“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
~ Calvin Coolidge
College graduates are one of those brutal segments that have tough experiences when it comes to employment.
There are a few things that make it hard to secure a job for a new graduate:
- Few points of differentiation.
- Lack of work experience.
- Perpetual competition (new graduates are being injected into the marketplace every semester).
- Low credibility on the job market.
- Lack of understanding of how the job market functions and what has to be done to effectively tackle the job search.
Today I want to cover 3 elements of the job search for college students.
Let’s look at them one by one.
The number one mistake of all college students/new graduates (well, all job seekers really) that serves as the major obstacle in their job search activities is not knowing their targets. That in turn, stems from the lack of self-awareness.
Before moving forward with your job search activities, your primary responsibility is to understand who you are, the unique value you can create, and what is that you want to do.
There are several things that you can do to gain clarity.
1. Use psychology.
Use psychological tests to understand your personality. MBTI is a good place to start. You can use 👉16personalities.com or 👉truity.com. Enneagram tests like this 👉 one are also quite informative. Explore multiple tests and assemble a big picture of what is your personality type. A career path that is misaligned with your psychology will never bring you fulfillment.
2. Use professional help.
There are people who are trained in helping people to discover what their aptitudes and vocations are. Try to find such employment services in your area and capitalize on them.
Don’t keep anything in your head. Think on paper. Ask yourself the following questions and put all your answers in writing:
- What are you good at?
- What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
- What makes you happy? What makes you annoyed?
- To which industry do you naturally gravitate? Make a list of top 3.
- What companies operate in those industries? In which of them do you see yourself? Which one has the culture that would fit you?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (What are my top-3 variations of future reality career-wise?)
- What can I do to further my self-awareness?
Take your time to meditate on these questions. Understanding yourself is not an easy task. It is a significant investment of energy and time but the ROI is totally worth it.
The biggest challenge of a new graduate job seeker.
One of the most challenging things for new graduates is that they are willing to be everything to everyone. But this is not the need of the job market.
So then, the question is how do you specialize when you don’t even know what are the options out there?
The answer is — start preparing for the job market while you are still in college.
Those who are hired quickly after graduation are the ones who have done some type of work, for example:
- Worked on a project and created a result
- Had internships
- Done part-time jobs
Orient yourself towards acquiring skills and exposing yourself to various professional environments. Explore what are your unique gifts and to what type of work do you naturally gravitate to.
Ask yourself: what can you bring into the marketplace? In the real world, people are getting paid because they are capable of solving a particular set of problems. In reality, it is all about the value that you bring to the table.
Speaking of which, here is another thing you should bear in mind.
Never think that you have nothing to offer.
It is true, the lack of work experience is a significant barrier to employment. But it doesn’t mean that you have nothing to offer.
There are so many things that new graduates possess that a more seasoned job seeker might not. Here are just a few examples:
- Hunger/Hard Work Ethic. You are eager to prove yourself, you know that given the chance, you will go above and beyond. Work ethic is not a skill. It can’t be learned. Work ethic is a choice. Some people make it, and some people don’t.
- Research skills. As someone of a younger generation, being able to dig up and absorb information is your second nature. You ask less senseless questions, just because you know how to use Google. You’d be surprised to know how many people are not proficient with information research tools.
- Fast-learning. Yes, I call it a skill. I believe that one can teach himself how to be a fast learner. Although young people have a serious advantage here for obvious reasons.
- You are tech-savvy. In a disruption economy, it is crucial to be able to adapt and effectively utilize new technology. The senior tiers of the workforce are more reluctant to adopt new tech. Your technical skills are your edge.
- Attention to detail. Younger workers are more detail-oriented for 2 reasons: first, you get more easily distracted as you age; second, as a new employee, you will be triple checking that email before you press the “send” button.
- Coachability. The younger you are, the more potential you have to become anything your employer wants you to be. In fact, some employers specifically emphasize that they need candidates without previous experience — for them, it is much easier to train someone from zero than, I quote, “make the candidate unlearn bad practices and work habits”.
To sum up, securing employment is not just about what you have, it is also about the ability to present what you have. That, in turn, comes from the ability to reframe your mindset about your weaknesses, or shall we call them, areas that need improvement.
Change your perspective on your lack of work experience.
Internationally trained professionals who come to the country and possess up to 10 years of experience, they still need training when they start in a new role. Senior workers who have 10 to 20 years of expertise in their industry still require continuous training, the world of work is evolving, and they must evolve with it if they want to stay relevant in the job market.
I am trying to make a point.
Every single worker needs training.
And every sensible employer understands that. So do not obsess too much about the idea that the employer has to invest his time and resources into your training. Many progressive companies are more than happy to do so if they see that the candidate is worth it i.e. possesses the necessary ingredients.
Lack of experience is a fact. The way you present it — that is what matters.
Lastly, you would be surprised to discover how much personality matters during the job interview, and how many great individuals forget to bring their personality to the interview.
A simple smile and an ability to maintain eye contact make miracles. It is the resume that gets you into the room, but it is who you are that will win you the interview.
There’s no need to cover up your lack of work experience, and you definitely shouldn’t lie about it. Be transparent. But when an employer asks about your work experience your answer should never limit to a banal ‘no’. Always turn your ‘no’ into ‘no but…’
❓ Do you have any experience with this software A?
👍No, but I have been working with software B, and I think they’re very similar so I’m sure I will be able to figure out if I play with it for a couple of weeks.
❓ Do you have any experience with sales?
👍No, but I have experience in customer service and I am not afraid of talking to people. In the meantime, I am also educating myself on the subject of sales (books, webinars, lectures).
Now, these are just some examples, but you get the point.
Find a way to flip the interview narrative in a way that allows you to showcase the skills that compensate your lack of experience and address the employer’s concern.
Keep in mind, the employers are not looking for someone who can do what the job description says. The job description is irrelevant. They are looking for someone who can solve a particular problem that has created the hiring need. That is the employer’s concern, and that is the one you must demolish.
But what do I do if I have absolutely 0 experience?
Well, in that case, your action plan becomes rather simple:
Go and build those experiences.
Which brings us to the last element of the job search.
Find a mentor.
The best thing that you can do is to find yourself a mentor.
Once you make up your mind about the things you want to do, start meeting people who are already doing it.
Adopt a mindset of a humble seeker:
“Teach me everything you know and I will work for you for free.”
That is the mental attitude that you should have when you approach those whose guidance you seek.
Start knocking the doors:
“I am looking to gain more experience in the industry.”
“Can I help you with any of your projects for free?”
“Can I come to your presentation? Maybe I could come and help you with the promotion of your event?”
Seek for some sort of participation. Because any sort of participation is work. It is related to your industry, and it is something you can put on your resume. But most importantly working for a mentor will give you the perspective of the insider into how he thinks and executes.
Find an internship in that field
If you are located in Canada, here are some resources:
Internships are great. Not only you will start gaining that valuable experience in the industry, but you will start building your networking in the industry. And that is critical. You never know where the job will come from.
Contact Employment Services
If you’re a recent graduate you might be able to qualify for co-op placements. Reach out to the employment center in your area and try to find a Workforce Specialist / Job Developer who is in charge of such programs.
Even if you don’t find a co-op that suits your needs, at the very least you will be able to get feedback on your resume and get assistance with interview skills preparation.
Network with the representatives of the employment centers. It is always good to have contacts who possess expertise in the area of career development. People who know people are very powerful friends to have.
Work on individual projects
Start a Youtube channel, write a blog, organize an event or a free workshop, build an app, start a startup, write a book, initiate a sports movement. Do something that will push you to acquire new skills. Having some creative projects on your resume will always look good and it will speak for your leadership skills, problem-solving skills, and creativity.
Explore volunteering. Giving back to the community communicates to the employer that you possess kindness and compassion. It also teaches you a lot of work-related skills: communication, teamwork, coordinating with others, service orientation.
Interestingly, volunteering has led many people to an organic transition into a contract/part-time role, and afterward full-time job. Never underestimate the power of selfless service.
I am a millennial. I’ve been there and I understand what it means to not be able to secure a job because of lack of work experience. So I want to share a simple truth that probably nobody tells you in college.
In the world of work there are only two things that matter:
- Your credentials.
- Your ability to solve problems.
The former is the reason why people will listen to what you have to say and take you seriously. The latter is directly related to the experiences you acquire. The complexity and the scope of problems that you are able to solve define your value on a job market.
Start collecting your credentials and gaining experiences as soon as possible. Life is not a draft. It is a fair copy. Work hard. For what you do today, the future you will thank you tomorrow.
Who to follow?
I thank these amazing content creators and beautiful people for their commitment and exemplary work. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. My deepest respect.
Thank you for reading this essay.
If you would like to learn more about my work, here is my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.