By Theodore Panayotou
YOU ARE young, educated and unemployed! You have been out of a job for more than a year and the prospects for a job now look bleaker than ever. You are not alone. Over thirty per cent of your peers are also unemployed and thousands more are expected to join the ranks of youth unemployment, fresh out of university in the coming months.
The traditional employers of choice, the public and semi-public sector and the banks are not hiring; in fact they are about to lay off thousands. The educational sector is also overstaffed with over 40,000 on the waiting lists. You despair and you give up searching. Don’t! With the right moves you can find a job. It is a challenge you can turn into the best opportunity of your life to develop what it takes not to find yourself again out of a job. Keep reading.
As young people you may lack experience but you have other qualities and competencies that older people with experience lack. You have energy and enthusiasm. You are connected and are social-media savvy. You have computer and internet skills and general ICT competence that companies need but most of their current employees and managers lack. You know what people of your generation (the Y generation), the target market of most companies, want. You have been exposed to more information that the previous two generations combined; you know a lot; the question is how you leverage it; how you capitalise on it to get your first job, your next job or a better job. Also remember that you are prepared to work for less than older people with more obligations and a load of bills to pay. Here, are some tips you may find useful in getting your dream job or at least the job which will get you the next job in this difficult job market.
- Decide what do you really want to do? Where do you see yourself in five to ten years? Seek people in similar roles and ask for their advice. Take responsibility for your own career development. Prepare a career plan, develop a personal brand that highlights your values, skills and strengths, and determine how to best market yourself.
- Without prior experience in the field, you wonder, how can you prove your capability to a potential employer? You are qualified to do X, but prospective employers want you to do Y. How can you get there from here? How can you get the next job that will get you the next job? The answer is leverage. Leverage any prior experience you happened to have. People who are good at presenting their prior experience in a way that allows for an easy translation to the desired job can narrow the gap between their past experience and future capabilities.
- Get work experience anyway you can; even if it means working for free. Expand your experience. Volunteer for special projects or assignments that are outside your everyday life. Volunteering is a great source of experience, skills and contacts. It opens doors and leads to opportunities that you didn’t even now that existed.
- Get more education which is applied, relevant and practical. Don’t rely on your academic education which is probably too theoretical and geared to a very different labor market. Today’s potential employers don’t care about what degrees you have or even what you know but what you can do with what you know. How much value you can create for them. Specialize in more than one area. Today, companies look for specialists, who have a portfolio of applied of skills and are flexible and can move quickly between tasks and assignments.
- Practice self-management. Adopt a can-do and winning attitude and a sense of urgency. Flexibility and fast response are essential in today’s uncertain and fast changing world. Learn to prioritize activities and manage your time. Develop a professional image and adopt a set of core values to ensure ethical personal and professional conduct. In today’s environment this is a great asset in great demand and scarce supply. Warren Buffett, the most successful investor ever and one of the three richest men in the world, advises employers to hire only people with integrity, intelligence and passion.
- Hone your communication skills; they make or break careers. Pick the areas that need your attention- skills such as listening, presenting, influencing, persuading, or distilling messages-and commit to improvement. Oral and written communication and presentation skills are key in getting you a job, in keeping it and in advancing in your career. It is all about your ability to articulate and communicate messages to different audiences effectively and persuasively, both orally and in writing. How? Practice, practice, practice!
- Expand your network of contacts. The best time to increase your network is today. Get out and about, and don’t forget to schmooze and network with those you meet. Referrals are a vital aspect of getting any job, particularly if it stretches you in a new direction. Starting now, get involved in groups such as professional associations, charitable organizations, or even sports leagues. Step into leadership roles and make your expertise known. In this way you practice and strengthen your leadership and team-playing skills which you will need in any job.
- Find a guide. Mentors can serve as influential role models and provide important guidance for your career. Reach out to a potential mentor within the company or industry of your interest and see if he or she would be open to mentoring you for a specific purpose and timeframe. Adopt a mindset for teaming and collaborating, and put it into daily practice. Working with and through others is requisite to innovating, creating, and producing business results.
- Interview constantly. You can’t possibly know what you’re missing until you see it, and looking exposes you to options and opportunities. Identify the potential employers (organizations or companies) you want to work for and learn everything you can possibly learn about them, through your contacts, their website, their reports, market studies, the media etc. Understand what are their challenges, their strategy, and their needs. Determine how you can create value for them, in the multiple of what they might pay you, and ensure you have the skills to deliver. Customize your curriculum vitae to the job you have designed for yourself highlighting your relevant skills, your understanding of the company and your ability to create value for them. Your CV, your cover letter and your whole approach must stand out from the rest and your offering must be irresistible to the employer, to get you at least an interview. Persistence here pays!
- At the interview, put everything on the table. When it comes to your career, you need to be ready to move, to relocate, to commute, whatever it takes. And don’t wait for them to bring it up. Tell them what you’re willing to do. Otherwise, they’ll just hire somebody close to the company’s home town. If it’s something you want, just say yes to whatever it takes to get the job and figure out how to do it later.
- Act faster. Forget about opportunity knocking – you need to be there in the doorway even before its knuckles touch the door. When a potential prospect shows even the slightest bit of interest, don’t sit around and wait for something to happen. Act fast. And when you think you’re acting fast, act faster. Now more than ever, in this ultra-fast paced world we work in, if you snooze, you will lose, that’s for sure.
- Use the “one thing leads to another” career strategy. Accepting pay below the market rate is a temporary disadvantage you should be willing to accept, if it means gaining the experience and exposure that will lead to a new position. So take that job in order to learn skills for your next job. Your first job may be a flop, but it might open up a whole new world – and network. Sooner or later, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Just like climbing a tree, sooner or later, you get to the top.
The common thread through all of this is gain exposure, network, follow up fast, keep moving, and when you see something you like, go get it. Always remember the key is not resources but resourcefulness!
Dr Theodore Panayotou is Director of the Cyprus International Institute of Management (CIIM) and ex-Professor of Economics and the Environment at Harvard University. He has served as consultant to the UN and to governments in the U.S., China, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Cyprus. He has published extensively and was recognized for his contribution to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Contact: [email protected]