Kim Zilliox Answers:
What a great and very timely question. With all of the job seekers in the market today, coupled with today’s rapidly changing workplace, employers are raising the bar on the skills and experience they are looking for in any position. This can certainly make it tougher on recent graduates to secure those great entry-level positions. Let me break my answer down into two parts:
First, let me speak to not finding entry-level jobs. Please be assured there are actually entry-level jobs out there. They are more plentiful in certain areas and fields like major cities and in growing industries, but they are certainly there. My corporate clients consistently tell me they are looking for great talent to bring on board from all levels including entry. The problem is not necessarily the lack of jobs, but it is more about how to find out about them. Unfortunately, searching job postings is not the most effective way to do so. According to research, 65-70% of jobs are obtained through networking, while only about 15% or less of employed individuals secure positions through responding to postings. So, it is absolutely critical that you launch a networking campaign for yourself to tap in to all of the resources in your network. Here are some specific action items I recommend:
- Create a list of people who can help you in your search and meet or schedule a call with them to pick their brain about opportunities, share what you are looking for and know that a day will come when you will do the same for them or for someone else. Your contacts on Facebook can most likely help you fill out a large list here, and don’t forget all of your uncles, aunts, neighbors, friend’s parents, their friends, etc.
- Create a list of companies you would like to work for and see how you can connect with people in those companies to build relationships and find out about opportunities or, growth areas. Visit LinkedIn, this site can help. Use it to see who you can be introduced to in company’s you want to work for.
- See if there is a Meet Up group in your area to connect with like-minded people and hear of opportunities while you look to provide your positive energy and friendship to them. There are also association meetings in your specific field of interest, so find them and attend.
- Finally, your undergraduate or graduate Career Center is a good resource. Be sure to look through the Alumni database to see who you can connect with and meet with the Alumni Counselor to see what they know as they are often aware of opportunities at growing organizations and in touch with the recruiters.
Second, I do like the second part of your question about making yourself marketable without much experience. First of all, see #1. If you are hired based on relationship, this becomes less of an issue. If people like you and trust you, and see that you have the potential to learn quickly and gain experience, they will give you some time to get up to speed. Additionally:
- What experience do you have? My hope is that you took advantage of opportunities during school to intern, so you can absolutely leverage that, as well as projects and research you did during your studies. If you did not, you are a step behind your fellow classmates, but all hope is not lost. Begin right now. Where can you apply your skills and knowledge? Can you volunteer for a local non-profit to help them in any way while you are searching? Did you work on projects in school you can speak about to reveal your current knowledge?
- What positions are there that you do qualify for? Sometimes the key is to enter an organization wherever you can and then eventually move into the position you desire once you have proven yourself and they know you.
- Be an amazing salesperson for yourself. This can be very difficult, especially for women, but it needs to happen. Any story that pops up in your mind that makes you uncomfortable about doing this is not as true as your need for a great opportunity. What are the traits you bring to the table? This is as much of a part of your brand as functional skills. Are you reliable? Are you a hard worker? Do you have a good attitude? Do you work well with others? Do you have a good recommendation from a previous employer? Are you a quick learner? Would a company be lucky to have you? These are all questions you want to make sure you can answer “yes” to. Then you can position yourself as a “diamond in the rough’” that has just enough experience to know the basics of the field and the working environment, but someone fresh enough to have new ideas and to learn quickly the ways of a future organization. You need to believe it first that you are a huge asset to an organization, realize you have more experience than you think, and know that you may have to take a position just to prove yourself at first and then move into a position closer to your ideal role.
I do hope this is helpful, and like anyone else out there, just keep working at it and being strategic. The average person spends 5 hours per week on a job search. You want to treat this like a full-time job and you will see the results. Look beyond the postings. Volunteer your time, connect with people, know and be able to articulate your value, and be clear about your goal. Keep track of all of the ‘asks’ you make as you’ll want to reciprocate or pay it forward on their behalf in the future!
Kim Zilliox, Vice President of Leadership Development for Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. specializes in coaching women to become successful leaders. Join Kim starting February 15, 2011 for the Executive Women Leaders Webinar Series.