Ford R. Myers is president of Career Potential, a career coaching and counselling firm, and author of the recently released book Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. (Check out my review of the book here.) I asked him to put his years of experience helping people with their careers to work by offering some advice to Canadian students and recent grads.
Q. Get the Job You Want Even When No One’s Hiring focuses on an older segment of the working population – people with a decade or more of experience. How can students and recent grads tweak your advice and the tools available in the book and online to make it more applicable to them?
A. It is vital that students and recent graduates have an understanding of what career management is, and how they can achieve their potential by learning this discipline. I tell college students to start planning their career path long before they graduate, not when they graduate.
Many students have actually read my book and done the exercises – and they have found the experience to be extremely beneficial. While students’ resumes, cover letters and other documents won’t look like those of senior executives, all the forms and exercises in my book can be easily adapted and customized to the student level. My advice is: don’t wait. Start now, and your career will really take off!
Q. Since they typically lack the business connections of more experienced workers, how can students and new grads compensate for being outside the “inside job market,” as well as a lack of professional references/letters of reference?
A. I have found that students have more “connections” than they often realize, and plenty of networking contacts. They have friends and relatives. They know people from school, camp, church or synagogue, part-time jobs or summer jobs. They know teachers, guidance counsellors, neighbours, and parents of friends.
With all these relationships, there’s no reason why a student shouldn’t be able to generate a huge database to network into. Networking is a skill that is easy to learn and fun to do. The key is to start early, and begin building the “Contact List” before graduation. This list will then grow and grow, throughout the student’s entire career. And as I always say, the “Contact List” is the backbone of every successful person’s career.
Q. When marketing themselves to potential employers, what should students and recent graduates focus on more: their proven experience, or their potential to succeed? Why?
A. The answer is: both! There needs to be a blend of both factors in order to succeed in the job search. It is vital that the candidate match-up his or her experience/strengths/assets to the potential employer’s needs/problems/challenges. In order to succeed in the job search, students must learn to clearly articulate their value, and apply this to the employer’s future goals. In my opinion, even young students and recent graduates have a great deal of value to offer in the workplace – but they might need some help learning how to convey their potential contributions.
Q. What style of resumé would you recommend to a student or recent graduate and why?
A. There are several resumé formats, including “Chronological” and “Functional.” This second style is only appropriate for candidates who have been out of work for a long time, who are totally changing careers, or who have been “job hoppers.” Students generally don’t fall into these categories, so I recommend that they stick with the standard “Chronological” format. Even if a student or recent graduate doesn’t have a lot of paid work experience, this style of resumé will get the best results.
Q. What are three things students can do during college/university to help them prepare to get the job they want when they graduate?
A. 1. Get as much work experience as possible before graduation – full-time, part-time, summer jobs, etc. Even internships and apprenticeships are very worthwhile. Obviously, it’s best if much of this experience can be related to the student’s major or chosen career.
2. Work closely with the college’s guidance counsellors, career services office, or work-study program. Also, engaging the services of a qualified career coach for a few sessions can be very worthwhile and provide a great “return on investment.”
3. Position yourself as a “real professional” – not as a “student beginner.” This means learning how to confidently articulate your value, express your career goals and plans, and explain your potential contributions. This also means “acting like a responsible adult” – being punctual and prepared, dressing professionally, and following-up appropriately after interviews.