The latest economic news from the Department of Labor paints a mediocre picture at best of the employment situation in the United States. It’s still difficult for young people to find full-time jobs. There may be some concern that this lower level of employment is going to be the new norm, and whether American society will need to adjust to a different type of employment environment.
Full-time jobs are being replaced by part-time jobs and contractor positions. This allows companies to save money on human resources expenses, including health insurance and other types of benefits. In a personal budget, if your family cuts back on food spending by buying lower quality ingredients, you can put more of your money in the bank, at least in the short-term.
The long-term consequences of eating a less healthy diet, like refusing to invest in human resources, can be ultimately damaging – but perhaps that’s a concern for when the economy is in a better position. Don’t expect the economy to improve, however, until the middle class feels they have sufficient capital – a result of income from full-time jobs – to stimulate the economy. The situation can be a perpetuating cycle requiring an outside stimulus to improve.
For now, this problem remains. Young people are not finding full-time employment, even with a college degree. (College graduates are still doing better than those with only high school diplomas, though.) Here are a few tips for those in college to get the few jobs that may be available.
1. Reset your expectations. For now, you may need to forget about finding the perfect job in your field. This can be tough concept to digest. Out of college I didn’t want to consider any job that wasn’t precisely what I wanted to be doing for the following thirty years of my life. Eventually I had to settle.
Today, settling might mean taking an entry-level position at a local business or even signing up with a temp service. It might mean waiting tables. Consider taking a job “beneath” you so you can get out of your parents’ house, even if it means finding some roommates rather than buying a condominium right out of college.
While you’re working in one job, part-time or full-time, dedicate more of your personal time towards finding something better; at least you’ll be earning money while you look for a better fit.
2. Work like you’ve never worked before. Today’s environment is competitive. There are a lot of people looking for jobs and not enough openings for everyone. I’ve always held fast to the belief that working for someone else requires companies to provide strong motivation in return for demanding excellence, but demanding excellence from yourself regardless of where you’re working is great practice, and it shows your eventual dream employer that you have a great attitude with leadership skills.
Self-motivated excellence also builds valuable experience for when you are running your own company and need to dedicate a large portion of your life to its success and you need to demand excellence from others.
3. Meet everyone. If you aren’t getting to know the people you work with and the people you’d like to work with, you’ll always be trying catching others from behind. Make yourself known to decision makers. Have lunch with someone new each week, even if you’re bringing in a bag lunch to save money.
Choose someone further along in their career and ask them to be your mentor. I have had great successes from mentor/protégé relationships from both sides of the table. The education and development that comes out of a relationship like this is a different type than one might learn from either a classroom or from on-the-job training.
4. Market yourself. Any time I meet someone new I turn to Google, and if Google is my number one destination, the next may be Facebook and LinkedIn. When someone searches for your name on Google, what do the top website results say about you? The top result should be your own website that, in a subtle way, advertises who you are, what you do, and why you’re good at it. It doesn’t have to be a resume. Perhaps it’s a blog that focuses on the topic you studied in college or the industry you’re pursuing.
It should be professional and mature. You will stand out right away in a sea of young people whose only online presence consists of photos of meals and alcohol on Instagram.
Start a blog. Blogs, written and produced professionally, can help solidify you in the minds of potential employers as an expert or an expert-in-training, as long as you’re honest and authentic. Privatize your social media, but don’t rely on your privacy settings. A “friend” can easily publicly repost the latest photograph of you in your drunken stupor.
5. Get lucky. Sometimes finding the right full-time job is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Luck isn’t always luck. It can be strategic. Richard Wiseman is the author of the book The Luck Factor: The Four Essential Principles. The author suggests readers maximize chance opportunities by networking and being open to new experiences, listening to intuition and keeping a positive attitude.
If you’re waiting for older generations to retire, creating a large need for young people to fill open roles in companies throughout the economy, you could be waiting a long time. The recession delayed retirement for an entire age group, and this might have long-lasting effects. For any young person to thrive in a super-competitive work environment, he or she will need to take some measures that may seem extraordinary compared to the lifestyle that Generation X has both enjoyed and set the tone for in corporate America.
Published or updated September 6, 2013.