Recently, I read a wonderful article in the Globe & Mail Careers section called “Seven mistakes that keep graduates in your basement”. Author Peter Caven, identified the skills gap that new grads and young people have when it comes to finding jobs. The list included:
- Low self-knowledge
- Job market ignorance
- Bad résumés
- Not optimizing LinkedIn
- Poor interview skills
- Not investing in networking
- Giving up too easily
My experience with coaching young job seekers echoes Mr. Caven’s findings. The clients I am working with today first came to my attention feeling a little beat up by the job seeking world – specifically the world of online postings.
When I begin to work with a client who is searching for his or her first big career break, I begin by helping them identify their key strengths. Even with little real world job experience, there are usually 2-3 characteristics and experiences that will set them apart as a potential candidate. From there, we build a résumé and LinkedIn profile that highlights their unique skill offering and I coach them to prepare some talking points about themselves that can be used in just about any environment – from a prepared meeting with a contact like an interview to an impromptu opportunity that can happen in the grocery store.
Next, I challenge them to create a networking list. Often I get some push back from the client on this one. Just because they haven’t worked in their industry does not mean they don’t know anyone who can help. Former teachers, coaches, volunteer leaders, classmates, neighbours, friends and family may all be in a position to help if you give them the information they need. With a good list in hand, we action a communications plan to connect with high potential contacts.
One of the final steps in the system I use with young job seekers is to help them prepare for information interviews and job selection processes. Preparation and practice reaps the best reward in an experience that is both an art and science. By now as a result of the work we have done, the client has the confidence he or she needs to pull off these intricate meetings with some style and polish.
It is an absolute joy to assist young job seekers in building their careers. In the beginning, they come to me at a very low point, feeling quite frustrated. Sometimes they feel like we are off to a slow start, but I encourage them to see that career success is more than finding your first job. Supporting them to develop and nurture new skills – capabilities they have not likely ever been taught or performed before – they leave our time together with hope and confidence about what’s to occur in the months ahead as well as the ability to have exciting and opportunity-rich careers for years to come.