First comes college, then comes a job. It’s a natural cycle for millions of college students in the U.S. But let’s be honest, that’s WAY easier said than done. With an unemployment rate in the U.S. lingering around just under seven percent, it’s harder than ever to start getting that big paycheck right after you graduate.
I’m writing about this because I am a member of the Class of 2014 who just graduated and needs one of those coveted jobs. Yes, I’ll admit it, as of right now I do not have a full-time job and I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a double major in political science. This is not because I didn’t apply to any jobs yet, or I didn’t put in the effort to search for them, or that I didn’t connect with alumni. I did all of those many times. The fact is, finding a job post 2008 is not the same as it was for my parents’ generation.
Finding a job has always been tough, especially if you don’t have many connections in the industry you’re trying to enter. But in the wake of the global financial crisis that began in 2008 and is starting to dissipate today, employers are in an entirely different mind-set than they were not even 10 years ago. Like, BIG TIME. And the only way to get inside an employer’s mind and find out what they’re thinking when they’re trying to hire someone is to do some time-traveling. You need to get into the 2010s and out of the 2000s or whatever decade of the 20th century you got your first job in. Because your job interview today won’t be the same as one in 1985 or even 2005.
You might be wondering, “how does he know this, he just graduated and knows nothing about the real world?” That’s where you’re wrong. I might not have the experience that my elders do, but I do have the know-how for how to successfully job hunt in this era of selfies, LinkedIn and iPhones. I’ve already had several interviews for full-time positions and understand how they work, and how an interview in 2014 is going to be different from an interview in 2004 was.
Times in the job-hunting world have dramatically changed. This is Thing #1 of the “5 Things You Should Know About Getting A Job in 2014.” You need to know that you are up against some significant changes in how you go about landing a job in 2014, and if you know and accept this, you’re already one step ahead of the crowd.
Before I get to Thing #2, I want to tell you one way that you can quickly catch yourself up on how to successfully score a job in 2014. For a career-prep seminar I took last semester, my professor had the class read “What Color is Your Parachute,” the 2014 edition. I now consider this book my Bible for all things career-prep and job-searching. It details almost everything you need to know to help you stand out in the job application process, from how social media is overhauling the entire process to how to answer some of the new questions employers are asking in interviews. Please buy this book, it’s money well spent and you’ll feeling like a wiz after reading it. The exercises in the book are helpful too, and they actually teach you a lot about yourself.
That leads to Thing #2-you need to know how to use social media effectively. And by this I don’t mean knowing how to post photos from your cousin’s baby shower or share what music you’re listening to. You need to know how to accurately and actively engage with a target audience. Remember, older people probably don’t understand social media as much as younger people. If you can stand out by showing you know how to communicate on social media and how to use it to drive conversations or sales, you are already more marketable and hire-able than most job seekers.
And if you’re an older person or younger person who doesn’t know Facebook from a face plant, you need to up your game considerably. For the majority of interviews, don’t even consider accepting an interview unless you’re on at least one social network. Especially if you’re younger. Employers equate social media with the younger generation, so if you’re a young person and don’t have a Facebook and/or Twitter account, that sends a red flag to many employers. They’ll think you’re trying to hide something. Don’t make them think this. Also, being on LinkedIn is mandatory. It’s your online resume and shows who you know all in one place, basically a goldmine for someone trying to decide if you’re the right person for the job.
Thing #3 is to know how to communicate your skills the right way. Years ago, you could get a job simply by having a college degree and being a decent person in many circumstances. Not the case anymore. Even though it’s always been all about “who you know,” it’s even more true today. Here’s why: employers are even more nervous about taking hiring risks post 2008 because of money. If they hire you and you end up costing them money or getting fired because of poor performance, that’s bad for the workplace and even worse for the employer. It makes them look bad and you could also put their job on the line.
Hiring someone is a great expense to an employer, so they’re not just taking anyone anymore. Today, you need to show that you have experience doing what the job description entails. If you don’t, you need to highlight and convey the transferable skills you have that can apply to the position. Transferable skills are skills such as writing, public speaking, development work, business knowledge, or web development etc. These are all skills that are useful to have in most jobs and if you can show that you have some of them but might not have a lot of experience, you at least stand more of a chance than those without these skills.
Thing #4 is understanding how to apply for jobs the right way. If you think all you have to do is search job boards or websites like Indeed and you’ll magically get interviews or offers, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not at all how it works anymore. Not even close. Today, many companies don’t even post job openings on their websites. Instead, they’re posting them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Employers want to reach those who are connected to and following them.
So again, if you want to work for say, Apple, and you’re not following them on social media, get on that. You might be missing a lot. I’ve experienced this first-hand where I found out about job opportunities on Twitter but never saw a mention of anything on an employer’s website.
Another crucial thing to try is information interviewing, rounding out our list at Thing #5. This is when you call up an employer or HR person and ask if you can meet with someone to learn more about the company. It’s a fairly low-stakes engagement, both you and the employer have nothing to lose, only things to gain. You’d be surprised how often these kinds of interviews happen, and more importantly how often they lead to actual full-time paid positions.
Think about it, 100 people applied for the position, and the employer is only connected to maybe five of those people. They’ve actually met you and seen your face and know you’re a real person. Your odds of getting the job just skyrocketed all because you took some initiative to put yourself out there. You brought the job to YOU.
My last advice goes without saying and has been true for decades, but phone calls and in person exchanges still go a long way. If you applied for a position on March 31 and it’s April 20 and you haven’t heard back, CALL! Your application is probably sitting on the employer’s desk with hundreds of others and they probably haven’t even began to sift through them. Your call gives them a reason to pick up your application and consider you. Be your own advocate, and fight for yourself. No one else will.