As a young professional at a growing startup that helps people begin their careers, I’ve seen people learn the hard way that much of what they’re taught in school about getting a job simply doesn’t work.
I’ve seen people apply to dozens of jobs and get no answer back even though they did “everything right.”
Oftentimes these people are saddled with debt and end up having to take the first job they get, even if they hate it, just to pay it off.
The good news is this is all preventable. It starts with understanding that most of the commonsense is advice is simply bad advice and that there are other things you can do instead of the tired old paths.
With this in mind, here are 4 largely obsolete job seeking strategies and what to do instead.
1. Getting an Undergraduate Degree
A degree used to signal competency, literary, work ethic, and well roundedness. Now it all it signals is your ability to follow the rules and keep up with what everyone else in society is doing.
Students today graduate with few skills or experiences that they can take with them to go out into the professional world and say “hey, I can create value for you.”
But worse, they graduate with nothing that allows them to stand out from the growing masses of young people with a college degree. When they apply to jobs, everyone has gotten good grades. Everyone has a degree in a relevant field. Everyone has extra curriculars College graduates are a commodity that is becoming less and less valuable.
What to do instead:
Don’t let your degree be the most interesting part about you it the application process. Whether you graduate college or not, you should spend your college years getting as much work experience and creating as much value as possible. Take on internships, apprentice at a startup through Praxis, or offer to work for free for companies in exchange for the experience.
The skills you develop and the case studies of your work that you have to back you up will be far more impressive than a degree will in the application process.
More broadly, just focus on doing things you find interesting. Don’t let school interfere with your real interests. Take on side projects. Attend conferences, give talks, publish blog posts, take a cooking class, write an ebook, or start a business.
Business owners want to hire exciting young people and if all you have to show during the application process is that you spent 4 years in the classroom, chances are you won’t get the job.
2. Relying on your resume
The resume is dead.
As we’ve written elsewhere on the Praxis blog, it’s no longer enough to list your qualifications on a resume and expect employers to come chasing after you. For most people, it’s incredibly difficult or impossible to communicate effectively your skills, competencies, and interests in a short bullet point.
If you submit a resume and expect it to do the heavy lifting for you, you’re going to be disappointed.
Everybody has one. Everybody is having them professionally edited.
The average young professional won’t stand out, especially when the employer is reviewing potentially hundreds, if not thousands of them.
What to do instead:
Resumes are boring. At Praxis, our participants create a pitch deck instead of a resume.
A pitch deck is a slideshow that is image heavy and is designed to catch the eye of your potential employer.
Think of your pitch deck as an upgraded resume. It will stand out from the masses of Times New Roman font resumes that most other young professionals are sending.
It’s a great way to show that you go above and beyond the requirements and it will impress your business partner far more than a standard resume template.
Here’s a sample that we use:
As a final note, a pitch deck does not absolve you from the responsibility of selling yourself during the application and the interview process. It’s main purpose is to set you apart so that you can get to the next stage in the process during which you can do that.
3. Playing the “wait game”
Most people are way too passive in the way they approach their job applications.
They fill the basic requirements and then sit back and wait for the employer to decide whether they want to hire them. The problem is that this does nothing to distinguish you. It amounts to saying “here I am, please hire me!”
While this might work sometimes, its not very reliable. Most people will have to submit dozens of applications before they get a job offer using this approach.
What to do instead:
It is not the responsibility of the employer to figure out what kind of value you can create for them. You need to make that clear up front.
That means creating a value proposition where you show them some ideas for projects you can work on for them. It means outlining the kind of value you can create. At a fundamental level, it means selling yourself and addressing the only concern the employer has head on which is “is this person going to create more value for me than they take in salary?”
Adopt a sales mindset during the application process and you’ll 10x your chances or more.
4. Using the formal job market
In school, we’re taught that the first stops in our job searching process should be at recruitment fairs or online job listing sites.
The problem is that everybody does that, and you’re competing with literally thousands of people over each position. Even worse, bureaucratic structures exist at many of these companies that can make it incredibly hard to even get a fair look.
What to Do Instead:
The informal job market — the market of companies that are growing but can’t afford to attend recruitment fairs and doesn’t have the time to manage online listings — is much easier to get hired in.
As I’ve written elsewhere, there is often far less competition and far less bureaucracy in place to prevent you from getting the job. You might even have the chance to sidestep the HR department entirely and connect directly with the head of your department or the CEO of the company, something that is very unlikely to happen in the formal job market.
When you’re beginning your career, consider starting in the informal market. The skills and experience you gain will allow you to transition more easily to bigger companies as you grow.