Ask Dana: What to do when you’re 25 and never had a full-time job… Plus, Is it OK to look at notes when answering interview questions?

What to do if 25 and never had a full time job
What to do if 25 and never had a full time job

What to do if 25 and never had a full time job

Question 1

I am 25 and unemployed. I’m looking to head back to graduate school but would like to work during that time. I’ve never had a full time job in my entire life.

Advice from Dana:

My recommendation is to focus on the following:

  1. Aim for a big, trusted brand name company in your city. Since you have never had a full time job, you need to get your resume going — and your peers have a head start! Get a minimum-wage position in a recognizable company, which will give you credibility. To know the companies in your city, read your local Business Journal ( and invest in the Book of Lists to help you short and long term.
  2. Now focus on what function you want to enter. Marketing, sales, administration, operations, manufacturing, etc. The Internet has a wealth of knowledge to help you learn how companies are organized, and you can read what different functions do. Do not worry about the industry.
  3. Prepare all of the materials you need for your job search. There are some amazing books out there to get you current and list all that you need to do.
  4. Now, start the hunt for your role since it may take some time without experience.

Question 2

Is it OK to refer to notes when answering interview questions?

Advice from Dana:

Yes, it is not only okay to refer to your notes, but I highly recommend it when it’s your turn to ask questions.

  • When I, the interviewer, say “Greg, do you have any questions for me?” then bring out your list of questions neatly typed.
  • Make sure you include space between the questions to write down their answers. Do the same for every interview, even if you repeat questions.

In terms of referring to notes when they are asking your questions, yes, but it’s more subtle. I did it all the time.

  • Have your portfolio open with your resume and the job description. You can have all the notes you want in the margins. On my resume, for example, I had small bullet points of the examples I would give of experiences for each part of my resume. I would write “STORY – Selling to GE” next to my start-up job or “STORY – Hiring 450” next to a job at Microsoft.
  • In the margins or top of your resume, you can have small reminders of your three strengths and three weaknesses you are going to use throughout.
  • What you don’t want to do is have to page through numerous papers to find your notes. That’s too obvious.


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