Hey people. This isn't your dad's job market, which means that your parents' ways of getting a job just aren't going to cut it. Here's a survival guide for recent and not-so-recent grads on how to land a job.
1. Don't listen.
You heard me. Don't listen. Not to everyone. But stop listening to the jobs numbers. Every pundit on the planet is analyzing and over-analyzing every tick in the number of jobs lost, jobs created, number of new applications for unemployment, whether those numbers are going up or down... Who cares? You shouldn't. So don't listen. Companies actually are still hiring. It's just that the way they're doing the hiring has changed. You've probably seen this. Perhaps you've got a friend who's landed a job working for her boyfriend's uncle. Or, a cousin who's now working for his former summer camp counselor. The truth is that the way people get jobs nowadays is completely different than it used to be. In fact, according to recent studies, 50 percent of new hires come from referral, and 25 percent come from employees' social networks. That means that over 75 percent of new hires come from networking or a direct recommendation and introduction. If this is true, then it is time for you to put those social (on and off-line) networks to work for you and get yourself out there.
Try to ignore all of the griping about "how bad it is out there." It's only bad if you decide it's bad. So stop complaining, turn off the TV, video game console, stop texting, and get a handle on your future. Oh, and remember, don't listen.
2. Ignore Wall Street and Washington.
There is a hashtag trending on Twitter that uses a four-letter word (#expletiveWashington) and another #WhereAreTheJobs. Americans are fed up with Washington posturing. Between the Debt Crisis, the downgrading of U.S. debt and the tanking of the stock market, working Americans are disgusted that Congress merely tipped a hat toward job creation and then gave themselves a five-week vacation. We're fed up. And rightly so if you ask me. So what should you, the job seeker, do? I say ignore them. And here's why.
Whatever scenarios end up playing out in Washington and whatever roller-coaster plays out on Wall Street, the fact is that it is going to have little effect on you, at least for the near term. No amount of deals, tax hikes, tax cuts, deficit reduction, regulation, debt ratings downgrade and market fluctuation are going to drive a short-term net effect of motivating businesses to create new positions, and hire more people. In fact, it might do just the opposite. So I say, don't hold your breath.
Chances are that this "trickle down" economic approach is unlikely to make "Help Wanted" signs suddenly go up all over the city. Not today. Not tomorrow.
So stop listening when the folks in Washington say be patient, the jobs are coming. Instead, turn away from the rhetoric and look straight in the mirror. You'll discover that the person looking back at you is the only person who is going to help get you back to work any time soon. It's time for all of us to grab our bootstraps and get going.
3. Stake your claim.
Our country has always been about staking claims. Claims were staked during the Louisiana Expansion, the California Gold Rush, and in 1969 when we placed an American flag on the Moon. Just recently, Walt Disney Studios staked a claim by trademarking "Seal Team 6," the Navy team that brought down Osama bin Laden. The funny thing about claim-staking is that we rarely do it for ourselves.
But here's something every job seeker should know. Careers don't just happen. They are made. And if you don't stake a Claim in Your Own Career, believe me, no one else will.
This incredibly simple piece of advice is actually not that simple. Imagine that you are a marathon runner, or a Mount Everest climber or a very determined dieter. All of the individuals have made a strong commitment to doing something with determination and tons of effort. No one ever said it was easy to get to the top of Everest. The same can be said of building a career. No matter how much hoping you do, your school's career counselors and your folks aren't going to do it for you.
It is up to you to take responsibility for your future. So when you think you're looking for a job "all day long," count up how many hours you spent NOT looking for a job. My guess is you're not as committed as you think you are.
4. Be a car.
Some of the most iconic branding in the world sits on the back of every car on the road. Those shiny metal words and symbols hold meaning for us. When you see the word Volvo, you immediate think "safety" or, if from a younger generation, "boring." The four interlocking rings of Audi say superior engineering, and the word Prius just makes you feel like you're doing something good for the environment. That's because the car companies have figured out how to make you think and feel a certain way about them.
You need to be a car. Well, not exactly. But you do need to understand who you are and what you want to be in the world. Because getting a job is about selling yourself. And by being clear about what you can offer to hiring managers, you will be able to get people to buy into the brand that is you.
One way to figure out what you want to do, and align that with what you're good at is to identify what passions drive you to get out of bed in the morning, what interests captivate your attention and what skills you have to offer. I call the place where these three overlapping circles intersect the Sweet Spot (see diagram). Your Sweet Spot can help you discover the essence of your brand, and is an essential component of differentiating yourself from other hungry job seekers.
- Ask the most creative person in your life to help you do the following brainstorming exercise to discover your Sweet Spot.
- Grab three sheets of paper and some colored pens. Title one page with Passions, another with Interests, and the third page with Skills.
- Fill in the pages using the definitions above, being as open-minded as you can be. Once finished, randomly select one item from each list and begin brainstorming interesting things that you could do with your life that would allow you to work at the place where your Passions, Interests and Skills intersect.
- Example: Passion - experiencing new things. Interest - learning about different cultures. Skill - writing. Brainstorm idea - Travel the world, experience new things and meet people of varying backgrounds. Write a professional travel blog or for a magazine.
5. Think backward.
If you want to surf, you better go where there are good waves. And if you don't know any good surf spots, chances are you'd find some other surfers and ask them how to find the cool spots.
Now apply this thinking to your job search. If you want to make movies, go to the places where people make movies. If you want to make cool software, you should find places where people are making cool software.
This logic seems simple, but it's not how most people think about looking for a job. Most people start by poring through job sites seeking out open opportunities that sort-of-maybe-kind-of fit their skills. Next, so relieved to have found a potential job match, they contort themselves into believing that they'd be happy working at this particular company, even if the company is a widget company and the job seeker intensely dislikes widgets. Unfortunately, that's how desperate some people feel about their job prospects.
I want you to Think Backward. What if instead of looking for job listings first, and companies second, you begin looking for companies first, and jobs second. This seemingly backward thinking works for getting into good surf, why can't it work for finding a good job?
Here's how it works. Instead of using sites like Monster.com or Idealist.org to look for job openings, use these sites to explore company profiles and see what kinds of companies are out there. See if you can find organizations that are doing things that get you really excited. Don't worry if any jobs exist right now. That's not the point. The point is to discover what makes you tick. This process, which up-ends that traditional way of job searching, is something I call Reverse Engineering the Job Market. Here's the basic idea.
- Find companies and organizations that are doing things (making products, providing services) that get you really stoked.
- Don't worry about whether there are any job openings -- in fact, don't look. Just get to know the place.
- Read the mission statement. The history. The leadership. Get a sense of the company culture and whether it would be a cool place to work.
- Look on the team pages and learn what sorts of people work there. Would you like to meet some of them? Do they have the kind of job you'd like to have?
If you answer yes to some of these questions, you're ready for your next tip.
6. Enchant people.
Do you love your iPod, IPhone or Mac? Or do you just love going into the Apple store 'cuz it's so cool? Apple computer has captivated all of us with its inventions. In his recent book, Apple's former chief evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, talks about the three pillars of Enchantment: likability, trustworthiness and a great cause.
Your ability to identify, interview for, and land a job are, in my mind, a pretty great cause. Or at least that's how you need to think about it.
In today's very picky job market, where getting a job is based as much on who you know as it is on what skills and experience you have, you better figure out how to be likable, trustworthy, and a good cause.
Part of your full-time job to get a job is to meet with and enchant as many people as you can. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks to find, meet and befriend people who already work at the types of companies you want to work for. These "in" people are your ticket to getting a job.
Take a look at the team pages on a company's website. See if you can find someone in your networked-network that can make an introduction, or help you get an introduction. Be a good listener (for Tip No. 6, please ignore Tip No. 1), and people will take an interest in you. From there, it's all a numbers game.
7. Make 5 your lucky number.
Most people think that 7 is the luckiest number. I've no doubt you'll change your lucky number once you learn to Network by 5's. When I was a bright-eyed, freshly minted grad, I moved to L.A. to make it in Hollywood. Through a random meeting in a busy lobby, to a phone interview, to an in-person sitdown, I found myself interviewing for a job that wasn't the right fit. Instead of giving up, this woman and I started chatting, using some good, enchanting techniques (a shared love of sports or travel can be a great start), and we ended up deciding to be friends. I suddenly had an "in" person.
I turned to my new friend and said, "I'm new in town and don't know anyone, or what the jobs actually are out there. Do you think that you might have five friends who'd be willing to talk to me for five minutes about what they do?" My new friend agreed and with each meeting I had, with each new person I met and befriended, I had another "in" person. By the time I had been in Hollywood for five weeks, I had met 54 people at studios around the city. When Disney called to ask me to come in for an interview for my dream job (as a director's assistant), they told me my resume had been submitted to the pile eleven times. No doubt they had come from all of my new friends. If you want to Network by 5's, here's what you should do:
- Ask your "in" person to give you the names of five people who might be willing to share five minutes of their time to tell you about what they do for a living.
- Whether in person or on the phone, become a genuinely interested listener. Learn everything you can about what this person does, and how they got to be doing their job. Know that this meeting is not about you. Ignore your need for a job and focus on letting the person in front of you tell their story.
- Ask enchanting questions and make a new friend. The funny things is, that if you do this well, they'll end up thinking you're wonderful, and they'll turn the conversation to you.
- Know your personal career brand so you'll feel comfortable talking about yourself and what you are looking to do. Always have a resume to share. At the end, if you feel they'll be open to it, ask them for the names of five of their friends.
In no time, you'll know scores of people doing the kind of work you want to be doing, and your job search will be on the fast track.
8. Be like aspirin.
Aspirin is a great painkiller, and when a hiring manager is looking to bring on a new employee it is usually because the organization is feeling a bit of pain. It could be that someone left the company, there's too much work for the existing staff, or a new initiative needs some additional attention. Whatever the case, when you go in for a job interview, your job is to be like aspirin and make their pain go away. What exactly does that mean?
Imagine you're going in for a sales job and your responsibility will be to cover a certain territory selling a product. The best way for you show that interviewer that you are the right person for the job is to demonstrate your skills as a salesperson. No, I don't mean you should go into Crazy Eddie sales mode. But you can relay stories about past sales experience (perhaps you helped sell out all the tickets to a school fundraiser) or about your fearlessness in making cold calls. Believe me when I tell you that, just like you, your interviewer is looking to get the interview process over with and get back to work as soon as possible.
Interviewing can be hard and scary. It always feels like there's too much on the line and you're so nervous about landing the job that it can be hard to stay calm and focused on your interviewer's questions. Before the big day, research the company and your interviewer. Put yourself in their shoes and see if you can figure out some of the challenges they might face. And remember this important point: If you can make their work-related headaches go away, you're going to be a rock star in their eyes.
9. Go see a movie.
Finding a job is a full-time job. It can be exhausting and demoralizing. Honestly, it's easy to just want to crawl into bed and ignore the entire thing. Here's what I want you to do: Go see a movie. I don't care which one. Just go have some fun being distracted for 120 minutes in a dark movie theater. Give your brain, your ego, and your keyboard and mouse a rest. Remember that life is fun and you will, once you Stake Your Claim (No. 3), be on your feet.
10. Stay the course.
To find out your score at the end of a round of golf, you have to stay on the course for the entire 18 holes. To find out your marathon time, you have to complete the 26.2 miles. And to land a job, especially one that you really want, you have to keep at it. No one ever said this would be easy. And as new grads enter into the toughest job market in the past 80 years, it takes a special something, an extra special kind of commitment and determination and willingness to try when others have given up. You may have finished your final exams, but this is the first test of your working life.
Find people to help you along the way and help you keep focused. My 85-year-old mentor is one of the people who keeps me on track. If you can't find a mentor, buddy up with a friend and hit the library or the local coffee shop together. Keep each other motivated, inspired (and caffeinated if necessary). Just don't lose hope. So... don't listen and just ignore Washington. If you do these things, you might never realize that the news out there is bleak.
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