It’s a Mad Grad World: 9 Tips to Help Graduates Survive (and Thrive!) in the Job Market Jungle

This post is Micheal Burt and Colby B. Jubenville,  co-authors of "Zebras & Cheetahs: Look Different and Stay Agile to Survive the Business Jungle." If you have just graduated from college, congratulations! Take a few moments to admire your diploma and pat yourself on the back … and then get ready to attach your nose firmly to the grindstone (again). Unless you went to school under a rock, you know that graduates are facing one of the worst job markets in recent memory. Clearly, you’ll need to differentiate yourself from the pack if you want to get (and keep) a job in this cutthroat environment. In "Zebras & Cheetahs: Look Different and Stay Agile to Survive the Business Jungle," we emphasize that it’s not just about showing how different you are from the competition; it’s about showing how you’ll make a difference for hiring companies. In today’s economy, you have to show and tell potential employers how you’ll bring unique and immediate value to the table. Here are a few tips to help you show your value so that you excel in the chaos of the concrete jungle:
  • Respond quickly. Responding quickly to a job posting will express to the company that you are eager for the job. As an employer, I’m always impressed by candidates who are committed enough to put together articulate, personalized applications within 72 hours of posting.
  • Differentiate yourself. The most important thing to bring to the job interview table is a clear answer to the question “What makes you different?”
  • Learn to leverage your past. Whether it’s big or small, being able to discuss a problem you have successfully dealt with shows that you are adaptable and that you are willing to evolve into a better version of yourself.
  • Showcase your innovation. Innovative thinking is going to instantly increase your value to a company that is trying to move forward. A good way to demonstrate this skill is to make a video of yourself articulating what you could bring to the table.
  • Show you play well with others. Companies want to hire people who are willing and eager to be members of a team. During your interview, highlight your role in past group projects.
  • Solve their problems. All companies want you to be able to do at least one of three things: make the company money, save the company money or solve major problems. Before you go into the interview, think about specific ways in which you can tie your skills and accomplishments to achieving one of those three outcomes.
  • Be coachable. Interviewers know that you’ll receive criticism from supervisors, clients, or both. The ability to accept constructive feedback and implement those suggestions is extremely valuable.
  • Hit the ground running. Come to the interview not only with general ideas as to how you’d be an asset, but with at least one specific action plan for how you’d like to hit the ground running. Here’s an example: While doing your homework on the company, maybe you noticed that their website is confusing, cluttered, or doesn’t clearly state what the company is trying to portray. Go into the interview with a 90-day plan to make it better.
  • Show your agility. Agility in the workplace means that you’re a quick learner, not just a quick doer. This is definitely something you want to get across to the employer.
  • Be persistent. If you get a job offer after your first interview, you’re one of the very lucky few. Odds are, you’ll have to fill out many applications and go to numerous interviews before you reach gainfully employed status. That’s okay! Keep putting these strategies into practice, and sooner or later, you’ll hear those magic words: “You’re hired.”
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