A mother called me regarding help for her son who graduated from college in June. She asked if I was a recruiter and could find a job for her son. I explained what I do as a resume writer and career coach. Then I cautioned her that few recruiters place new college graduates. Those who do usually recruit on campus before graduation. The mother then told me that she and her son wanted to find a recruiter because that would be the easiest way for him to find work.
I’m sure this mother loves her son, but she’s doing two things that are not helping him. First, she’s pushing him to follow a passive job search. That path doesn’t work for most people. It’s especially hard for new grads. Worse still, she’s the one making the calls and trying to find a job for him. That’s his responsibility. What she is doing may be an act of love, but it is one that will hurt her son’s career. He needs to do the heavy lifting and take charge of his future.
Jenny Che of The Huffington Post has written an article exploring how new college graduates can earn more on their first job. Che’s advice can be summed up in one word: Negotiate. According to an expert cited by Che, many companies are willing to increase salaries for new college graduates by as much as 5-10% over the initial offer. If the employer won’t offer more money, it’s possible to negotiate some other aspect of compensation: employer share of health care, education reimbursement, or related benefits. What’s the secret to getting more on your first job? Know you worth, and ask the employer to give a little more.
Bloomberg recently surveyed economists regarding career advice for new college graduates. I highly recommend that you read this article if you’re a new graduate or someone who cares about one. Every point is well made. I want to focus on two of them.
Be willing and able to relocate: The economy is better than it was in 2009, but it’s still not great. To have the wide range of opportunities and the best chance for an optimal salary, be open to moving. Study the industry you want to work in and identify where it is strongest. I’d recommend looking at 3-5 cities. Find ones you would want to live in where there are opportunities in your field.
“Don’t be a lifer”: Loyalty is a virtue. However, it can kill a career. Staying with the same company for 10 or 20 years sounds like a good thing, but it often limits your earning potential and chances for advancement. As the article demonstrates in a graph, loyalty makes sense for people between the ages of 45-70. It is easier to change jobs and industries early in one’s career. Explore the options that work for you and be open to relocating for new career opportunities.
If you learn to manage your career early rather than just looking for a job, you will earn more money and have more control over your destiny. Again, this article in Bloomberg is a good starting point
I recently spoke to a group of college students recently. I asked what their concerns were about find work. One said that some students had problems finding jobs in their major. For some, this might be a problem. For others, however, it can be a career advantage. Many of my most successful clients work in fields that have little to do with their major. For them, a change in career goals was not a limitation, but a type of freedom.
At least half of my clients who were trained as lawyers work in fields outside of the law. Some are managers or consultants. Others work in communications or media. Training in the law provides a wide range of skills that are applicable beyond the court room. In a similar sense, people who major in the humanities rarely work in their majors. Instead, they use broad skills in thinking and communication to adapt to all types of professional fields. They are often the people best fit to move across careers because they haven’t committed themselves to a field like accounting or engineering. That said, some of my clients who are accountants and engineers have made exciting career changes that have brought them new opportunities and increased income.
Don’t limit yourself. As Seth Godin says, “Draw your own map.” Too often a person who wants to make a change convinces herself that she can’t do it. At that point, one thing is certain – failure. Some people try to change careers and fail, but they have taken the first step and have a chance to try again. They have given themselves that freedom.
The job market is not as bad as it was four years ago, but it’s still not good. I’ve met several talented people – career changers, new college graduates – who assume that they have to take entry level jobs because the market is so bad. This is a bad career management strategy.
Look at the jobs you think you are qualified for and apply for the jobs that fit your ability and experience. Students often forget that the skills and knowledge they learn in school give them value that often puts them above the first rung on the ladder. Similarly, career changers bring value through transferable skills and flexibility gained in other jobs. Test your value by finding 8-10 posts for jobs you would want to do. Don’t start by looking for entry level. Try to find higher level jobs that you are qualified to fill. That will give you an opportunity to make more money know and move up faster to the kind of positions that you will find challenging and fulfilling.
If you live in an area or have a skill level that limits you to entry level positions, try to find a company where you will have an ability to move up, learn higher level skills, and make more money. Don’t trap yourself in a lower level job before you have to. Always look for ways to climb the career ladder.
Citing a report by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Think Progress examines the plight of recent college graduates who can only land low paying jobs. Ironically, some jobs that don’t require college degrees pay significantly more. The report does not deny that people with degrees have better work opportunities. What it notes is that more graduates are not enjoying opportunities they had in the past. As a country, we need to start paying attention to the kind of jobs that are being created in the current “recovery.” As more stories of college students falling through the economic cracks become prominent, especially when they are backed by data from the New York Fed, it’s logical to assume that some students will give up on college and give up on their future. Opportunity needs to be more than a political slogan.
Today I was working with a recent college graduate who wants to break into the fashion industry. Her current way of looking for work is to check job board websites every few days. I suggested an alternative: Become an expert about your profession. I recommended that she learn everything she can about companies in Chicago that deal with fashion (She does not want to relocate). Her next step would be to look for any open jobs at these companies that fit her skills. Beyond that she should try to build network relations that will let her meet potential employers. It’s fine to check job boards. But when you work in a specialized industry, the only good way to manage your career is to know it inside and out. It is necessary to build a network and track changes in the industry. Think of this exercise as creating a map that will let you plan and navigate your career.
I wrote recently about diminished prospects for young workers, including new college graduates. Earlier today I met with a young woman who graduated two years ago with a degree in liberal arts. Her resume was set up to focus on jobs in business analysis, even though her qualifications in that area were limited. I asked her what she wanted to do. She told me operations and management.
Where did that come from? After graduating, she spent a year and a half working in a family business where she came to manage all aspects of operations, including accounts payable and receivable. The more we talked, the more I came to see how this client was very qualified for the kind of jobs she was seeking. What we needed to do was write a resume that aligned her experience with the kind of jobs she wanted to pursue. That’s our next step in getting this job search to be more targeted.
It’s a difficult job market for people of all ages. Anyone looking for a job needs to assess the direction of their search and keep it as focused as possible. As Henry David Thoreau wrote long ago: “In the long run, we only hit what we aim at.” Success starts with knowing your target.
Since 2008, young workers, including college graduates, have struggled to get a good job. Writing in Huffington Post, Jillian Berman examines this problem with a focus on college graduates getting jobs that do not require a degree, which usually means that they pay lower wages. Young workers are earning less and building wealth much more slowly than the previous generation. Then Berman adds the real problem: debt. College graduate now hold student loans that are more than twice what a graduate would have had in the early 1980s.
Berman questions whether young college grads will ever dig out of this hole. I’m a little less pessimistic. I think the current generation on average will not enjoy the opportunities my generation did. However, many will succeed on the individual level because they will practice good career management. It’s easy to give into despair and say that things will never get better. Several of my younger clients have had to take first jobs that were less than they expected. But they kept looking for something better. They targeted and improved the skills they want to use on the job, and they were able to get better jobs. Looking for work is never easy, but in a job market like this one, the only way to get ahead is to keep looking for a better opportunity.
LinkedIn is a great tool for the job search and career management. Most people use it as a way to network and learn who knows whom. It often lets us discover connections that we would never know by making phone calls and asking people out for coffee or lunch.
I also urge clients, especially new college graduates to join alumni groups on LinkedIn. Beyond the normal connections the website provides, it also lets clients identify which companies have hired graduates of their school. Employers tend to hire new staff from the same school, which is very important information for a job seeker to have. I urge clients to use LinkedIn alumni groups to build a database of potential employers. The website often enables tracking of changes and open positions at those companies.
As the saying goes, “knowledge is power.” Good career planning is an ongoing activity. Use LinkedIn to learn more about potential employers, especially those who have a pattern of hiring graduates from your school. Build your database and start marketing yourself.
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