May 07, 2012, 1:30 PM — Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader
The CIO at Auto Club Group - AAA offers advice on jump-starting a young career and coping with office politics.
I graduated last spring with a computer science degree and some decent coding chops, but I'm still unemployed. How can I jump-start my career? Preparation is key to a successful career opportunity. Have you studied the companies you are interested in working for? You should try to understand their business and get a feel for the culture by the way they interact with their customers through public forums. Model your resume to show how your skills fit the company's needs -- while keeping clearly within the straight line of integrity. You might also consider asking others to help you get a foot in the door -- your network is more important than ever at this stage following college.
If you've prepared adequately but still aren't getting any at-bats, it's time to show your entrepreneurial spirit. I am not sure where your core CS degree lies, but if you have strong Web skills or mobile skills, you could research a company's website or mobile technology (including the lack thereof) and design and model suggestions for improvement. Show them how a Gen Y skill can help their company. If you can't get in the door, ask for the name of the chief marketing officer and send him or her your suggestions with a nice cover letter.
The other option is to get out in the community -- walk in the doors of some smaller businesses and tell them about your background. Offer a 90-day contract-to-hire opportunity, where they can simply choose not to hire you if they feel it didn't work out.
I took a job at a smaller company last year, hoping for a workplace where office politics were less intense. But they're actually more intense here. What's the best way to stay out of all that nonsense? Office politics are a part of any job -- small company or large. Politics are not necessarily bad, and there is no real way to avoid them. So the question must be how to effectively cope with them.
To be successful, you must learn the rules. Politics is the most competitive game you will ever learn, and playing poorly can cost you recognition, opportunity, promotion and even your job. First, remember that office politics differ from office gossip -- stay out of the latter. Office politics center on someone trying to gain advantage. It is the way workers engage together. This can be positive, when leveraged for cooperation, or negative, when used to compete. Learn the dynamics of the organization. For example, how is collaboration rewarded?