Our Starting Out channel on ClaudiaChan.com has been off the charts lately, which got me thinking about the generation that is entering or nearing today's very difficult job market. I have spent a lot of time with and mentored several college students in the last two years, so I've heard their concerns firsthand. With such an off job market (I hear around 50 percent can't get professional jobs post-college), I believe it's time to get unconventional with your career approach. For those of you who are starting out or can't find an ideal job, here are six tips I would tell my younger self.
1. Throw Perfection Out the Window
Trust me when I say your dreams will change at different stages in your life. Let go of the pressure to make the perfect decisions, because all that will do is restrict your options. Instead, enter the market open minded and flexible to things that peek your curiosity or appeal to your passions.
Like Co-founder of Birchbox, Hayley Barna, says, "While it might seem that your first job is an incredibly important decision, it is only a first step in what will be a long and incredibly diverse journey. Don't think that what you do first will dictate what you do forever."
2. Make It Your Job to Learn About the People and the Players in Your Target Industry
Knowledge is power and the more you learn about your industry of interest, who you want to work with and what they care about, the more you can hone in on your networking and communication points. Get their backgrounds on LinkedIn, Google their biographies and learn their interests by following their blogs or Twitter. There really is no excuse to not do this homework with all of today's online tools. Lawyer-turned award-winning radio host Lisa Wexler advises, "Try as best as you can to learn the 'hidden curriculum' of your job."
3. Find an Ideal Company and Offer to Work for Free
If they don't have a job opening, offer to work for free for a few months as an intern or volunteer and don't be shy about requesting some form of mentorship. A tight job market often means tight budgets and under-resourced departments at many established companies and start-ups. This may help you get your foot in the door faster. And even if they don't hire you at the end, you'll gain invaluable experience, relationships and a resume booster that will serve your career later. As the guru of no-nonsense career advice, Tory Johnson says, "It's less about the position -- and more about the opportunity to learn."
4. Build Your Rolodex Like There's No Tomorrow
In business, your relationships are like your lifeline and if you're good at gaining and nurturing them, you will get many more than nine lives. This means stay in touch with people you have interned for, follow up with your dad's friend who's offered to help, work the friend of a friend and volunteer at the relevant networking events in the field. Every connection is worth the effort when you're starting out.
Author of Be Your Own Best Publicist, Jessica Kleiman, knows the value of building strong relationships. Her advice: "Talk to everyone you can. Whether you have no idea what you want to do as a career or you've known what you've wanted to do since you were twelve, get out there and chat with people in the working world to get information and insight that will help you with your future."
5. Keep Saying Yes
My girlfriend's mom told me when I was 18, "when you're young you have more time to try and see things, but less money to do so. As you get older, you have the money, but not the time." Make the most of your time and risk taking when you're starting out by saying YES to as many experiences as possible. Even if it means meeting someone that may intimidate you, attending something where you won't know anyone, committing to a project that's out of your comfort zone - say YES more and you'll be amazed at what happens. I love Cortney Novogratz's mantra, "Listen, learn and hustle."
6. Negativity Is Not Allowed
Following the first five tips on this page will take a lot of energy. Do you really have the mental, emotional or physical time to have negative thoughts too? You can't be what you don't believe so telling yourself you "aren't made for something," or "don't have what it takes to be that assertive," or that you'll "never find a job, and this is so hopeless" because another opportunity fell through literally works against your ambitions.
So listen to Life coach Mimi Duvall who says that "Self doubt or worry is a stinky old fish. Visualize yourself wrapping it up in a garbage bag and throwing it down the chute."
Remember that big dreams are made up of many small steps like these. Keep on climbing up replacing negative thoughts with these positive tips in mind and you'll be landing a great job before you know it.
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