How To Get Your First Good Job (in 2016)
Technology has not been great for Millennials looking for work.
You’d think that, with the rise of the internet, we’d have these magical platforms that can assess your strengths and weaknesses, match-make with suitable companies, then offer you an array of positions to choose from.
This sort of exists today, but it doesn’t really work.
Any of you who have spent extensive time with online recruitment sites know that this isn’t a wonderful solution.
Besides, when the are 135 candidates applying for the same job, what chance do you have?
My high school principle told us about the horrible paradox for jobseekers:
The most impressive thing you can show a potential employer is that you already have a job.
Because it shows that you’re employable.
You show up, do at least the bare minimum, and generally aren’t too difficult.
Those are attractive qualities in an applicant.
You’d think they’d be givens, but these day those things aren’t guaranteed.
I see the job finding equation looking a bit like this:
Employability + Foot in the door + Luck = Job
So let’s look at two topics – how to be employable, and how to get your foot in the door.
What does employable look like?
I once heard a very memorable quote from Dennis Kiellerup, who we brought in as a guest speaker to our TDi workshops:
“People do business with people – and they do business with people they like”
This is an irrefutable truth – who wants to do business with someone rude or unlikeable?
I meet a lot of driven students who believe that their employability stems from their academic qualifications.
For some industries this is true, i.e. Medicine, Law, Teaching, areas where you need a certain piece of paper to legally work.
For the vast majority of us, qualifications are important but not vital.
Make no mistake - you need to be able to do the job, but most people won’t care about the specifics of your studies.
If you are great to work with, but require some technical training to do the job, most employers will happily help you get up to speed.
If you’re skilled and a pain in the butt, employers will quickly hire you…and soon get rid of you.
Patrick Lencioni’s new book The Ideal Team Player covers the three character traits that make someone employable. There are:
Humble – No egos, no divas.
Hungry – A drive to keep improving. The opposite of complacency.
Smart – Social and emotional intelligence, not academics; the ability to read the situation.
If you get any one of these wrong, Lencioni argues that you’ll probably get labelled a jackass.
It’s hard to disagree.
Another rule of thumb people use (especially in startups):
Would I be happy to sit next to this person on a long haul flight?
Startups are rough, so you need teammates that you like working with. Therefore, work on becoming someone people like being alongside.
At a technical level, think of the T-Shaped employee. Be a person with significant breadth (you know a bit about lots of things), but then one or two areas of depth (you’re amazing at something).
For small organizations, you get to/are forced to do everything. Therefore, show people that you’re handy to have around. Being able to use Microsoft Word doesn’t count.
If you’re young, prove that you have a strong suit beyond your years. You want to develop at least one area where you can look someone in the eye and say “Yes, I am great at….”
How to get your foot in the door
“In life, 80% of success is showing up” – Woody Allen
To get your foot in the door you want to do two things:
1. Get yourself in front of your target employer.
Show up to their events.
Share their social media content.
Ask them questions.
Don’t be creepy.
2. Offer to do something for free
Yes, free. This is a temporary offer, but it proves that you’re genuinely interested in your work, and that you have useful skills.
This may mean that you volunteer 1-2 days a week, then work in hospitality or retail in your other days. You will probably have a big separation between your paid work and your career development work, and it’s totally ok.
You will have to go out and talk to people. Don’t wait for your dream company to put out an ad, proactively offer your skills in an area they are struggling with.
Once you’re there, the aim is to make yourself as useful as possible. Make friends, do favours, look interested. More than that – be interested.
When that company goes to hire someone, and you’re about to finish up, who are they going to think of?
They know they like you. They know you get the culture. They know you’re useful.
More importantly, they can’t be bothered training someone new.
That’s how most people I know got their start. Not through recruitment sites, but by showing up, working for free, then making themselves irreplaceable.
They might not admit it, but most employers don’t know what to make of a resume. When presented with a big pile of them, the task becomes “Who can we rule out?”
This means you’re not graded out of 100 like an exam paper: it’s graded either “Meh” or “Yeah, Maybe?”
Meeting in person however, can be measured more precisely. The person on the other side of the table is thinking:
What can you do for us?
What pain can you solve?
What bonus things will you create?
Do I want to talk to you every day?
Yes, by all means, write a good resume, just don’t bank on it winning you lots of points.
Points are won in person, especially by showing rather than telling.
Then there’s the final piece of the equation – Luck.
I can’t pretend that there’s a trick to getting a certain job at a certain time. So much of it comes from being on the front of people’s minds during unusual circumstances. It’s often completely out of your control.
What I can tell you is this; if you make yourself useful, and people like having you around, things will go well in the future.
If you want some inspiration about how famous people got their start and what worked for them, I’d highly recommend Mastery by Robert Greene.