I work with many great students from a number of schools and programs. When looking at our future, it’s critical to remember where our careers started and how challenging it was to get our first professional position. I’ve asked my resident Millennial, Erin to share her thoughts.
Since this article was written, Erin has had several recent opportunities where she is still pending. We’ve had several conversations that helped her produce a list of potential organizations that she would like to work with and she’s begun pursuing them with focus and positive energy. She is going to being sharing her process here. Also, I’m putting together a series of blogs to help job seekers find the right opportunity for them. I will be sharing them at Developing Serving Leaders, my personal blog. Now here’s Erin.
When asked to comment on how Millennials approach their job search, I took some time to reflect on how I plan to find work after I graduate in the spring. My conclusion was…alarming. To be honest, I don’t have a sure-fire “plan of action” for finding employment. And I would hazard a guess that most of my classmates don’t either. The days of picking up the newspaper and searching through the classifieds are fading and open positions are hard to come by. So what is a new entrant to the job market to do?
I suppose my strategy would first be to ask coworkers or professors for any leads on local positions. I learned at my internship that most hiring is done internally in companies, so that already puts the job seeker at a disadvantage. I was also taught the importance of networking, since the sad reality is that it is often “who you know” that helps you find work. Alongside this approach, I would consult the internet. I know a few websites, such as Craigslist and Monster that are, if nothing else, a good home base for seeing what’s out there.
Though these sites provide a great overview, I can’t travel far without coming face-to-face with that terrifying phrase “Experience required”. If I want to start a job as a market researcher, I better already have two years of experience. How about a writer? Well, I should come complete with a portfolio of my published writing if I ever want to be published. A police officer? I better be out arresting someone right now while reading the ad. This experience paradox frustrates many job seekers because in order to get a chance at working in a field you already need to have worked in it. There never seems to be room for someone just starting out.
In our current job market, a disconnect is occurring between those who have the tangible qualifications (say, a bachelor’s degree) and the experiential ones. The high numbers of unemployed recent graduates are a testament to this, along with the record number of twenty-somethings moving back in with their parents. A grave cycle has developed in our society where we preach to every high school grad that they must attend college. They then saddle themselves with student loans to pay for a degree that often times isn’t even considered “marketable’ (I’m not even sure what that means at this point) only to be met with few career prospects upon graduation.
This phenomenon perpetuates a great “education myth” in which all students are pushed towards pursuing higher education with the promise of making money after receiving their degree. In my own opinion, many people who end up in college simply shouldn’t be there in the first place. I’ve been in classes where it’s clear the students are there only to coast through it. This causes frustration for them because they could instead be out pursuing interests that would better suit them, and for the professor lecturing to an unresponsive class. Somewhere in recent time, we’ve decided that white collar jobs are more respectable than blue collar jobs, which in reality, are just as vital to the economy. We are also deluded that we can only learn in school, when most learning is born out of experience.
Now, we are brought full circle by the need for experience in order to further ourselves. I believe education, when used correctly, frees us. But when we’re shackled down by education as some sort of entry requirement to the working world, we lose its true value. We also oversaturate the job market, leaving people unemployed, unfulfilled, and lacking passion for what they do. When we stop treating education like an assembly line, and revert to its original intent, we empower its recipients to strive for betterment in the world around them.