What Advice Do You Have For My Daughter?
I realize that new grads seem to think jobs are something you go get and that employers hand them out to worthy applicants. That’s so untrue. The point is to identify products or services that excite you—then to identify the best organizations in those areas, to meet people who do that kind of work, and to hang out with them. That’s how you’ll get ready to deliver value—and that’s what employers want.
Question: I know your column is directed at professionals, but I’m going to ask you to reach out of your comfort zone and the confines of CMO.com. Many of us marketers have kids in college who are looking for their first jobs coming out of school. It would be a great service if you can help me help my daughter.
She has a Ph.D in Slavic Studies (Russian Literature) and after completing a post doc, she has been unable to land an academic position in her field. She is willing to work outside of academia, but needs help figuring out just where her talents and background would fit in. I don’t know what to tell her, so I’m turning to you. Is this material for your CMO.com column? I know you offer telephone consultations. I’d be happy to buy some time for my daughter. Thank you very much.
Nick Corcodilos: We’re a pretty big community here on CMO.com, and many of us have kids in college—so I think a column now and then to help you help your progeny is more than justified.
I’d be glad to schedule a phone consultation with your daughter, but before you spend any money, I suggest she read two articles, which may give her some perspective. One is Breaking Ranks & Rules: How academics can avoid five fatal mistakes in the job hunt.
This article was originally commissioned by the Chronicle of Higher Education, an academic publication that realized not everyone can work in academia! I try to show academics how to undo the brainwashing that leads to critical mistakes during a job search in the private sector.
The other article is Making The Liberal Arts Degree Pay Off, which helps college students map their skills to commercial jobs. It’s really not as daunting as they believe. The key is to think not in terms of jobs, but in terms of value—something marketers focus on all the time and something I wish colleges would address long before graduation! I think your daughter will find both articles helpful.
Her first challenge is not landing a job. It’s deciding what organizations she wants to work for and then what kind of work she’d like to do. Unfortunately, the employment system encourages new grads to just start grazing on the job boards. That’s a recipe for failure and disaster. It leads to the wrong jobs “just because they’re there.”
She should also take advantage of her school’s career center—but not to apply for jobs. To help her choose a direction, she should take some interest inventories and other career tests. These are designed to help her identify jobs that match her interests.
I remember being terrified at the end of college—and I was a liberal arts major. I realized I had no idea what kind of work I wanted to do. There’s no shame in that. School just doesn’t help students think about that question. The great thing is, the world is her oyster. Don’t be afraid of all the possibilities. Start exploring them, and don’t worry about changing her mind as she goes. She’s allowed!
The point is to pursue actual jobs only when and if they really motivate her and leave no stone unturned. I was a doctoral student in cognitive psychology. I took a job in a search firm working with engineers—and I knew nothing about business or technology. But I liked the people I met at the firm, and they helped me understand what the day-to-day tasks were in the job and what the objectives were. I got excited and decided to try it. Who knew?
I realize that new grads seem to think jobs are something you go get and that employers hand them out to worthy applicants. That’s so untrue. The point is for your daughter to identify products or services that excite her—then to identify the best organizations in those areas, to meet people who do that kind of work, and to hang out with them. That’s how she’ll get ready to deliver value—and that’s what employers want.
This is how she’ll learn about the work, so she can make sure it’s what she really wants to pursue. In the process, she will meet people who will refer and recommend her to their employers or to other people they know. Something like 60% of jobs are found and filled through such contacts, and it has nothing to do with favoritism or nepotism. Smart employers know that the best chance for hiring successful workers is to find them through people they know and trust. It’s up to your daughter to start creating the chain of contacts that will put her in a circle of friends that in turn leads her to her next boss.
I’m guessing this will make sense to you, but please remember that it may seem foreign to a young person who’s never had to get a job. I don’t think there’s any need to spend money on coaching at this point—not until she has a clearer objective. And by objective I don’t mean “to get a job.” I mean, what products or services excite her? What industry and what two or three companies attract her? Start with basics like these—and the motivation to meet insiders will follow.
I think job opportunities come from those contacts. Not from job postings or applications! I hope these suggestions will help you guide your daughter and free you from worry so you’ll be able to do your own job more effectively. And that’s what this column is for, after all!
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