This content was written by Marty personally — not by an AI-bot. 🙂
In my coaching work and social media watching (e.g., Reddit), I continue to encounter how some early career job hunters wander the job-hunting landscape feeling defeated and disheartened, and how their stories of frustration and failure contribute to a popular generational narrative that young people are perhaps justified in feeling screwed.
I genuinely sympathize with young people who are feeling discouraged, but I propose that there are LOTS of ways most people can improve their success when job hunting. Further, I assert that “crap job market” victimization narratives are not accurate nor helpful, and that job-seekers are better served by mindsets and approaches that celebrate the power of possibility, planfulness and preparation. While it may seem like a crap job market, good employers of every stripe are eager to find hard-working, dependable, results-oriented and smart people they can hire and then build into strong team contributors. I propose that career opportunities abound for young people who are savvy, industrious and entrepreneurial.
“Early career” job hunters can significantly improve their chances of finding satisfying employment — that will give them financial and career security — if they consider and do the following…
1. Don't Go It Alone
Observation: People often wander through the job-seeking process in a solitary way. They are left to their own devices when it comes to brainstorming, strategy-making, or just managing the related activities of the moment. They see (literally) only what they see, based on their experience and perspectives. Than can lose momentum when setbacks or lack of appreciable progress stirs feelings of exhaustion, doubt, fear, embarrassment, or guilt. As a result, their job-seeking is too narrow and/or one-dimensional and they miss MANY opportunities that would be available to them if they were working with a bigger framework of approaches and possibilities that they went after with sustained effort.
Recommendation: Work with a coach or mentor for job-seeking effectiveness.
Create an ongoing, focused, working relationship with someone who can see things the early career job-seeker may miss, partner with them on the kinds of job-seeking foundations outlined below, encourage them to follow through on plans and ideas, and provide emotional support and positive energy during setbacks or slow periods.
Of course not everyone has access to professional coaching. So be creative. Aunts, uncles or other older family members (people one generation up) can make GREAT coaches if they have the appropriate set of experiences, mental models and aptitudes. There are also community support groups with recent retirees who would be happy to help in this way. Another approach would be for 3 or 4 job-seekers to buddy up in a serious and structured way to work together, and support each other with cooperative thinking, ambition, planning, preparedness and execution.
2. Get Centered with a Strong Foundation in What You Have to Offer
Observation: Some young people wander through job sites, scanning online postings with little enthusiasm because they a) are quietly uncertain about who they are or how they present themselves, b) feel like they have done little so far that would have any professional value, c) doubt their own ability to contribute in a significant way, and d) are unsure if they even have much to offer prospective employers. These feelings of self-doubt are earnest, not silly — but they are unfortunate and unhelpful — and not accurate!! — and they significantly handicap a job-hunter’s effectiveness. So they approach job-hunting from a position of pathetic modesty, and they lack ambition for the kinds of things they could do and the contributions they could make. And when the time comes, they are totally ill-equipped to sell themselves with any passion or conviction.
Recommendation: Take some time to develop confidence around why you are great and what you are capable of.
Start by developing a written, thoughtfully worded summary of the things about you that might make you interesting and valuable to future employers. List your strengths, capabilities, passions, aptitudes, and interesting life experiences. Be hones with yourself, as you need to believe in this content, but put the self-doubt and modesty on the shelf for a bit and appreciate how great you are — or could be. Then make a list of the things you have learned to do in your life and work experiences to date, including lessons learned from challenging situations or even failures, and how those could equip you to be great in future roles. Give yourself permission to be a bit expansive — and give credit for things that you may be totally overlooking in your everyday thinking, but could be valuable to future employers. Include things like being results-oriented, a relationship builder, a good listener, a problem solver, and a fast learner. Then make a separate list of specific skills or capabilities you have from other roles to date. Don’t feel you need to be “expert” at something before you can take credit for having familiarity and some experience with it. And don’t stretch too far looking for impressive language — be ambitious in your intent, but say it in simple words.
When those lists are complete, sit back and admire them. Breathe them in and appreciate them. Share them with others for feedback and also to get some practice articulating them. The more you say them to others, the more you will believe and value them yourself and feel familiar with them. Then proceed in the job hunt with those words on the tip of your tongue.
3. Brainstorm to Create a Compelling Vision for the Employment You Want
Observation: Young people — especially when they are feeling uncertain, insecure, and/or disheartened can be very uninspired when thinking about their interests and possibilities. Too often they operate with a terribly limited sense of the possibilities (and little intentionality) when thinking about future roles, based only on what they see posted on hiring sites.
Recommendation: Brainstorm expansively about the ways in which you might make a living.
Get your perspective up to a high place and appreciate that there are actually hundreds of possibilities. Think about different industries and livelihoods, business models and government sector careers. Play with different variables — like working with people or technology or animals. Think about the opportunities and lifestyles that go with different kinds of work — not just compensation and job security — but possibilities like learning new things, growth opportunities, and travel. Think about the kind of work culture you are seeking and management styles that may work well for you. And of course capture this work in writing, using specific words that help you to make a framework of your thoughts and bring them into sharp focus. Stay rooted in the perspective that you are worthy of these things and capable of working hard and creating real value for this new employer TBD.
Then identify 3 – 5 specific industries or livelihoods that could meet the criteria you identified above. And pick 3 -5 employers in each of those livelihoods. And, finally, for each of those livelihoods and employers, try to identify roles that could be a good fit for you, given your current competencies, capabilities and interests. Now you have a thoughtfully developed target list shaping up — one that you can plan around and pursue with real effort because you know WHO you are, WHAT you are trying to accomplish, and WHY it will be a good fit for you.
4. Make a Plan to Go Get It
Observation: Too often the stories of how a young person has been trying to find a job go like this… “I see positions on line and I apply for them.” And of course when a person is just starting out, those “I applied online” stories end in disappointment like 98% of the time, and a string of 5 or 6 of those disappointments sets the stage for disillusionment. Maybe the sample set that I am observing is biased to the negative, but I think this is much more the norm than not. I love it when I encounter situations where a young person has targeted a specific employer or line of work and pursued it in an organized way over a period of time to get the job they wanted. But overall, I see too many young people just hunting and pecking on job boards, not succeeding, and losing momentum as the weeks turn into months.
Recommendation: Once you know who you are and what you want — make a plan to go get it!
There are many ways to gain entry into an organization or an industry, and they are more powerful if you pursue them in parallel. Start by gaining intel on your target(s) to understand their operating realities, strategies and objectives. You can assemble tons of knowledge with just Google time and smart note-taking. Another good thing to do is to study their job postings — who / what / when / why / how are they hiring? Detective work on LinkedIn can help you to learn more about (and target!) people who may have influence in your areas of interest. Network with entrepreneurship to connect with people there who might be able to give you helpful advice and info on specific opportunities. Reach out and introduce yourself to key people — work your contacts or just cold-call them via LinkedIn or email — and ask for a few minutes of their time. Shake hands and kiss babies at career fairs and employers’ info sharing or recruiting venues. And of course apply for positions online.
A related strategy is to get lots of lines in the water. These efforts will sometimes work and sometimes not (and it may be hard to tell, as it can take weeks for them to produce results). So don’t pursue just one narrow thing; identify a manageable set of 3 -5 targets or activities and work them in parallel. Learnings or progress made in one effort can be good stimulus for a different effort, and setbacks are not so saddening when you have multiple things in motion. Don’t put all your effort eggs in one basket.
All of the above can sound daunting and it will take time, bit it is in fact VERY do-able. Critical success factors, though, are your ability to stay focused and organized and to work smartly. So you need to have a plan in writing, and then work your plan with sustained effort, confidence and discipline.
5. Be Ambitious and Smart and About How You Position Yourself
Observation: I see young people being sadly uninspired in how they position themselves. I see job-seekers who are modest, hesitant, or even generic in positioning their capabilities, presenting themselves or telling their stories. Their self-doubt, bland self-image, and/or exhaustion are present in their conversational and written content in job-seeking encounters. And the idea that they would position themselves with ambition and an unapologetic “best foot forward” energy is frightening, foreign or unwelcome. In addition, many have either never had good coaching for how to present their credentials in things like resumes or job applications — or they had access to that coaching at one time and didn’t take advantage of it.
Recommendation: Once you are grounded in how much you have to offer (see #2 above), be prepared to present that in ways that are compelling to people you meet and prospective employers.
Embrace (or just try to make peace with) the idea that you are SELLING yourself in these endeavors — and every person you encounter along the way will be making an assessment of you and deciding if / how they will support you in your career journey. They are not being hostile towards you or pre-disposed to the negative — they may in fact be charitable, constructive and even hopeful on your behalf — but they will be taking a read on you and deciding if / how they will be supportive of you.
How do people sell things? They speak with positive energy, confidence and enthusiasm. They highlight features and benefits valued by their targeted customer. They showcase positive attributes with evidence, imagery and story-telling. They create visions of possibilities, and confidence that desired outcomes can be accomplished. They are careful that all related presentation factors (e.g., attire, setting, sound, lighting and communication media) are as good as they can be. So get good at selling yourself with these approaches in mind. Don’t stray from the truth, but work how you position yourself with some degree of boldness.
With that in mind, take a fresh run at how you position yourself in telling your stories, on your resume, connecting with new people, and making applications. You might be amazed at how great you can be. You might even convince yourself.
I hope the above has been helpful (and perhaps a bit challenging) to you.
I close here with recalling and emphasizing the first recommendation — that early career job seekers can be MUCH more successful if they have a working relationship with a coach to help them to declare their capabilities, clarify their intentions, and then develop and execute strategies to get a job that will be a good fit.
Anyone with interest in these topics is invited to check out related content at www.otoolecoaching.com/career-coaching/