Career Wisdom for the Class of 2017 – Marketplace still competitive for those willing to take chances

Written by Caroline Dowd-Higgins. Posted in Featured

Published on May 24, 2017 with No Comments

It is commencement season and newly-minted graduates will be entering the career world in droves. From undergrads to those earning advanced degrees, micro credentials, and everything in-between – the Class of 2017 is ready to get to work.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) rates the job market for new 2017 graduates as “good” – a positive uptick from the last few years. While the Bureau of Labor Statistic shows that unemployment numbers are down, the marketplace is still competitive. The 2017 college-educated talent pool needs to be distinguishable in order to be hired.

As you head into the post-academic world, you have an opportunity to design your career destiny. I share this wisdom to help you find your way in the world of work.

Your First Job Won’t Be Your Last. Research shows that modern-day professionals will change careers (not just jobs) multiple times throughout their working lives. So, test-drive jobs and see if they are career-worthy and don’t settle for roles that don’t play to your strengths. Your first job out of the gate is a single step on a lifelong career path and you have the right to change your mind as often as you like.

Be a Solution Provider. It’s easy to go into the job search focusing on what you want. While that is important, you must also be a solution provider. In the new normal of a gig economy you may land contract or temporary work that leads to full-time, permanent work. Be industrious and lead with I Believe I Can Help You With….and provide a solution to an organization’s challenge.

Empower your Network. In addition to the graduation well-wishers, your friends and family are probably asking how they can help you. Accept their gracious offer and tell them what you do well so they know how to connect you with their circles of influence. If you have specific organizations you want to work for, ask your network to make a personal referral. Share your strengths story so your network has an easy to remember conversation to share with others that illustrates what makes you unique and employable. Most importantly – be ready to answer, “Why should I hire you?” with a compelling story that proves your value.

Be a Skills Agent. It’s ok if you still don’t know exactly what you want to do career wise. This is the time for informational interviews and test-driving. But, you must have a clear picture of your professional strengths and competencies so recruiters and employers can help you fit into a role the organization needs. Don’t focus on job titles but rather focus on concrete skills and examples that illustrate what you do well.

Minimize Email. You understand the power of networking and now you are on a mission to email as many people as you can to get the ball rolling in your job search. STOP! Busy professionals get hundreds of emails a day. Distinguish yourself by picking up the phone. Leave an articulate voice mail if necessary and use a script until it becomes second nature. The goal is to eventually meet in-person but a phone call is the best way to set yourself apart from the myriad of others in the job hunt.

Are You LinkedIn? With 500-plus million members (that number grows daily) LinkedIn is the number one professional networking resource today. Recruiters and headhunters troll this site regularly searching for new talent. Fill out your profile in total, use a professional photo, compose a compelling summary statement and seek out recommendations to endorse you for specific skills and accomplishments. Participate in discussions, write a LinkedIn blog, and use this tool often and to your best advantage. A dormant LinkedIn account will do you no good.

Take a Risk. So perhaps your dream job does not materialize right off the bat, but another opportunity does surface. Take a risk, try something new, and expand your comfort zone. You may just find something you love and an accidental career you would have never considered otherwise. The greatest risk is not taking one at all. You have nothing to lose by failing forward and recovering with a teachable moment that will serve you in the future.

Focus on Like Before Passion. The word passion is bandied about in the career development world so much that it has become ubiquitous. It’s also scary since not everybody is in tune with what they are passionate about. Don’t let your lack of passion frighten you away from self-reflection and discovery in the career world. Start simply and consider what you like first and how that may become a career worthy pursuit.

Eye Contact is Imperative. This is the generation of technology, but in all likelihood, you will be working with people from a variety of generations and these folks really value good, old-fashioned eye contact. It builds trust and rapport and if you are interested in a career where you will interact with humans in any capacity, eye contact is imperative. Observe the power of eye contact in a conversation and likewise how uncomfortable it is when someone won’t look you in the eye. Think about it – eye contact will never go out of fashion so use it well.

Get Your Side Hustle On. The gig economy has empowered individuals to control how they earn money more than ever. Entrepreneurial efforts abound and many opt for a hybrid career as a Plan C Professional with a day job and a side hustle. As you navigate the beginning stages of your career journey, consider how freelance work could become full-time career worthy or augment a day-job income.

Own Your Self-confidence! Walk tall and learn to speak with humble confidence about what you do well. If you approach a networking conversation or an interview with confidence it will enhance your marketability tenfold. You need not be perfect just out of the gate (or ever!), but believe in your abilities and others will as well. Showing personality and authenticity are positive factors that influence the decision making process of hiring managers.

Learn to Bob and Weave. One of the most sought-after competencies by employers is the ability to deal with adversity and change. It’s tough out there in the real world and it doesn’t get any easier once you land a job. Showcase your resilience and be ready to discuss how you have overcome challenges, including how you are dealing with a tough job market. Proving you are resilient may land you an opportunity.

The Class of 2017 is the succession plan for the future. You have the opportunity to carve out a niche for yourself and thrive in a career knowing that you can always change direction. The challenge is yours as well as the responsibility.

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About Caroline Dowd-Higgins


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, the British online magazine – The Rouse and More Magazine online. She is hosting and producing an online webisode series called: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women. She hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life - on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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