Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

An open letter to the Class of 2010, and to the Class of 2011

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on June 3, 2010

2010 is currently on its way to being the second worst year ever for new graduate employment. The only year to come in lower for opportunity and higher for challenges, and higher for competition for those few positions actually available to new graduates was last year – 2009. Neither I nor any other individual can change the dynamics of this situation but it is possible to offer some sources of potential hope in the form of tools for moving forward.

• Even in the worst jobs market, there are always some jobs available and it is always possible to job search more skillfully and with a more effective focus.
• It is always possible to approach the job market and the end of your educational program with a clearer idea as to what your options are, each with its own particular pros and cons.
• My goal with this posting is to help bring both of these points at least a bit more into focus.

I have been posting an ongoing Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development on my blog with 81 postings included to date, counting 6 supplemental postings – this being number 6. A lot of this Guide has dealt with job search as a special and particular challenge within the longer processes of career management and development. But I acknowledge here that recent graduates have their own set of issues in searching for that first job out of school. I have been aware of them but have not really addressed them up to now. One of them that I know every new graduate already knows is that employers look for people who already have on the job experience but you need to get that first job to start building that career history they look for – the classic early career catch 22.

I am writing this posting as an open letter to the Class of 2010, currently facing these challenges and to the Class of 2011 that is seeing them fast approaching. My hope here is to help clarify some issues and to perhaps offer a tool or two that you can use as you seek out that first post-graduation job and as you set out on your career.

Looking for that first job – throw a wide net

Employers look for hands-on expertise in the tasks and responsibility areas that their job openings require. Some of this comes from educational training but they do want to find people who have tempered and enhanced that, at the very least, with real world experience. But they also seek people they can work with and who have proven themselves to be able to function effectively in a work setting and as an actively contributing member of a team. Throw a wide net for that first job and certainly if you do not see strong opportunity in your best of all worlds ideal field of employment. Look for opportunities to work in an area and at a job where you can pick up skills and experience that would make sense for your more desired job targets for moving forward, but at the very least get hands-on experience working as a productive member of a team. Develop a track record that covers that second and sometimes more important half of the qualifications you will need to land your more ideal position – validation that you are a person that a hiring manager will want to work with for your energy and enthusiasm and willingness to get the job done, and for your interpersonal skills.

Keeping your longer term goals in focus and working to reach them

At the same time you do not want to put yourself in a position where you are simply drifting from one job to another and without any real focus – if you want to develop an organized, goals-directed career. So you may have to at least start out taking an umbrella job – a job you take simply to keep a roof over your head. But you want to take one with a plan for moving forward into your desired career too. And what do you do to accomplish that? In this case, I would offer the idea that you may have more options than you realize and especially if you have not been systematically preparing for a career and for finding your way into the work force – a difficult thing to do when under the very different pressures of course work and exams and the workplace is still a largely unknown territory.

Take an inventory of all of your workplace experience, through summer jobs and part time work and internships and volunteering experience and both off and on-campus. The idea here is that all of this brings you into a non-classroom setting where you work with others to meet real, and even pressing needs and priorities. This is all experience that can validate you to a hiring manager. Look for opportunities in your experience to show how your experience meshes with the qualities and experience a hiring manager would want in a new hire. And look for opportunities to get your foot in doors, and to find those right doors to try and enter.

• There are entire industries that routinely take on interns as a path in. Look for this type of on the job learning opportunity and as part time if nothing else.
• Look for volunteering opportunities where you can work on skills areas that you would need to show experience in to get the job you seek.
• The idea here is that if you are going to be looking, stay busy and with experience you can list on your resume. Then search for that job you want, and also and simultaneously for umbrella jobs while doing this.

I have now written over 900 words here and I have not mentioned staying in school for another degree or certification. A startling number of new four year graduates are finishing their Bachelors degree programs right now with a hundred thousand dollars and more of debt looming over their futures. Continuing on to get that Masters degree may defer the date when you have to start paying this back but loan interest will accumulate on what you already owe and another year or two of loan principle will simply up that amount that much more. Working while a student can really help and certainly where this includes options like tuition remission as a part of the package. But you have to really look at the numbers to make sure this would make sense for you, before making a decision to wait before trying the job market and even if you do not start out with that large school expenses-based debt now as a new graduate.

If you do decide to continue your education, would a degree be your best option or should you be looking for some specific professional certification? The important point here is that you really know your options and their consequences, and both for developing your career and for their costs.

Join professional organizations that are relevant to your desired field and if you have the luxury of still being a student do so now while you can do so with student discounts.

Network, network, network – I mentioned my Guide, above, and in the same way mention my ongoing series: Social Networking and Business here.

• If networking is important for any job search and for launching any career, it is vital when the job market is weak and competition for a smaller pool of available jobs is fierce.
• This networking should definitely include developing and maintaining a network of references and recommendation sources, and of mentors.

And if I add any final thought to this, remember that looking for a job is a job. I write this to stress two points, only one of which may be immediately obvious. That more obvious point is that you need to do this systematically and with an ongoing level of commitment and effort to make it work. The other is that your search is an unpaid job where you are working, in effect for yourself as an entrepreneur. Remember this when you consider your options, internships and volunteering included as this is the baseline you start from and not an ideal salaried position. That is your goal. So throw a wide net here too, considering nonprofits, for example even if you really seek to work in the for-profit sector. Right now you need to get your foot in a door and take a first step, and any effective first step will offer value if you plan your next steps from there with care.

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  1. […] Apply for Cashier/ Greeter: The Job Cooler Here are a few related blogs on this subject: An open letter to the Class to 2010, and to the Class of 2011 « Platt Per – An open letter to the Class to 2010, and to the Class of 2011 « Platt Per TechKive » […]

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