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VOL. 41 | NO. 18 | Friday, May 05, 2017

First-job gap: Skills vs. requirements

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You’ve made it through four years of college. Now what? Getting your first job after graduation can feel like a daunting task. We have such high hopes of finding the perfect career quickly and easily – until we hit a wall. Based on a recent Wall Street Journal piece, many college graduates can relate.

The National Association of Colleges and Employees reports companies plan to hire 5 percent more young workers this year than last year. This sounds like a great forecast. It makes you wonder what’s going on that’s impacting new graduates.

It seems there’s a mismatch of what companies are looking for and what applicants have to offer.

Approximately 30 percent of applications aren’t meeting the minimum requirements for entry-level jobs. To compound the issue, some jobs require higher-level minimum requirements than are needed to perform the job.

This means companies aren’t able to find candidates they want, and young job seekers are left without jobs.

In addition, 90 percent of college seniors believed their interviewing skills were strong. This was a stark contrast to the perceptions of hiring managers.

What’s a young person to do?

First, know that finding your first job can be tough, no matter what you studied. Decide that you’re going to commit to your job search the same way you committed to college. It’s a process that takes hard work, time and dedication.

But don’t assume your college degree along is enough to land a job. Do everything you can to grow your skills and increase your work experience. Search for internships, paid or unpaid. Volunteer your services for nonprofits that will allow you to grow your marketable skills. Target opportunities that will help you beef up your resume, not just your pocketbook.

If your college has a career center, get to know them better.

Get help with your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile.

Give your elevator pitch to anyone who will listen.

Write out answers to common interview questions and review them. In other words, prepare and practice.

When you search for a new job, don’t rely on the internet to serve up your next opportunity. Betting the company will call you after you apply online rarely works. Network as much as you can. If possible, contact the hiring manager directly to express your interest.

Last but not least, take a little pressure off yourself. When you first take a new job, it can be tough to know if it’s a good job for one year or for your entire career. Only real work experience can help to give you this information. Don’t feel like you have to find the perfect job on your first try. Look for a good job that you find exciting and will be proud to put on your resume.

If you stick to these principles and treat job searching as a job, you’ll land yours faster.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com.

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