He had a college degree in business and had graduated at the top of his class in April. He thought he’d able to become a management trainee at a large, growing company, or even land a job with a national management consulting firm. He thought wrong.
She had a newly minted master’s degree in economics. She thought after her April graduation she’d secure a job conducting research projects or doing analyses, because surely large corporations needed these services in the changing marketplace. She thought wrong.
These two, along with five other college graduates, called me in early May. Their professors had told them not to settle for just any job, but none of them had found any job. This shocked and discouraged them. Their parents gave them my number.
Here’s what I told them.
You’ve entered a job market pounded by the pandemic. You can’t afford to let initial setbacks erode your confidence.
Competition for good jobs is fierce. To find one, you’ll need flexibility, resilience, motivation and determination. Don’t wait for jobs to come to you. Use job boards, like Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter, and LinkedIn. Update your job alerts so you’ll be the first to learn when a new position becomes available.
Be realistic; don’t fixate on landing your dream job. It might not be available, particularly for someone without an employment track record. You may need to consider short term or contract work or work outside your newly gained educational area of expertise. Your first job is not your career; it is your first job.
Keep your options open; be willing to pivot and land a job where you can give value to an employer and gain job skills and a good reference in return. Think strategically. Assess the job marketplace and consider every position for which your skills qualify you.
Don’t turn up your nose at jobs in thriving market sectors such as warehouse distribution; grocery inventory and stocking; food delivery, technology; finance, and customer service. Even a less-than-ideal job may give you opportunities to develop skills you can leverage when applying for your next job.
Further, taking a job shows future employers you possess realism, flexibility and a work ethic. This, plus the job skills you’ll gain, gives you a future competitive advantage over those who sit at home waiting for their dream job. Years ago, career counselors warned that a low initial salary might negatively impact an employee’s ability to negotiate for a higher salary at their next job. In 19 states, however, employers can’t ask applicants what their current or former employer paid them (Alaska is not one).
Next, package yourself in terms of what today’s employers seek. Highlight your technological skills; your willingness to work remotely and with minimal supervision; and any skills you possess that show you can increase an employer’s profitability.
Actively network and continually upgrade yourself. You never know where a job lead might surface. Showcase your ability to think strategically and write powerfully by making comments in LinkedIn and other professional forums. You can acquire many certifications through low or no-cost online programs. Cornell, MIT, and Harvard all offer free courses.
Finally, while the pandemic isn’t your fault, it is your problem. Don’t let disappointments dishearten you and don’t stagnate. The economy is healing, but if you wait on the sidelines for your dream job, you’ll watch it go to someone who tried harder.