We’re entering the job market at an interesting time, forced to deal with the dual forces of recessionary realities and social technologies.
Out of every Gen Y professional I know, from Ivy League business students to high school dropouts, there’s a pervasive shift happening that’s changing our collective perception of what it takes to get ahead.
We know now, after years of trying to grasp at the non-existent ladder and the even more elusive entry-level jobs, that the promise of an education is too often a promise unfulfilled, and most of what we did learn proves irrelevant to those employers on the other side of the hiring table.
It’s a recurring conundrum: if every job is looking for someone with work experience, how are you ever supposed to get work experience in the first place? And increasingly, things like internships and part-time jobs just don’t cut it amidst the cutthroat competition.
So how can Gen Y actually go about getting that first experience in a job that aligns with a fulfilling career? Resumes alone don’t cut it anymore; on paper, there’s no way the emerging workforce can stack up against more experienced competition on paper.
Not to mention the fact that without an established professional network and connections, we’re forced to go through the front door.
That means surrendering to the fact that our lack of direct work experience turns us into an interchangeable mass of undesirable applicants who aren’t even worth the time it takes to let them know they didn’t get the job.
Standing apart from the Gen Y competition requires a little creativity, particularly given the fact that most businesses have less open positions and more candidates applying for them.
This has created a much more rigorous hiring processes where, even in the rare case of getting contacted by an employer, candidates are subjected to screening strategies designed to scrutinize business knowledge and acumen.
This is yet another area where Gen Y candidates can’t stack up, since none of us have actual, real world examples for behavioral based interviewing questions or hypothetical scenario analyses.
Overcoming this requires almost reverse engineering the traditional approach to job search: developing professional brands, reputation and influence not as a result of experience, but in spite of it.
It’s a challenge, but we’ve got the talent, and we know it.
A lot of employers tend to misconstrue that as overconfidence, an unwillingness to pay our dues, but the truth is, we’re better educated, connected and technologically adept than any generation before us.
We’ve got the work ethic to make it at work, and we’ve got the knowledge to help companies transform and innovate.
As one of the most coveted and targeted demographics for consumer marketers, we’ve been assailed by advertising and marketing throughout our lives, and know what it takes for a brand to break through.
It takes a unique voice to make a statement.
By applying those same lessons to our personal brands, we can leverage our unique worldview and perspectives to showcase the kind of experience, professional passion and industry acumen employers are looking for.
The key to personal branding, like any good marketing, means telling a story, but things like personal websites, Twitter profiles and Facebook pages are just the beginning. Every story needs a middle and an end.
To get to the happy ending of a successful job search, however, means finding that middle ground between personal objectives and professional experience.
While your story should be written with an external audience in mind, selling yourself externally requires looking internally.
Think of introspection as personal market research. When a company is creating their brand, every element down to the colors on logo is designed to reflect their values, mission and market positioning.
Similarly, this comprehensive approach needs to be applied to personal branding.
Knowing your own values and mission are essential first steps towards defining your market, and, in turn, refining your marketing.
You’re the world’s greatest expert in at least one subject: yourself.
And you’ll know better than anyone what makes you unique – and memorable enough to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on an employer.