Joining the workforce in the age of austerity (or “I want a job damnit”)

I know a couple of kids graduating university in a few months, and they’re scared shirtless because they want a job. That simple, right?

Not really, because there are thousands of other kids just like them graduating, and they want a job too. Most of them are not fortunate enough to have a portfolio of work to showcase their talents. You know how most parents think their kids are the most amazing, interesting, talented beings in the world when they learn how to walk or talk or go potty? Well, they usually still think that way when they’re graduating; the rest of the world, not so much. So, if your Mother or Father is the head of Fortune 500, then you don’t need to read on.

This blog is for the rest of you.

Now, I’m assuming you all have a competently written CV – or “resume”, as we say in the States (probably written with the help of a consultant) – so I think I’ll skip talking about it. That consultant doesn’t keep food on his table or gas in her boat by writing one CV for one client. Everybody’s got one.

Start by realizing you already have a job. Your job is to get a job. To get a job you need to get an interview. To get an interview you need to make contact. To make contact, you need to know somebody, or know somebody who knows somebody, or know how to write a letter to somebody that will make you somebody to remember.

Let’s concentrate on your introduction letter.

Here are a few rules of thumb. Write to a specific person if possible. Try to know as much about that person as possible. Google them. Find them on LinkedIn or Facebook. It’s not really stalking (it’s not like they’re your old flame or anything), but the more you know about them the easier it is to write to them like you know them. And remember, turnabout is fair play. They can Google you too, so keep those beer pong photos on your FB page to a minimum. Better yet, don’t have them at all. Just because it happened to you doesn’t make it interesting.

Always be specific.

Now you know who you are writing to, be clear about what you’re writing for. In other words, what do you want out of it? Do you want to speak to them on the phone? Do you want an interview?

Your CV outlines your experience, but your letter needs to somehow convey who you are and what makes you tick. These people are getting a lot of letters from a lot of people so it’s important to reveal a fact, phrase, attitude or attribute that makes you stand out from the rest. Be disarming. Okay, so you don’t have a lot of face-to-face client experience. Write (briefly) about your experience one summer taking the Census in the back hill of the Appalachian Mountains.

“I don’t get flustered in front of people, and can relate to almost anybody. In my summer job as a Census Taker, I’ve walked past and ignored “No Trespassing” and “Beware of the Dog” signs, to be greeted on the front porch by a bare-footed man wielding a shotgun—only be invited in for a cup coffee once we had a little time to chat. Needless to say, I think I can face virtually anything undaunted.”

Clint Eastwood

That’s a tidbit almost anyone should remember. Think about it. In a couple of sentences you’ve conveyed you have people skills, you’re not afraid of hard, unglamorous work, and you can adapt to the most unusual of situations.

At the end of the day, all you want is someone to put down your letter and say, “This is the kind of kid I want on my team. I should meet them or at least take their call.”

Hopefully, you’ll get a response, but don’t ask them to call you. You’re the one looking for the job, not them. Tell them if you don’t hear from them this week, you’ll follow up with them the next. In other words, be persistent without being annoying. Timing is always important, and it shows you really want a job.

Don’t worry. Something will turn up. Be patient. Have fun now. You have the rest of your life to hold down a job.

– Neill Rogers


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