I often get asked to help some of our younger people. The call can come from a parent whom I know or from someone in business who recommends me as a person worth speaking to. Every now and then I get an approach from the young person themselves.
As a result, I seem to have done everything from writing references for new graduates, to traveling across the US supporting an innovative new product launch roadshow. I’ve also helped these youngsters navigate the often-difficult challenge of finding their first job after graduating.
That latter challenge just got a whole lot harder. The job market for well qualified young people, hoping for a professional career post-graduation is in tatters. In fact, if you break the post Covid-19 world up into sectors, this is a sector that has been hit harder than most.
Many graduate programmes have been downsized, or in some cases cancelled altogether, as organisations deal with reduced revenues and the need to downsize the current teams they have in place.
Imagine for a moment the position of a young student, freshly armed with their Graduate Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management, hitting today’s streets looking for a job. Or the new B.Com graduate with their eyes set on one of the big four firms and a ticket to their OE in the UK in three or four years’ time. Suddenly, through no fault of their own, those dreams are in tatters.
And it’s a shame. It’s a shame because most of these young people are fantastic. They’re bright, motivated and of course they’re digital natives. Many of them are so much better than we were at the same age it’s embarrassing. Embarrassing for us that is, not them. And, they’re good at change. They’re good at it, because it’s all they’ve ever known.
And therein lies the irony. These good kids, with great education, digital skills, work ethic to burn and a change orientation are at risk of being parked by the job market, because of …. change.
So what can they do? Whether you’re a youngster in the job market yourself, or you are mentoring your kids or for that matter, someone else’s, here’s some ideas for all of us to share with the next generation.
The best advice we can give them is to suggest that they knock on a lot of doors. Talk to as many people as you can. Ask everyone that you talk to for an idea, a lead or a contact.
Try to be targeted. Think about the businesses where you would like to work, or alternatively, try to work out the organisations where you think there might be a suitable opportunity.
Next up, you have to get in the door. Get your name out there. Use every angle you can to work your way in. If your parents or friends’ parents know someone on the inside, ask for help with introductions. This is not the time to proudly state that you ‘can do it on your own’. You will need all the help you can get. So, ask for it and use it.
Once you are in the door, be respectful and grateful for the opportunity to speak to someone. Anyone. I know it sounds obvious, but for all of the good young people out there, there are a few who will give the impression that the world owes them a living. Don’t be that person. Be humble, grateful and businesslike.
During your downtime, work out how you are going to tell your story in a way that is tailored to the organisation you are meeting. Why are you there? What do you like about their company? What are you good at? What are you not so good at? What would they get if they hire you? How will you ‘blow them away’? What is it about you that your competitors for the position can’t say?
Whoever you are meeting, research the organisation. If you’re applying for a job, do everything you can to understand the job in advance and identify reasons why you will fit the role. Who are their clients? Who are their key people? What types of charitable organisations do they sponsor? What are the things they are doing that makes them a different organisation in the future to what they are today? If you can’t find the answers to those questions, ask the people you meet. It makes you look interested.
Have you thought of a business product or idea that they could use that they don’t appear to be trying? Don’t be afraid to mention it. Even if it’s a dumb idea, it’s good to be seen to be thinking about stuff.
Treat every job as if there’s one hundred applicants. How do you shout above the noise? It might sound like you’re skiting. But if you don’t sell yourself, no one else will. Work out your best one liners and practise them. Don’t do anything for the first time in front of the audience. Practice the key sentences you want to talk about:
“The reason I applied for this role is…”
“One of the things I like the most about your company is …”
“The reason I am suited to this role is …”
“The reason I majored in Accounting and Finance is …”
Rehearse, practise and rehearse again. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Once you’re in the door, treat everyone you meet with respect and interest. Believe it or not, the moment you leave they will ask the receptionist for their opinion.
I recently met someone for the first time. As I advised the receptionist who I was there to see a voice came from behind saying “that’s me”. He was sitting waiting to see how we treated their people on our arrival.
Remember, you are always on show.
This article first appeared in the NZ Herald on the 4th July, 2020.