It’s Summer 2018 and the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in years. Arguably it’s a candidate’s market. And yet, many new and recent college grads are still unemployed. How can that be?
Finding a job is hard. It’s so hard that most people fail to do the heavy lifting of deciding what they might want to do. Discovering what you might want to do requires a number of assertive steps, including: listing your skills and interests and doing some research on career tracks that could be appropriate; researching the role and types of organizations where you can do it; talking with people who do it for a living; and going after that particular role and set of organizations without knowing whether there’s an opening.
- They’re Only Focusing on Incoming
Instead, most current college students and recent grads (and pretty much everybody else) go online and apply to anything that looks interesting. While that is a fine research exercise once you know what kind of job suits you, it is not the best way to start the process of figuring out your right path.
- They Are “Open to Anything”.
I was talking with a recent college grad just the other day about her job search, which she lamented was not going well. When I asked her what kinds of jobs interested her, she told me she was open to the possibilities, which ranged from marketing to consulting to policy work. She’s frustrated that applying online hasn’t borne fruit.To get an employer’s attention, you really need to decide upon specific roles and types of organizations that interest you and write specific cover letters and resumes that speak to specific jobs. Even if you’re not sure of your ideal job, pick a couple that seem like they could be a fit and target everything you do for those jobs. That way you’ll be a lot more convincing when you’re asked to explain why you want the job.
- They’re Not Telling the Right Story
Once you’ve identified a direction or two, it’s time to work on your narrative – your answer to the question “Tell me about yourself.” This story should have a theme, should be carefully curated for the specific audience, and should incorporate the skills and traits someone who has this kind of role typically has.Crafting this story is not a trivial matter. It forms the entire infrastructure of a good job search and points the job seeker in the right direction. It’s a tool to weed out opportunities that may exist but are not right for you. It needs to be crafted for every interview and should be practiced aloud so many times it becomes second nature.
- They’re Failing to Send a Thank You Note
Every time you have an interview, you should send a note thanking the interviewer and providing several concrete reasons why you feel you’re a good fit for the job. If you end up interviewing with a lot of people and don’t have a chance to get their names or email addresses, you can ask your contact, often someone in HR, to supply that information. Each person should receive their own note. Do this and you will stand out. Most candidates fail to send a note and those who do are usually not strategic about stating why they should be hired.
- They’re Not Following Up
Nobody wants to be annoying. But employers are busy and time and again I see jobs slip through candidates’ fingers because they just didn’t try hard enough to pursue them. Should you follow up if you haven’t heard back a week after an interview? Absolutely. Should you follow up more than once? Yes. A recent client of mine went through an extended interview process and followed up several times to gauge progress. Two of the times he followed up they had forgotten to get back to him but he was still in the running. The last time? They had neglected to contact him to tell him he got the job—and it was his absolute first choice job. Don’t be afraid to check in during the process and pick up the phone if you haven’t heard back. The phone is your secret weapon, because millennials especially fail to call. You want to try to do things other candidates are not doing, and using the phone is a big one.
Photo Credit: Allison Cheston, Economy Candy NYC June 2018