment early on in your career. It is very advisable in my eyes to gain such exposure early on, if that is feasible from a personal perspective.

3) Some recommendations about the application process

I know that the application process can often be quite frustrating, because it takes long time before getting feedback and very often there is simply no reply. My advice though is to not give up too quickly if there is a company you feel really passionate about. It might be advisable to contact that company several times.

Don’t give up just because you have not received a positive response. Try it again, and again. I have seen many cases where being persistent finally paid off. Use your network to collect information and try to your search better and better to reach the right person at the right moment in time.

4) Some recommendations about the interview preparation

It is very important to prepare for the interview. Check in your network if you know a person from HR or a manager who is experienced in recruiting and seek feedback from them.

In my eyes, the key success factors are to be very clear about the reasons you are interested in this particular role and about the strength you bring to the party (Read more: how to define my career strategy?) . It is also very important to show how this first career step fits into your longer term vision on where you want to go with your career (Read more : the 4 principles of career management)

5) How to select the right offer

Once you receive one or several offers you will need to select. Here my recommendation is to check what is the environment that will give you the best opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally. Where are you going to learn most? What company is going to empower you and give you room to bring yourself fully in?

Also, I would reflect about the people you have met during the interview process and check who you would really like to work with.

6) How to take best advantage of the first professional experience

Finally, I have noticed that people tend to be sometimes a bit too inpatient and don’t stay long enough in their first job to take full advantage of that first experience. Even if it is maybe a bit frustrating at the beginning because the job might not match fully your expectations, you should stick it out long enough to collect all the insight that will allow you to make the right next career move.

I hope of course, that your first job will be the right one from the start and I wish you every success!
More information in my book:

Sven Sommerlatte : Successful Career Strategy – An HR Practitioner’s Guide to Reach Your Dream Job (Springer, June 2023).  ISBN: 978-3-662-66790-3

Click here to find my book

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