Dear Sam: My son graduated in May and has yet to find his first career position. We invested upwards of $185,000 on his undergraduate and graduate school education and he stepped out of school with the same resume as every one of his peers. He completed three internships during his academic journey, held two different part-time jobs (full time during school breaks), and earned Dean’s List honors every semester, how can he not be getting called for a single interview? He is charismatic and communicative, so I know if he gets an interview he will represent himself well. Help! – Want-to-be Empty Nester!
Dear Want-to-be Empty Nester: I hear this routinely and it is one of the key reasons I am so passionate about helping entry-level candidates take their first step into the professional arena. You are right in that new grads often do walk out of school with an identical resume to their peers, not only as they are likely to have been taught to use a standard approach and template, but perhaps also as they went to the same career services professionals who have very limited resources to help a significant number of students.
First, does he have a good resume? Benchmark on sites like mine to see if you need to start with the basics. He has great experience, obviously has a strong academic record, and should be armed with letters of recommendation from each of the internships and jobs, so he should be juggling a vibrant interview schedule! Ensure his brand is represented optimally, saturated with appropriate keywords, and reflected both in print and on his LinkedIn profile.
Second, is he distributing wisely? Please be sure his distribution strategy (aka job search) is more than hitting “apply now” online. He should be tapping into his network, leveraging online networking sites (LinkedIn), soliciting informational interviews from those in the industry he is interested in, and digging deep to go beyond the surface level open market.
These are the first two things I would recommend he attack; once he gets those right, he should have a solid base on which to pivot and turn this job search around! Good luck Mom!
Dear Sam: I am a self-employed contractor working for a former employer. A year after my position was eliminated eight years ago, I was recruited to return, and albeit in a different department, have been performing similar accounting and finance work for the past seven years. I have since applied internally for multiple full-time positions—as my current role has diminished in hours—and am not able to secure an interview. I am now taking my search outside of my long-time employer and am concerned about how to tell a potential employer when they ask why I am not seeing to turn my contract tole into a full-time position. – Janet
Dear Janet: I am sorry you are struggling to get noticed internally. Have you approached your supervisor and asked him/her what you can do to get on the radar of a decision maker? Is your resume conveying the value you added as a former employee and also as a contractor? I often find that internal candidates do not feel compelled to explain their roles and the value they have added, falsely thinking their audience knows exactly what they have done for the company. I would investigate the internal opportunities a little more, ensuring you fully understand the hiring policies and start to ‘ping’ on the radar of a corporate influencer or decision maker.
When you do look externally—which you should do in order to diversify your distribution strategy—you can simply explain that you have been at the company for a decade-plus and are exploring new professional challenges. There is no need to go into detail about not having been called for an interview, etc. Any potential employer will understand that after 10+ years with an employer we often look for ways to stretch ourselves and continue to learn and develop professionally. Please also be sure your candidacy is clearly communicating your value to an external audience just as it should for those internal opportunities. Best of luck.