In this new world of work, choice and abundance of information is on our side. A new and increasing level of transparency allows savvy job seekers to deeply research not just target companies’ business performance and leadership teams via corporate websites, but also their compensation range, employee satisfaction scores, and culture, via social media. And with the technology tools we have at our disposal, it is easier than ever to not just apply for jobs at existing companies but to create new ones. While this choice can certainly feel liberating to many, it can also feel overwhelming, especially in early career stages, and particularly when we are bombarded with headlines stating that skills and jobs are changing more rapidly than schools and talent can keep up with.
Here are a few simple practices to take advantage of the options afforded by this new world of work:
1. Find common elements that motivate you
We often hear that we should follow our “passion” or “purpose” but these words can feel daunting. In simpler terms, what drives and motivates you? In what situations (in classes, internships, extra curriculars, or previous (part-time or full-time) jobs) do you feel like you are adding the most value and being your best self?
Being specific about what you value, what you enjoy doing, what you are good at and what you want to learn more about will help focus your job search and, ironically, will help broaden your prospects. For example, instead of being laser-focused on “marketing” or “fashion”, think about the elements of these career possibilities that really drive you – is it customer focus? Creativity? Working with numbers? Thinking about personal motivators may point you towards additional career possibilities that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
2. Articulate your unique value proposition
Once you are clear on the elements from past experiences that motivate you, the next step is developing an elevator pitch: Articulating the unique value and passion you bring to an organization is key to building confidence in yourself and in target employers. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have any “real” (i.e., office) job experience to share- make sure to connect dots from all types of experiences to the opportunity being discussed: from working as a camp counsellor, to playing on a varsity sports team, to ranking as a top debater, think about the implied “power skills” or leadership skills developed, which are critical to thriving in this new world of work.
3. Avoid stressing about “closing doors”
Accepting a job in a company or industry that is not your first choice does not mean kissing your dream job goodbye forever. That’s not to say that you need to settle, nor that you won’t need to be more planful moving from one discipline to another, but realize that hidden gems of experience appear in unexpected ways and typically open more doors than they close.
In this new world of work, skills and business needs are evolving at breakneck speeds. In decades past, we would graduate with a specialized degree and often work within the same discipline or industry for our entire career. Thus, it was more important to seek out a first job in an industry or company that we could see ourselves in for the “long run”.
Now, more than ever, a big component of early career employment is learning how to work, learn and lead. Diversity of experience is critical to building both technical and leadership skills. Diverting from an anticipated career path often broadens our horizons to new approaches, people, working styles, and points of view… and can ultimately help propel us to where we want to go faster than a traditional path.
4. Have a multi-pronged job search strategy and start early
Printing resumes and “pounding the pavement” is still a common way new work force entrants and part-time applicants (i.e. students) apply for jobs, according to Stephanie Florio, co-founder of job seeking app Swob. While this may be one strategy, it should not be the only one.
It is important to start developing transferable skills early-on. For example, through Swob, part-time job seekers, like students, can connect to work to gain valuable transferable skills that may help them to land a full-time role after graduation.
Also, many first jobs are acquired through relationships. While networking can feel like an awkward process for new work force entrants (e.g., “I don’t know what to say”, “I don’t want to waste their time”), asking questions and articulating a strong elevator pitch is a good place to start.
Naomi Titleman Colla is founder of Collaborativity Inc., a Toronto-based consultancy focused on driving progressive talent strategy in this new world of work.
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