Yep, it’s that time of year again. Back-to-school shopping season brings back memories of crisp notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils, shiny new shoes and the excitement of the new year ahead. Even though I’ve been out of school for a long time, I still feel that sense of excitement and possibility when the end of August rolls around.
Whether you’re headed back to campus this fall or already out on the job market, here are some supplies I recommend for the job hunting season ahead:
1. Simple dark suit. The failsafe choice in any professional situation is a black (or very dark navy, gray or brown) suit. Black is my top recommendation because it’s always appropriate (even in hot climates), it matches with anything and you’re more likely to blend in with the crowd if for some reason you’re a bit overdressed or underdressed. Every young professional should own at least one simple, tailored black suit. If you’re on a limited budget, the extra bonus of a black suit is that less expensive fabrics look better in black than in lighter colors.
2. Business cards. Many career-minded students are carrying business cards these days. It’s an instant way to show your professionalism when you meet someone new. Rest assured that you don’t need a title, a company, a fax number or even a street address to have a business card. All you need is your name, a phone number (which can be a cell phone) and an email address. If you’re a student, it’s nice to include your university and year of graduation, but it’s not required. And that’s it. But, no matter what, you need a way to give people your contact information when you meet them.
3. Folder to hold your resume. Whether you choose a formal leather portfolio or a simple two-pocket folder from the drugstore, you need a place to store your resume when you attend job fairs or interviews. Recruiters are not impressed when you pull a folded-up or crumpled copy of your resume from your jacket pocket or handbag. Show your resume the respect it deserves and give it a proper carrying case. A resume folder is a small thing, but an important one that shows your attention to detail.
4. Thank you notes. While it’s acceptable to send thank you notes by email these days (especially after a formal job interview when time is of the essence), sending a personal snail mail note is a guaranteed way to stand out from the pack during your job search. Buy the nicest cards you can find (I love the stationery section at Target) and use them whenever someone helps you with advice, an informational interview, a resume critique, an invitation to a networking event or any other kind gesture.
5. Coffee gift card. Whatever your favorite coffee shop, buy yourself a gift card worth about 10 cups of coffee. Then, challenge yourself to take at least five people out for coffee over the next month. Use these coffee meetings to ask people to review your resume, share advice from their own job search experience, introduce you to people they know who might be hiring or anything else that might help you find an opportunity. My hope is that a pre-paid coffee card will be a little push to get you to conduct more face-to-face networking this fall.