I alluded to this in my story, but it’s something I think every upcoming or recent college graduate can benefit from so I wanted to expand on it. Lesson #1 learned from the School of Hard Knocks: my bachelor’s degree diploma, sadly, wasn’t worth much more than a paper cut in getting me a job.
I had graduated with a 3.96 on a 4.0 scale from a major university that had a top 20 undergraduate business school. Meanwhile, I had held jobs throughout school, including a desk job with the State of Michigan. I even had an internship that was fairly unique and impressive. Or so I thought.
One year and 300 applications, numerous job fairs, professional resume reviews, mock interview training, and (just) a few interviews later – I finally got my first full-time job offer.
I should point out that those 300 applications were not for jobs that were out of my league. They were for supposedly entry-level positions that I had the required relevant educational experience for. But despite being “entry-level”, they all had one common specification: “1 year of experience required” or “9 months of experience required”.
WHAT THE @#&%!!!
IF you’re going to call a job an entry level job – make it a truly entry level job!
Here’s my take: employers systematically want to bring in talent that is over-qualified for the roles they are hiring for. Everyone wants a bargain. And in markets like this, they can get it. I suppose you can’t blame them.
So what can you do to overcome a macroeconomic-driven trend like this?
Here’s what you want to do: sulk, feel sorry for yourself, and give up (all the while, holding on to the fantasy that opportunity will come knocking on your door).
What should you do?
Be humble and stay positive, but most importantly – hustle your ass off. You have no other choice.
Finding a job IS a full-time job. This isn’t a mini-vacation where you fire off a few resumes per week. This is a full-blown job (some might say emergency, but I’d like to keep you off the Xanax). The only way you can get a job interview and get the job is to out-hustle the competition. More specifically, what does this mean? Fill out more applications online? Not exactly…
1. Get experience that is at least loosely tied to jobs that you want, even if it’s not a typical job. The worst thing you can do is have a big empty time period on your resume where all you were doing (as perceived by those looking at your resume) is sitting around. It doesn’t matter if it was paid, unpaid, part-time, or full-time. Just don’t leave it empty. The side benefit here is getting outside of your house and interacting with others is going to be good for you.
2. Volunteer: people like to work with others that they trust and feel like are generally good people. Volunteering is social proof that you give a damn about something other than yourself.
3. Network like crazy. Make genuine connections and maintain them. Be giving even when you want to be given. Some experts estimate that as much as 80% of jobs are filled through referrals. Who do people refer? Ones they know, like, and want to help out.
4. Take the best job you can get and worry about the rest later. Perhaps it is one you are over-qualified for. Not grossly over-qualified for, but a job that gets you the experience you need to get in order to get the NEXT job. This is what got me my first job after graduation (a job mostly held by those with a high school diploma). 9 months later, I got a better job with one application (not 300) – and it required a bachelor’s degree. Don’t worry about how long you’ll be there. Job loyalty is dead.
5. Do things that make you stand out. Make a resume that doesn’t look like the rest of the pack. Offer to work for a trial basis for 3 months – for free – just to get your foot in the door. Do things that show you truly want the job – with no sense of entitlement.
6. Be bold (but not cocky or desperate). My wife recently landed a nursing interview (and then job), by actually stopping by to chat with nurse managers on the floor. Submitting applications was getting her nowhere. On day one using this tactic, she got an interview that landed the job.
40 hours a week doing these things and you drastically improve your chances of landing a job.
For those who have found jobs in this market, what would you add to the list?
What form of hustling landed you a job?
It might be too little too late for those who are unemployed and actively job-seeking like crazy, but I’ve found it’s very helpful to network when you’re not looking. What I mean by that is to get involved with organizations in the community and periodically schmooze with coworkers – go to lunch with them, occasionally grab a beer after work, etc. – to establish personal relationships. Then, if one of them ends up working for a company you can see yourself at, you already have one foot in the door.
I can not emphasize enough volunteering! If you can find something close to your job field, even better. My husband does hiring for his department and they really want to SEE that you’ve been doing something, even if it is not paid. Plus there is someone to call and verify you are a worthwhile employee. Having worked at a non-profit for many years I have been reference for previous volunteers and you would not believe the different people you can meet, it is a great way to network and meet new people!
Another point I’d like to add. I’m a stay-at-home-mom. That never goes over well on applications BUT I have one supervisory shift a week. I’ve been doing that for more than 7 years. Now, if our family hit a rough spot, I could apply for work having been employed for many years instead of (what employers see) doing nothing. If you can volunteer or work even just one shift(or be on-call) for an employer you now have a work history.
My career today is because I was relentless with a connection who told me I was overqualified. I was, but knew it was foot in the door. 3 months later, after some discussion with the connection that got me the job, I landed a better one within the company. 3 years after that, I’m in the job I’m in today and couldn’t be happier.
Look out for numero uno (along with your family)while not burning any bridges.
Thank goodness I am not the only one who thinks the requirements for entry-level jobs are crazy. I have to get experience to gain experience? Really? I was lucky enough to find a job that I love right out of college, but many are not as fortunate.
I got my job through networking. The company did a poor job placing there ad which went largely unnoticed berried 6 pages in on the parent companies website and one random job site. I am part of a young professionals group which looks to be great for networking. It can set a good causal environment to meet people.
Volunteering full time is a great way to stay in the “full time” mindset. Not only will you meet people, you’re developing a long term relationship with an organization that may be able to hire you in the future. At the very least, this experience will keep you stay out of the unemployment slums, because it allows you to meaningfully contribute to your community while staying active.