Like most other students, the thought of searching for a job left me with feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. With little to no experience under my belt, how was I going to successfully prove to companies that I was their ideal candidate? The difficulty of this challenge was only furthered by the fact that as students, we are competing with millions of highly experienced professionals who are also seeking jobs. That said, I was able to overcome these barriers and land an opportunity that has added excellent credentials to my resume. In the following article, I will share not only the tips I gathered during my job search process but also everything I have learned through working at a highly rated career coaching company.
Change the Rules
Just like any other student who has worked tirelessly for their degree, I had high hopes for how my degree would help me get my first job. But unforeseen situations like COVID-19 can lead to our feeling like we’re navigating an environment that we are not well equipped to handle. However, this couldn’t be more untrue. Opportunities still fully exist and are ours to seize, if we are only willing to think just a little bit outside the box.
Consider the long list of people who were able to do exactly that: Steve Jobs, Jay-Z, and Ellen DeGeneres, to just name a few. The very root of their success was being able to think outside the box and focusing on the areas in which they excelled. So let’s now take a closer look at how this exact premise can apply to you.
In an era when everything is changing constantly, we are wired so that our attention easily shifts from one trend to the next. A lot of people bemoan this fact about those in Generation Z, but it is actually a true strength that you probably haven’t yet realized. We are attuned to the world in a way that those older than us may not be: we recognize trends, we implement them fast, and we look for what is coming next.
Simply put, you have the opportunity to position yourself as an innovator—not simply a follower—to potential employers. I will expand on this idea more throughout the article, but now let’s talk about something that is even more important than what we’ve just discussed.
Anyone who’s ever taken a sales training course knows that people buy emotionally and then attempt to justify their choices later. We need to understand the psychology of this in the context of selling ourselves for a job. Consider this scenario: An employer is considering a pool of five candidates, one of which is you, for a position. You excelled at your job interview and got along very well with the recruiters, but the other candidates have better experience. Whom is the employer going to choose?
You are underestimating the importance of being personable and self-confident if you immediately said one of the other candidates. While one’s qualifications and experience are important, people are human, and they are inherently drawn toward those with whom they feel a personal connection. In other words, employers will often hire those they like and will justify why they chose you over someone else later, even though the other person may have been more qualified.
If you have good people skills, that should give you confidence. Self-confidence isn’t something that most have immediately, particularly in the context of finding a job. However, you can certainly build it.
But how do you build self-confidence that can then be broadcast to potential employers? You can do this by setting yourself up for victory. First, start off in safe or familiar environments where you can build skills and get positive reinforcement. Focus on the transferable skills that you will use for the rest of your life, such as effective listening, speaking/presenting, and teamwork. One way you can accomplish this goal is by joining a local Toastmasters club, or finding a leadership position in one of your school’s organizations.
Get in the Back Door Through Networking
Let’s build on the idea of approaching your job search in an unconventional way. Rather than just applying for jobs where your resume is being compared with those of other highly competitive candidates, get in the backdoor through networking. This is one way to potentially grab a job that is not even being advertised.
Your Current Network
As I am learning from the coaches at YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services, most people underestimate or entirely ignore their personal network. Some are not even aware that they have one.
One important aspect to understand in regard to our personal network is that it includes everyone—from your parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, and friends to your neighbors, teachers, coaches, and even your former babysitters. Every person with whom you have or once had a personal connection is someone whom you can consider to be in your network.
Your New Network
Your new network is everyone else who can be helpful to you, many of whom you may not have even met yet. But your current network is a great source for building this new network, particularly once you know what you need to ask for. In addition to your current network, you can approach building your new professional network from a number of different angles.
For example, you can start by identifying the industries you are interested in and seek authorities in that field. Identify employers in those industries and search for peers, influencers, and decision-makers who work in those industries. LinkedIn is a great place to locate such people. Explicitly asking for a job is not recommended; rather, simply reach out to that person and ask to chat. Even if this chat doesn’t result in a job offer, your knowledge of that industry has likely increased and more importantly, your network has as well. Also, be prepared for the fact that maybe only 15–20% of people will respond, so make sure to cast a wide net and not become easily discouraged. At YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services, the coaches ease the difficulty of these tasks by teaching their clients how to approach these strangers, how to engage them, and what to ask for.
Master Interview AikidoTM
As I mentioned earlier, you need to know what to ask for when you connect to people. At YES, career coaching experts have developed a technique called Interview AikidoTM. It enables you to ask questions that will help you frame yourself in an appealing way for prospective employers and people who can refer you for a job. You can learn more about gaining these skills on the Resources page.
In addition to taking the unconventional approach to job search that I covered in the previous section, you can also become more marketable by gaining experience. This is critical if you are pursuing your job search in the traditional way.
Some hidden gems for graduating students are the various job and internship opportunities available within the federal government. Some could even lead to the government’s paying off your student loan, so make sure to check out these opportunities!
I found my internship opportunity through a site called Acadium. While it is limited to certain fields, it is definitely worth exploring. Other excellent job sites include Pathrise and WayUp. Another job site that is rising in popularity is called Ripplematch, which pairs employers and applicants in a unique way. Finally, make sure to utilize Handshake, one of the best job sites for college students.
Don’t underestimate the value of volunteering. There are thousands of opportunities, so you can be very strategic about what kind of skills you are trying to develop and where you will gain them. Not being paid for the work does not diminish the fact that you now have a valuable skill to offer to your prospective employer—and you can list the experience on your resume.
Your Own Gig
Last but not least, consider joining sites like Fiverr or UpWork where you can get paid to work as a freelancer and gain more experience. The trick is to position yourself as someone who has experience in a particular field. This could be the experience you gained when you were volunteering. You can then build on that by offering friends and family inexpensive services on these sites in return for a nominal fee and a positive, honest review that will build your credibility.
You are the master of your post-school life. Pursue both conventional and unconventional approaches to getting a job, and with some due diligence, you will soon land in a position where you can learn while you earn and do something you truly enjoy. And that’s what I call success.
About the Author - Gia Lee is finishing her marketing degree at the University of Texas at Austin..