Dear soon to be college grad

36234514 It’s April.  Which means that all of you seniors who are graduating in a few weeks are getting a serious amount of pressure from Mom and Dad to send out those resumes.

And so you will.  I thought I might offer a few helpful hints.

  • Do not address your cover letter to the entire company, i.e. Dear McLellan Marketing Group.  If you don’t have time to find out the specific person to send it to, don’t send it.  And if you do get their name, for the love of Pete — spell it correctly.  If you can’t get my name right, do you really think I’m going to let you loose with one of our clients?
  • The time to start looking for your first job is not in April of your senior year.  I know it’s too late for you but warn your little brothers and sisters.  Tell them to start engaging in conversations with the companies they might like to work for when they are freshmen and sophomores.  Then, by the time they’re seniors — these companies will be helping them find a job.  Who is helping you?
  • Spell check.  Then, read your cover letter and resume slowly and out loud.  Find is not spelled fine.  Again…do I want you writing to our clients?
  • I know it’s a common mistake, but when you say my resume is attached — attach it.
  • Cutting and pasting is tempting.  I cannot tell you how many times I have received a cover letter addressed to another agency or agency principal.  Odds are she got mine.  Odds are, neither of us are going to hire you.

It’s tough enough to get a job in this field.  Don’t let laziness or sloppiness make it even harder for you.  I know you think the above is an exaggeration but I just deleted an e-mail that made 4 of the 5 listed mistakes.  All in one cover letter!

Want more….read this free e-book written specifically for college grads and this post on what I would do if I were a college grad, looking for that first job.

Last piece of advice — hang in there.  It’s as much fun and as rewarding as you think it will be.

Okay, I lied.  One last thing.  If you are going to try to impress me with your creativity — then  A) Be creative.  and B) Don’t let spelling and punctuation errors spoil the delivery.

Check this out.  See if you can spot the errors (both in the video and description).  Instead of helping himself by going above and beyond, he’s just proven that he hasn’t even mastered the basics.

21 comments on “Dear soon to be college grad

  1. Jay Ehret says:

    One thing for job-seeking college grads to keep in mind. The company hiring you needs to make more money from you than they are paying you. Prepare for you interviews by identifying specific ways that you can help a company be better after you are hired.

    Being a “people person” or a “fast learner” are not qualities that make money. Early in your career it’s important for you to have a skill set that you can put to work as soon as you arrive at your new employer.

  2. Jay,

    Excellent advice. Being a people person is not going to cut it.


  3. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    Think your ‘you-tuber’ got the your message 😉 #2 is on 😉

    (I had to watch #1 before I got the ‘point’)

    Karin H.

  4. Dan Schawbel says:

    To emphasize Drew’s point: you get jobs through people and not machines.

  5. Karin,

    Well at least he listens! That’s a good sign, eh?


  6. Dan,

    So true….and the better you know the person (i.e. the more you have invested in the relationship) the more likely they are to be helpful.


  7. Jeff Gwynne says:


    Re: Spell check et al

    I had a boss, early on in my career, who required colleague review of all written materials. I have always been an advocate of this. Not only can a reviewer catch “misspelled” words (e.g., their/there, its/it’s) but she can audit a piece for grammar, clarity and other problems that can slip through the cracks.

    Of course, this isn’t scalable for all communications, but for things as important as a cover letters and resumes, I think it’s a must.


  8. Karin,

    I spoke too soon. It is his second version (and the copy to the left of the video) that has the errors!


  9. Jeff,

    I am a lousy proofer of my own work. I suspect most people are. So I love the “have someone else review it” rule.

    It has certainly saved me a great deal of embarrassment over the years. I think auto spell check has lulled many people into a false sense of security.


  10. Jeff Gwynne says:

    That is *exactly* the point – people are bad at proofing their own work. We tend to gloss over the words. Reading out loud helps but is no substitute for a committed proofreader.

  11. Jeff,

    I think some people are far better proofers than others. We have people in our office who are sort of the designated proofers, because they have a good eye for it. And then we have a few others who really aren’t much better with someone else’s stuff than they are with their own!


  12. Charles Sipe says:

    Hi Drew,
    I graduated about a year and a half ago and I am still working as a marketing intern for minimum wage. Although I haven’t done anything yet I have learned some valuable lessons, mostly from talking to people. I hope this helps someone.

    1. Get informational interviews. So few people do it, but a lot of successful marketers are willing to spend 15 minutes to share their insights on how they got where they are.

    2. Network like mad. I believe this is by far the most effective way to get a job. Join the American Marketing Association, join local organizations, volunteer. Do whatever it takes to meet as many people as you can, and make sure to follow up!

    3. Don’t give up. Keep your passion for marketing. If you have the passion for it, you will eventually make it. I am still trying after a year and a half, and some opportunities are finally opening up. Once you get into marketing, I imagine it is worth the effort.

    4. The walls aren’t there to keep you out. The walls are there so you can show how much you want it. They are there to keep those other people out (I learned this from a dying professor at Carnigie Mellon).

    5. The really good jobs aren’t going to come to you. You’re going to have to go out and get them. Surfing all day doesn’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried.

    6. Be a sponge. Work to get better at marketing every day. Try to make yourself into a better all around person, and you will make yourself more valuable to an organization.

    7. When conducting an informational interview. Don’t forget your pen so you can take notes. I learned this the hard way.

    8. Get an internship or volunteer for free. One person I met got a great marketing job at Microsoft because she was able to show a portfolio of work she had done as the VP of marketing for a charity. Often non-profits can give you important responsibilities since you are volunteering. One of the most difficult challenges is that every marketing position requires experience. Internships and volunteer projects can provide you with that experience.

    9. Reach out to your alumni network. Alumni are almost always very happy to help new grads. They will go to great lengths to help you. Take advantage of people willing to help.

    10. Talk to everyone you can. You never know if the person you meet knows someone who knows a hiring manager at one of your target companies.

    If you are a new grad. Please contact me at and good luck!

  13. Charles,

    Bravo! You may not have the job you want yet, but you get it! What part of the country are you in again? West Coast? Washington?

    Would you re-locate or do you want to stay there? Give us your :30 elevator speech. Why you?


  14. Karin H. says:

    Drew, then it must be my double dutch English!
    Video one: We’ll I’ve got a good one for you
    Video two (v2) Well I’ve got o good one for you

    Karin H.

  15. Karin,

    Shows the power of a good proofreader!


  16. Chris,

    I can only imagine. And if they took 5 minutes to check out your site or google you — they’d know.

    That’s what kills me. These are silly mistakes that would only take a few seconds to correct.

    Tough way to lose an opportunity!


  17. Charles – great set of ideas.


    Fantastic list of tips. Though I’ve been on top of my game, I am currently struggling to nail something down as well. However, I have been using my network to its potential, with a few leads in a few places.

    One thing to add to that is more of a trust issue.

    – Never think you have a job until you sign a contract. I’ve had this happen to me with an internship or two. Despite how big of a utopian society we live in (yeah right), there may always be smoke and mirrors involved, and we don’t want to get ahead of us.

    I also found that Googling oneself is important. I wrote a personal blog during my study abroad in Japan that I had to edit because of the content that came up on Google. If we use it to research our companies, why wouldn’t they use it to research us?


  18. Drew,

    Also, in the case of applying to a company with no leads, how do you recommend addressing an email or just general mail?



  19. Piotr,

    The google reminder is a very good one. You’re right, we are googling all of you.

    To answer your question — I would say that until you have a person’s name, I would not bother to send the resume. The larger the company, the more true the statement is.

    As you know because you’ve been so smart about networking — to be invisible in the sea of applicants makes the odds very, very small.

    Better to make a connection or find someone who has one. Maybe LinkedIn?


  20. I would also add that facebook should also be cleaned up. Although I don’t entirely agree about this (Facebook is a reflection of your private lifestyle and identity), many companies are mining through Facebook to look at the dirty of their prospects.

    You’d think that companies would embrace a work-life balance proven by the social activity on facebook.

    Personally, I have disabled my profile and photos to anyone who I’m not friends with. I’m still yet to take down some of my interests, but I am wondering how often somebody who is recruiting takes a look at my profile.

  21. Piotr,

    I hear what you are saying, but I really disagree. You don’t leave your personal life or your personal behavior at the door when you walk into work.

    As an employer, I need to know and trust the whole person. I’m not saying my employees (or prospects) don’t have a right to privacy and a personal life.

    But life work balance is about balancing your time, not so much being two different people.

    If I find that someone has recently wiped out a MySpace or cleaned up a Facebook….that makes me really wonder what they didn’t want me to see.


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