I read an article on one of my favourite personal finance websites – Financial Samurai – last week and the content of it saddened me, but unfortunately it did not come as a real surprise. Basically, a commenter on the site had suggested to Sam (owner/writer of the site, successful business man, and entrepreneurial spirit) that anyone that expected a college graduate with decent grades from a decent (non-Ivy league) school to work more than 40 hours a week was crazy. There was no way she would take such an affront to her personal dignity. Sam was understandably taken aback by this, as were many in the personal finance community that usually post on the site. A lot of the negative comments on the board had a, “Kids these days,” sort of ring to them, and I found myself hesitantly agreeing.
We Got Next… Or Maybe Later
Generation Y, I’m sorry but many of us are seriously dropping the ball here. The really sad thing is that we aren’t hurting the workaholic dudes that came before us, we are actually hurting ourselves. I find that often our culture of entitlement knows no bounds. We expect things now, and damn anyone who wants to hit us with a reality different from the ideal one we have envisioned. You see guys, just because you worked relatively hard (by student standards) and got Bs from a decent school, this doesn’t mean most professional businesses will be lining up to offer you signing bonuses. Especially in this job environment. In case you haven’t noticed, there is an unemployment epidemic going around, and many of these dudes looking for jobs have relevant experience and the same academic qualifications you do. If you aren’t going to pitch hustle, energy, and commitment as your main advantages when you’re fresh out of school then you’ve got a mountain to climb. I was lucky in that I have parents whose idea of relaxing is a hard day of work for most people (seriously, when your dad is a lumberjack, waking up at 7am is sleeping in). I’m a solid step down from them, which still makes me a “go-getter” among my peers.
So what exactly do employers expect out of us in order to get a job in this rough job market? Well obviously I’m not an expert (and I would definitely welcome some input from those of you that do own companies, or are in HR out there), but here are some ways that you can stand out and guarantee yourself a second look. They’re not all fun, but they will get your foot in the door:
1) Pick An In-Demand Educational Stream
Look, I have a shiny BA too, but just because reading about history and politics is cool, doesn’t mean it is going to get you hired. The best way to get a job is simply to look at what’s needed. There are all kinds of work for certain kinds of professionals out there. Basic BA degrees are flooding the market. Doing what you love for a living is great, but doing something you really like and getting paid a lot of money is a little better in my books.
2) Finding A Job – Move To Where The Jobs Are
One of the biggest advantages recent graduates have over more experienced workers in this economy is that they don’t have solid roots anywhere. This should allow you (in theory) to take advantage of the situation. Yet this seems to be a major hang-up for my generation. I shake my head when I see all the good jobs in North Dakota right now, and the number of people that would rather stay close to home and collect social assistance cheques (what economists like to call a “negative incentive”). I know that moving 1000 miles away is not a great gig, but there are usually opportunities to move once you have experience within a sector, or even better, within company. They key is to get in first. Volunteering to move to a slightly undesirable location is a great way to separate yourself from the pack (just in case putting “hard worker” on your resume doesn’t cut it).
3) You Need To Be Flexible
So many graduates believe that there is this magical light at the end of the academic tunnel, and once you don your cap and gown you will instantly be catapulted into the job you had envisioned when you stayed up and pulled those caffeine-fuelled all-nighters. The truth is that the job market is changing faster than ever before. Many employers are simply looking for smart people who can adapt to a certain position, as opposed to a specific skill set already in place. Pitching yourself as someone with a diverse background that has no problem integrating new concepts and willing to do whatever it takes, is definitely going to make a good impression.
4) Check Out Our Resume and Interview Tips
Not to toot our own horns, but as a couple of non-elite guys that immediately got pretty good jobs right out of school, we feel that we know a thing or two about presentation tips. It’s well worth the price of admission!
5) Realize That We Do Not Have The Leverage Right Now
Ladies and gents, we aren’t in our parents’ job market. No matter what your high school guidance counsellor told you, there is no company out there right now that NEEDS YOU if you are not willing you go above-and-beyond the usual or average. The truth is that there are a bevy of qualified sharks swimming around the employment ocean and you have to hustle and make sacrifices to get ahead. Whether that means sacrificing a lot of fun being an art history major and opting instead for the slightly more complicated calling of being an architect, or moving to “the sticks,” you have to do something that screams, “I am an asset to you and your company!” Working 45, 50, or even the odd 60 hour week shouldn’t kill anyone guys. I love work-life balance too, but think about who you would hire if you were in charge – a young graduate who immediately declares that working more than 40 hours is inhumane, or someone with 10-20 years experience that doesn’t shed away from working an extra day or evening once in awhile? Usually after a couple of years of paying your dues there will be plenty of young bucks coming in ready to prove themselves and take some weight off of your shoulders, but you have to prove you belong before that acceptance will take place.
Am I just a corporate stooge who has bought into big-business conspiracy? I don’t mean to paint all of us Y’ers with the same brush, but I think it is definitely a broader trend than we would like to admit. Finding a Job doesn’t have to be hard if you’re willing to put in your time.