December 23, 2014

A Small Gift for New Graduates: 4 Suggestions for Job Hunting

It’s almost Christmas. We just graduated from school in December and now cheer with our family in a cozy house this week of Christmas, but at the same time, we feel so nervous and anxious about the new year of job hunting.

I am not a recruiter, or a manager with many years of experience. I am one of the thousands of new graduate students with zero years of full time working experience.
After three months of job hunting after my graduation from the University of Cincinnati, I landed my job at as a BI Engineer at the beginning of November. I would like to share my story of job hunting here with you.

1. Get out of the comfort zone
The most important principle in job hunting is to convince yourself to adapt all the uncertainty and changes coming to you in the near future before you start to modify your resume, build your website, or expand your connection.
In the past half a year, I lived in 8 different apartments/houses, 6 of which I paid for rent, 2 of which I just lived in my friends’ place during unemployment. I took more than 15 flights for interviews and conferences, and attended more than 20 meet-ups within 1 month from in the San Francisco bay. During the Tableau Conference 2014 I met more than 10 people each day for 5 days in a week. I got about 2 or 3 phone interviews every week since the beginning of August for 12 weeks in a roll. I submitted my resumes for more than 320 positions since August 2014, mostly of which are openings in the bay.
The season of job hunting is a time totally different from semester at school. No schedule. No curriculum. No instructor.
Changes happened every single day during the season of job hunting. Prepare yourself with positive attitude, so you would not feel too upset about yourself and doubt your ability when you receive hundreds of reject letters or do not hear anything back from recruiters/ HRs. If you feel you get stuck in a city where your college is for too long, I would suggest you to take a short trip to tour the companies of your dreams. I lived the Silicon Valley for almost two months and had a few tours in the big tech companies I have been dreaming to work for. The trip gave me a very new perspective of the big tech companies.
2. Expand Your Network
We always hear the networking principle from any career center at school. But the question here is how to expand your network as a newly graduate?
Option 1: Meet people during conference
There is no place better than an annual conference that allows you to know a lot of new people within a week.Try these three simple ways to start a conversation in the conference:
- Say “hello” or just ask “How are you?” “How’s going?” when you sit in the presentation room.
- If you happened to be a speaker, try to ask and remember people's name when they asked you questions during the presentation
- Practice a few different ways to introduce yourself.
You will meet a lot of professionals and become friends with them in the conference. If you would like to have a tour in their company later on, you have the best friends who can show you around Google/Apple campus.
Option 2: Meet people from Linkedin
I am not a sales representative from Linkedin, but I truly believe that Linkedin actually did much better jobs than a lot of college alumni centers for you to find your alumni in a city. You can send out invitations for a cup of coffee and meet up alumni in a city far away from your college on Linkedin. You might think it’s weird to invite alumni for a meet-up at the first beginning, but later on you will find that most of alumni are actually very willing and happy to help you and give you advice. They went through the same difficulties we have to look for our first jobs.
I met an alumni during my internship in National Geographic Society in Washington DC from Linkedin. A year later after I left DC, he recommended me to a position at Riot Games. (I didn’t pass the interview.)
Option 3: Build a blog or a site and share it on social media
Your Facebook might have been flooded by too many pictures of drunk college students at a party, but have you ever thought about building a site and registered for a domain name which you pay for only $12 a year at Have you ever shared your updates on your site to your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram? I created my site at and built a free blog at Google blogger.
You don’t know what you might want to share? You must have a lot of group projects and final projects done during your college. You must find a lot of tricks in solving programming problems as you have been using the same software/programming languages for the past 3-4 years. Why not share them on your Facebook? As long as one of your friends noticed your brilliant idea and article, you have opened the door of opportunities. If you go to a few conference, usually there will be a registered special hash tag for the conference.
For example, the hash tag of Tableau Annual Conference in 2014 in Seattle is #Data14. You can share the pictures you took during the conference or even updates on your professional blogs. People in this industry will notice you. I got recommended to Cisco System, KMPG and Stanford University by a few data visualization enthusiasts from Twitter. (I did not follow up with these three positions later because I was busy with some on-site interviews.)

3. Practice your speaking for interviews
If you have a career adviser at school, he/she is the best person to give you the mock interviews. If you have problems in transportation between you place and your school, I recommended searching the most common interview questions online and downloaded an app to record your answers. The app I used for record my answers is called SuperNote on Apple Store. In this app, I can write down the questions, make notes, and review my answers. You can also use your cell phone camera to take a video for your mock interviews and watch the video later to better understand your body languages and facial expression.
Our story telling skills are quite important in the interviews. One of the most common questions interviewers asked me is that: why did I have a Bachelor's in Geography and end up with a MS - Business Analytics.
Here is my story: Despite my lack of working experience in the field of data science, I have been interested in data visualization before I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Geography. The goal of my undergraduate thesis was to study two unavoidable mathematical errors in the spatial analysis tool on ArcGIS, which would generate misunderstanding in visualizing the pattern of crime rate on a map. During my internship at National Geographic Society last summer after graduation, I was an assistant in the media team for the Explorer Symposium where I was fascinated about Jer Throp’s inspiring 911 Memorial project where he used a unique algorithm to decide the order of names on the marble of the water fountain. Since then I have been very interested in data visualization. During the study of my master degree, both my individual project and group project got the highest score in the Data Visualization class.
I connected all the small stories together to show my consistent and strong interests in data visualization and am happy to land my job at the field of data visualization.
4. Keep learning after graduation
At college, students are trained to use a lot of software and programs. Keeping ourselves learning after graduation corresponds to the first principle: Get out of our comfort zone and adapt the changes in the season of job hunting.
After I started searching for jobs, I got to know that a position only asks for one or two software skills. I did not know how to write SQL query before my graduation of the master degree program, but I landed my current job which focuses on SQL after I spent quite amount of time studying SQL. My other co-worker who’s a Software Development Engineer with a Master Degree in Electronic Engineering spent a few months learning Java even though he did not take any course in Java at college.
I hope my story can encourage and inspire all new graduates to keep trying and achieve what you want at the end of the season of job hunting. The path with uncertainty leads to you to unexpected achievements in your life. Merry Christmas!