“Tis looking downward makes one dizzy.”
– Robert Browning
ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY”: Many of our friends, clients and colleagues have recently shared with us stories of recent college and grad school graduates unable to find jobs. Some grads who had job offers in hand have now had those job offers deferred, or even rescinded. It’s not surprising, given the state of our economy. But it remains disturbing to see so many educated, eager and hopeful folks facing difficulty getting started in life.
What should a recent grad do? Are there many steps that an unemployed graduate can take to help him or herself? Are there any helpful hints anyone can offer them?
For many years we have counseled and represented employees seeking new employment. Over that time we have developed a seven-step method we teach our clients, and others at our seminars, to help them negotiate and “navigate” employment matters. While the overall seven-step method was not intended to be used by first-time job seekers, it’s first step holds the key, we believe, to what grads without jobs should do.
What is that first step? It is to assess, and build, your “Unique Human Capital” (or “UHC” for short.) A person’s Unique Human Capital is that set of attributes that make that person valuable to an employer, and uniquely so. Your UHC might be: (a) your ability to speak Mandarin Chinese; (b) your intimate knowledge of what drives the wholesale market for sugar; (c) the fact that the CEO of the company’s biggest client was your best buddy from summer camp; (d) your natural ability as a saleswoman; (e) your fame as an organic chemist. It’s something (or somethings) about you that make you stand out as a source of “value” to your interviewer.
We always counsel job seekers to consider what their “Unique Human Capital” is, and to develop, broaden and enhance it, in whatever way possible. We suggest they put together a list of their special knowledge, abilities, experiences, relations, fame, connections, resources and other attributes that make them special, unique, different and, most importantly, valuable, which means desirable and “hirable” to prospective employers. And that they continually reassess, develop, broaden and enhance their UHC. For those who have time on their hands – such as grads without jobs – now is a perfect time to do just that.
LESSON TO LEARN: Developing your Unique Human Capital, or UHC, is what is more likely than anything else in your life right now to get you a job. It’s UHC that will get your toe in the door, your resume read, your name remembered. Once you’re noticed, then it’s UHC that will get you contacted, and then the interview, the job, and the higher compensation.
Now is the time to enhance and create UHC, to add to your resume, to make your resume “special,” to make your resume “float” to the top of the pile, and to be that much more attractive to prospective employers, all while you are still without a job.
As an employer for many years, I review the resume of each candidate for employment, and say to myself, “What about this resume makes this candidate potentially valuable to me?” There are many things, but the most common are: experience, expertise and practical knowledge, all of which can be conveyed in a resume. Perhaps more than anyone, a grad without a job should spend at least some of his or her time gaining experience, expertise, understanding, familiarity with language, practical knowledge and – yes – even some of the “tricks” of the trade. This is what will get him or her a first job.
So, you ask, how does a recent graduate get experience, expertise and practical knowledge – and build an enhanced resume, without a job? In lots of ways; read on:
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Recent Grad Without a Job? Here are ten of the many ways you can help yourself get that job you so desperately want:
1. Watch “the Pros”: Want to be a trial lawyer? Go watch a few trials. Want to be fashion designer? Attend a few fashion shows. Want to be a television producer? Get tickets to watch the taping of a few television shows. Want to be a publisher? Attend a book signing. Go get “your hands dirty.” Want to be an economist? See if you can find any panel discussions, or legislative hearings to attend. You can learn an awful lot by simply observing, especially observing the “pros.” Your role models are just that: to be “modeled” From them you can learn, at the very least, how to “talk the talk.” Attendance at such functions means familiarity with how things work in “the real world.” That is valuable to employers, and will make your resume “different.”
2. Meet “the Pros”: Sure, this sounds bold and brash, but there is nothing wrong with expressing to a person that you admire that person and aspire to be what they have become. When you attend a trial, don’t be frightened to do just that with a trial attorney during an extended break, if the circumstances seem right. Alternatively, you may write to her, and express your admiration, and ask if she might have ten minutes to talk with you. There’s no law against writing to a CEO and asking him to give you ten minutes of his time to answer a few questions you have; he might just remember that he was once young and unemployed, himself. Putting “Met one-on-one with leaders in the industry” on your resume is a sure “mouth-dropper” to a resume-reader, and a sure conversation-starter in an interview.
3. Seek an Internship: Many, many years ago, the way people trained as craftsmen was to serve as an apprentice. To this day, we see the vestiges of that system among our electricians and plumbers, as examples. Today’s equivalent is the internship, which is growing by leaps and bounds in popularity. Many, many businesses offer internship opportunities which usually pay nothing or a minor stipend, but are worth their weight in gold for the exposure and experience they offer. Even if a company or organization does not have a formal policy regarding internships, don’t be afraid to request an informal internship in which you are, in effect, “the assistant’s assistant.” It is still possible to rise from the mailroom to the board room.
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4. Volunteer to Gain Experience: Many charitable organizations assist those less fortunate in the same ways that businesses serve their customers and clients. Just as law firms give legal services to law clients, legal aide clinics give free legal advice and assistance to the poor and homeless. Likewise, just as luxury fashion houses assist their well-heeled customers look good, so do certain charities help the chronically unemployed find the right clothing to attend interviews. Many organizations help the homeless find new homes, just as real estate agents help the more affluent find apartments. You get the drift: You can “cut your teeth” on someone else’s watch and give your resulting experience to a new employer. Experiences that are readily available to you today spell “experienced” to a prospective employer who may view your resume tomorrow.
5. Join and Participate at Trade Associations: It can only help you – and your resume – to join, attend and participate in the American Nurses Organization, the Economist’s Club of Los Angeles, the American Title Insurance Association, the Illinois Society of Security Analysts, or the trade association you hope to one day lead. You can network, “learn the language,” gather interesting points and meet interesting people, and even possibly serve on a committee, all of which may be seen as valuable to a prospective employer. These indicate, too, that you are genuinely interested, if not impassioned, by your chosen field.
6. Attend Hearings, Conferences and Committee Meetings: Two young grads I know traveled to Washington, D.C. to observe Congressional Committee Hearings about conflicts of interest in executive compensation. Both sought jobs in related fields: one in Executive Recruitment; the other in Human Resources Consulting. In their resumes and in their cover letters, both highlighted what they had learned, who they had met, and what they thought the future would bring regarding regulatory oversight of executive bonuses. Both wrote summaries of the proposed regulations being discussed in Congress, and attached them to their resumes. Both got jobs. Coincidence? I think not.
7. Seek a Mentor: Though surely “outside the box,” I have heard of young grads without jobs asking senior executives or retired professionals, if they might be so kind as to offer “counsel” to someone just starting out. I think it’s a great idea, no matter how minimal the chances might be. If you’re out of school, and not yet employed, what better thing could you do? If you have the boldness and chutzpah to do just that, you might make the most important introduction of your life.
8. Join a Job Search Group: One of the up-and-coming ways to search for employment is by joining a job search group. These groups meet on a regular basis, often with an experienced group leader, and share tips, advice and support. One of the true leaders in this field is the national organization The Five O’Clock Club. It is also a way to network, gain insight on resume-writing and job search, and gain practical job-hunting skills that will serve you for a lifetime.
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9. Read and Write: Yes, I know: you’ve been reading and writing now for years. What I mean by “read and write” is to subscribe to blogs, journals, magazines and newsletters in your chosen field, and consider writing an insightful article, and submitting it for publication. Having an article or note published, especially in a respected journal or newsletter, is a definite “good” on your resume, and something to attach to your resume, as well. Publishing has always been a way to get ahead, and to stand out from the crowd, and always will be.
10. Take a “Course”: Sure, you’ve just taken 100 courses; who wants to take another one now? Though more education may be the farthest thing from your mind, a specialized course, giving you a specialized skill, that would make you different than “the rest,” may be a key thing to do. Being the only person in the organization who can program, manipulate or even understand the software that is used throughout the industry might make you the “star” employee of the firm, once you’ve been hired. What course should you take? Ask around, be creative, assess your potential employers’ needs. That’s where value starts.
These “Ten Ideas for Grads Without Jobs” work. They will enhance your resume, increase your chances of landing a job, and make you more likely to keep that job, too. What better way to use the time you have right now? Each of these ideas serves to enhance your value to an employer, enhance the visibility of your resume, and enhance your “voice” at an interview. And they’re sure to keep you busy and “looking upward,” as well.
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SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and avoid risks at every point in your career. Knowing ways to lower and eliminate risks gives you a distinct advantage in navigating workplace life. Knowing ways to avoid and resolve disputes is even more advantageous. Learning the “in’s and out’s” of doing so is what we are here for. Now it’s up to you.
Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™is all about.
A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.
Please Note: This Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.
© 2009 Alan L. Sklover. All rights reserved. Commercial use prohibited.