How to Find a Job: Required

Should people know how to find a job?  Yes.

Are there resources available to help people find a job?  Definitely.

Do most people invest time or money in actively learning how to find a job?  Not as far as I can tell.

Over the years I’ve come to know many dedicated professionals who work at university career development centers.  In addition to selfless dedication to their students, one thing they all have in common is frustration that graduating seniors don’t help themselves get a job.  All major universities offer a wide range of courses/seminars on job interviews, what to put on your resume, how to write a thank you note, etc.  Yet only a disappointingly small percent of their students take advantage of these offerings.  It can’t be because they don’t want to find a job.  My hunch is that they think they know how to do it on their own.  (Or their parents have enough connections that they don’t have to worry.)

I think the real culprit, though, is a lack of understanding.  Landing the right job isn’t the result of following a checklist.  Job hunting is a skill, not a sequence of events.  Skills have to be learned.  Just as we learn creative writing and algebra, so too should we learn to find the right job.  After all, isn’t job satisfaction one of the most important factors in overall happiness?  Some say it’s the most critical factor.

Side note for recent grads: job satisfaction early in your career is less impacted by compensation as you might expect.  And this makes sense, because everyone ages 21 – 25 makes about the same money.  Once our careers progress, income disparities widen, making us working saps more unhappy.  We almost always judge the fairness of our compensation by how much our peers are earning.  Recent trend: recent grads are taking jobs for less money.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  In many industries over the last 6 – 8 years, salaries inflated with the housing bubble, and we may be starting to self-correct.

But I digress.  The importance of seeing the job hunt as a skill, rather than a set of tasks, must be underscored.  I wonder why colleges don’t have a semester-long course on finding the right job after graduation?  Other people are asking the same question.

Here’s how I would lay out that class:

What are your strengths?
Primary dimensional styles
Primary strengths
Work and lifestyle preferences

What’s right for you?
Large Business
Small Business
Not for Profit

Preparing for the hunt
Building a personal job hunt advisory board
Build a professional network
Business writing and communication
Writing a resume
Other ways to highlight your value
Practicing the elevator pitch

Interview preparation
Behavioral interviews
Phone interviews
Webcam interviews
Group interviews
Interviewing the recruiter

Applying for a job
Career fairs
Cover letters
Online resources and postings
Using connections

I’m sure I’m missing a topic or two, but each of these items could almost merit an entire class worth of instruction.  So many of these things are intertwined.  If you don’t understand the “Language of Business,” your resume won’t resonate with the hiring manager.  If you aren’t comfortable with new people, you won’t fare well at a networking event or career fair.  If you don’t know your strengths and preferences, you won’t know where you’ll be happiest or what you should look for.

Maybe devoting an entire course to finding a job is too much, but in times like these when the market is so saturated with candidates, it’s really, really hard to find a job.  This year’s graduates are fighting against grads from the last three years.  I know because I see it.  I have people with 5 – 10 years of experience asking me about our entry-level jobs, and not because they’re switching fields.  It’s tough out there in the job market.  Maybe we should teach people how to survive.


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