I have nothing but sympathy for new college grads on the job market today. It isn’t easy for them. The economy is bad and the corporate recruiting process is beyond broken. (And let’s not let universities, government agencies, startups and not-for-profits off the hook, either. All of them have broken, mechanical, anti-human recruiting practices that make job-seekers feel like dirt, and that are slow and ineffective at the same time.)
I have written reams about how to fix our busted-beyond-repair recruiting systems, and I’ll write reams more in the future. We’ll fix that system before long. Today, we’re sharing practical tips for new grads!
The biggest problem facing new college graduates in the job market isn’t their lack of real-world work experience or even the tough economy. It’s a mindset. Internal recruiting teams and HR people have swallowed a lot of toxic Kool-Aid that tells them that the best way to hire people is to write up lists of Essential Requirements, Skills and Competencies for a new hire. The average job spec today has 16 bullet points on it, and people who screen resumes coming out of corporate Black Holes won’t schedule an interview unless a candidate has at least 12 or 13 of those 16 bullets on his resume.
That’s ridiculous. The bullets have nothing to do with anything. There are tons of jobs that new college grads can do, and hiring managers know it. So if you, new grad, can reach that hiring manager by circumventing the dreaded Black Hole and talking with your possible next boss about what’s really going on in the hiring manager’s department — ignoring the pointless bullets (ack!) and the corporate Death Portal — you’ve got a great chance to get a great job with a company that deserves you.
How sweet is that?
The first thing you have to do is narrow down your options. The old, helpless, hopeless wheeze “I’m a Communications major, so I’m taking whatever job I can get” will not help you in 2013. You have to pick a career direction and go after it. I’m not saying that you have to choose a career now to follow for the rest of your life. That’s crazy. You don’t have enough information yet. Just pick a place, as we say at Human Workplace, to put your canoe in the water. Pick a career direction that interests you, that would make use of your talents and that employers are looking for. That’s where you’ll start your job-search exploration.
Now, zero in on particular employers. This is where LinkedIn comes in. Let’s say that you’re thinking about entry-level jobs in manufacturing companies, and let’s say you’re looking in Denver. Now, your task is easy. Find the Advanced People Search page on LinkedIn. Type in the keyword “manufacturing” and choose the location Greater Denver Area. Kaboom!
The results you’ll get back from your LinkedIn search are people who use the word ‘manufacturing’ in their LinkedIn profile and who are located in Denver. The companies these people work for are organizations to research (checking out the company website and its LinkedIn Company page) to learn more about what they do. Could this company use a sharp young person like you? Why the heck not? Nearly every organization can.
Now, let’s find your hiring manager. Let’s say you majored in Communications. You could do almost anything, but let’s keep things simple and say that you’d be game to work in Marketing, Purchasing or HR. Any of these functions would make excellent use of your Communications training. So, let’s find out: who are the heads of these three functions at each of the target companies you identified in your earlier LinkedIn search?
(See how easy this is? I hope your parents are reading this column along with you!)
Once you know the name of an organization, finding your hiring manager’s name is a piece of cake. Go back to LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search page and type in the name of the company and the title you’d expect your prospective boss to hold. We talked about Marketing, Purchasing and HR. Let’s say your first target company is Acme Explosives (where I buy stick dynamite whenever I’m bothered by roadrunners).
Try a bunch of searches among Acme Explosives LinkedIn users: is there an Acme Explosives Purchasing Manager in the LinkedIn database, or a Procurement Manager or Materials Director? These are all common titles for the dude or sister who runs the Purchasing function. What about an HR Manager, Director of Talent or Chief People Officer? These are some of the common HR-leader titles. Lastly, we talked about Marketing. Look for Acme Explosives’ VP of Marketing, CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or Marketing Manager/Director.
Eureka! More often than not, your possible next boss will pop up in your LinkedIn searches. Go take a look at each person’s LinkedIn profile. Look at the photo and read the bio. What do those clues tell you? How large is the organization, and how many employees do they have? How does this hiring manager write about him- or herself? You’ll get a feel for each manager’s background and personality reading his or her LinkedIn profile. That’s gold, because we want you spending your precious job-search time among sharp people who will get you, and therefore deserve what you bring.
Your sleuthing is preparing you to reach out to your next boss with an intelligent outreach – something we call a Pain Letter(TM), that goes directly to a hiring manager without getting stuck in the Black Hole of Death recruiting portal – get an interview, and get the job.
You can write a Pain Letter(TM) that addresses your hiring manager’s business pain directly. Every manager has pain, and thank goodness they do – business pain is what makes companies open up job requisitions and hire new people like you. You’re going to use your Pain Letter(TM) to talk about your hiring manager’s business pain, and your own connection to it via similar pains you’ve solved in other situations in your life. (You have done that, Jackson, I guarantee it, even if you don’t think so; don’t start getting fearful on me now!) Once you write a couple of these Pain Letters(TM), you’ll be an ace at it, and you can construct and send out two or three Pain Letters(TM) a day.
Remember, my friend: you are not a bundle of Skills and Competencies. You are not your diploma or your GPA or your resume. You are an awesome, brilliant, talented new grad with a tremendous amount to offer any employer and its clients. If people don’t get you, they don’t deserve you. Don’t listen to the haters who say that you won’t find a good job, because those people are sitting in their own fear. We can feel compassion for them, but we don’t have to stick around while they’re flapping their gums telling us it’s impossible for new grads to get a foothold. Just tell them your cell phone is buzzing, and flee.
Here is a free downloadable E-Book that gives more tips and moral support to job-hunting new grads. Rock on, class of 2013!
Before I forget: I’m speaking to the new alums (and old alums, and anyone else who shows up) for Northwestern University, this week in Chicago. On Tuesday, June 25th I’ll be presenting at the event “Your Journey, Your Career with Liz Ryan LIVE” at Fulton’s on the River in downtown Chicago. If you can make it, please come and meet me in person! Here are the deets