We already discussed in one our earlier posts how unfortunate it is that many business school students graduate with absolutely unreasonable expectations. As a McGill alumnus, I have been asked to participate in a mentorship program to guide new grads in their career search process. I am absolutely thrilled as I really wish someone had opened my eyes to the reality of the job market when I myself was entering the professional workforce.

Many business school grads expect to land the job of their dreams (or at least one close to that) immediately after graduation. They expect to make big money their first year of employment, all the while being in a highly strategic role. Well, this is simply unreasonable, unless you graduate in the top 1 percentile of your class or are very well connected through your network. If neither is your case, here are some practical tips on getting to that dream job of yours:

1. Intern at a company that would bring value to your CV.

If you can afford it even for a few months, offer your services for free to several companies that you feel would look great on your resume. This will help you gain invaluable experience and, most importantly, avoid the infamous Catch 22 of all jobs requiring prior experience, yet no way of getting a foot in the door to acquire such experience. I understand that working for free is not ideal, but look at it as an investment. If you can do it while still in school – even better. Otherwise start looking for an opportunity to intern right after graduation.

Do not, however, approach companies with an agenda of getting a paid job after you have worked there for free for a few months. Many firms might be put off by the idea and feel uneasy about the fact that they have to potentially commit to anything. Rather, be focused on building up your profile and apply simply by stating that you are looking for unpaid work experience. Be honest and transparent and do not have a hidden agenda. You will surely land an internship in your field and the value it will bring to your resume is unparalleled.

2. While you intern, network constantly.

Remember that most of the job openings are never advertised anywhere and are filled through recruitment firms or through referrals. Attend networking events, connect with people on LinkedIn, reach out to key people in your network. Do NOT ask people if they can help you in their search, but rather ask questions that can help you learn from top professionals in the field and impress them with your eloquence and professionalism. You can only ask them to refer you for a position if you have built enough rapport, which can take months. On the other hand, when you impress someone enough, that person is likely to keep you in mind even without you directly asking for it.

3. Consider a professional detour.

If there is a company that you would love to work for and it has a large department in your field of studies, consider getting a foot in the door by accepting a position within another department. One of my most respected professional contacts initially took a job in customer service only to prove herself and land a key role in Marketing a year later. She had fantastic grades and is one of the most articulate and bright individuals I know. Yet, she was ready for a detour that would eventually lead her to the career of her dreams.

4. Be reasonable about your expectations.

You will likely not be making top dollar in your first job and that should not be your priority. Focus on gaining experience and beefing up your profile and your resume. Once you prove your professional value and if you are truly passionate about what you do, your income will follow and grow exponentially.

5. Look to work in the field you are passionate about and for absolute happiness at work.

So many people sell out for a few extra thousand to jobs that make them miserable. There is no point! If you want to reach unparalleled professional heights, follow your heart and you will receive recognition, compensation and, most importantly, personal satisfaction!

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