Tom Hickman: How To Escape The Graduate Death Spiral
Tom Hickman is an entrepreneur, lecturer, and consultant who’s latest endeavour is two social enterprises that help young people be more entrepreneurial in their approach to employment. His company, BridgeGlobal, helps young professionals find international work placements to provide them with a global skill set today’s employers are increasingly seeking. He shares his tips for graduates seeking employment:
First of all, let me explain what ‘The Graduate Death Spiral’ is and many of you will realise you’re at risk of falling into it. In my experience from working with young people since 1999 I’ve found that many graduates fall down this path:
➔ Apply for 100 jobs online
➔ Get 5 responses
➔ 95% rejection rate
➔ = No job
➔ You then start to expand your search and send at least 200 applications
➔ Even more rejection
➔ Start applying for call centres and fast food restaurants
➔ The End
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a job like one of these to pay your bills, but did you really study for 3 to 4 years at university to settle for a job below your skill level, that you’re not passionate about? Don’t become despondent if you start to fall into the graduate death spiral, there are things you can do to escape:
The average graduate will only apply for jobs online. With 85 applicants to every graduate job, it’s clear you need to be resourceful to get noticed by employers. You need to branch out and split your time applying in different ways. Yes, you can still apply online but as long as you try other methods too:
Hard copies: Try the good old fashioned way of sending hard copies of your CV. Employers are inundated with online applications and so it can be a pleasant surprise to find a CV in print on their desk. This can make your more memorable.
Network like it’s your job: When applying online there’s no personal connection. Attend networking events and arrange informal meetings with thought-leaders in your industry. Meeting people in person means they are more likely to remember you and recommend you for a job. This is called building your tribe. Surround yourself with like minded people to achieve the best results for your career.
Print Media: Yes, most companies will advertise jobs online these days but you could be lucky and find a vacancy only running in print. As much as it seems like it does, technology doesn’t rule everything. Check out your local newspapers and magazines for opportunities in your area.
Jobs fairs: You won’t necessarily be head hunted straight away at a job fair but they are good opportunities to scout out companies and the different opportunities available to you. They are also great for networking, so be prepared with a notepad, CVs and business cards. You could make a connection that helps you land a job.
Identify your unique ability
After getting rejection, after rejection you’ve probably lost sight of what you really want to do and have started to apply for everything and anything. Just because it seems more sensible to broaden your search – “the more I apply, the more chance I have” – doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. You will end up falling down the graduate death spiral into a job you hate.
The key is to be specific. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, what you enjoy doing, what your values are and what sort of work environment you wish to work in. Gaining work experience is a great way to help you determine these things.
Once you have narrowed it down to what you really want to do and what your unique edge is, you can be more specific in your job search. Directly target companies that you want to work for and companies that need the skills you can supply them with through your unique ability. Once you start being specific and ignoring everything else, your application time will be cut down and your rejection rate lowered.
Think like a supplier
Identifying your unique ability also links to ‘customer thinking’. At school we are ‘customers’. At university we are ‘customers’ (with the debt to prove it). When it comes to looking for a job you’re so used to thinking like a customer that it can hinder your chances of getting a job. A silent killer.
Now you are a graduate you are a ‘supplier’: you can supply employers with valuable skills and knowledge. Thinking like a customer who deserves to have the product they desire, e.g. a job, will only turn employers against you. If you approach employers in the mindset of a ‘supplier’ things will change. Find out what the company you want to work for needs, then inform the employers of what you can give them and what value you will add to their team. They will see the benefits your unique ability can provide them with and are much more likely to consider hiring you.