Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Candid letter to a new graduate who's looking for a job

A student sent me an email with the standard "as a new graduate, getting a job is hard do you have any suggestions?". I get these pretty regularly and here's a bit of my thinking in the answer:

Hi. I remember you as a very good, student as lecturers do. Not that I'd know you by sight, which is a key shortcoming of this job. I hear you, and it's a challenge we all get.
Generalist Degree

You have with a generalist degree from a well branded, highly regarded provider of these degrees. A generalist degree differs from a specialist (ie accounting law) degree in that there are low (no) barriers to entry in the employment game.

Sell the specialist skills
So one play is to trade on the specialist skills a marketing program gives us.
  • "I can look at a problem, develop a research plan and give you answers that will make you money or reduce your risk"
  • "I 'get' social media and can deliver thousands of dollars of communications results for you, and make you visible in that space"
  • "I understand brand positioning and brand performance measurement - not just conceptually but in terms of hard numbers."
Sell the fact it's made you a faster learner, a better catch
With a generalist degree one is often competing with 40+ year olds (often with no formal quals) who are well skilled, good at their work, connected and experienced. These people trade on their connections and experience, and can often say that formal schooling is irrelevant. I feel the best play for a graduate of a generalist program is to turn the tables and sell the value of the formal schooling as making you a better catch.

I'll put forward a couple of positions I'd take if I was hitting out right now. Take these very carefully as they come off wrong if one is not respectful of the employer, the job, or the people one's competing with:
  • "OK the elephant in the room is experience. I can show you a bunch of real life projects I've done but they're often viewed with suspicion. But I can promise you I've felt the heat of a demanding client and meeting impossible deadlines" 
  • "My degree instilled in me that my job is all about providing net cash flow inwards (current and future). It's a responsibility I take very seriously and if I was working for you I can assure you that that would occupy most of my thinking" 
  • "I know that I am up against people who have been doing this job for 20 years. But my training has taught me to learn quickly. For instance there's this thing called the Ansoff matrix that tells you it's safer to grow by selling existing product into existing markets and more dangerous to sell new products into new markets. My whole thinking is saturated with this knowledge. Sure, I need you to take a chance on me but I won't spend years making the same mistakes over and over." 
  • "Most importantly I'm fresh, have plenty of years left in me, know I have a lot to learn and am anxious to start. The company who gives me that chance will be repaid many times over"
  - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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