For any millennial, and the Gen Y’s just ahead of them, landing your very first job is a typical right of passage. Cue the casual weekend job down at the local supermarket stacking shelves, ripping tickets at a cinema, or selling jeans to your mates at the local shopping centre.
But inevitably, weekend work cannot be maintained forever. Priorities shift and evolve – you might start a program at university or an apprenticeship, move into a share house or take a gap year to travel overseas. And with these changes also comes the need to pay the rent, put food on the table and start building capital for the future.
Job hunting in your late teens to twenties brings unique challenges as your enter the job market, regardless of the position or the specific sector. In an increasingly competitive climate, employers opt to select the most suitable candidate based on the skills and experience highlighted by the applicant.
And while the younger job seeker will have a leaner CV than some one who is 10 years their senior, this does not necessarily have to detract from their hunt for the ideal job.
1) Use your existing networks
With the rapid growth of social media over the last decade, it’s now possible for people to maintain an ongoing relationship with up to 150 connections at any one time. Once you’ve identified the kind of role you could see eventually yourself in, don’t go at it alone!
There are also some nifty referral job sites, like the recently launched Fosslr, which can help secure a job plus a sign on bounty. Don’t shoulder all the work yourself when there’s people out there who can keep an ear to the ground for you. New referral sites including Fosslr come with energy and enthusiasm to match your drive to find a gig.
You could also enlist the help of your personal networks for support, motivation and introductions. One of the best ways to carve out a career when job hunting is to also learn about it. Why not see if there is a friend from school, or your existing job, or perhaps a family member who can help you set up an informational style interview?
And this is not even taking into consideration the friends of friends, and the weak ties in your social spheres that could be the missing piece of the puzzle.
2) Find a mentor
While your friends and family may be an amazing source of support, they may not be so well equipped to offer strategic and professional insights into the ways you have been job hunting.
One of the best things to do early in your career is connect with somebody with a few more runs on the board, and who can help steer you towards opportunities and experiences that will accelerate your career prospects.
For now, start easy by scanning your existing networks to find a mentor. Many universities now have a career mentoring service that will automatically connect you with somebody established in the field.
Once you do connect with someone, remember to keep it professional. They are not your mother or father – they are busy people like yourself. Create some boundaries, agree on what you both might take away from the relationship, keep it relaxed and informal but find a way to keep in touch frequently.
3) Identify transferable skills and knowledge
Just because you haven’t been working a zillion jobs throughout your twenties does not mean you are a less suitable candidate for the job. Employers these days are looking for strong character and personality types that will fit the workplace culture they have established long before you applied for job.
If you volunteered at an animal shelter or nursing home, this demonstrates compassion and empathy. If you have played sport at a high level – or even just socially – this indicates a capacity for teamwork, and a strong level of interpersonal skills.
Travel is another one that employers will consider favourably as it’s appreciated for its capacity to develop a well rounded employee with a unique world view, empathy and problem solving skills.
On your CV, identify the most appropriate transferrable skills and include short, snappy statements that contextualise the particular experience in relationship to the job opportunity.
4) Develop skills and experience through internships
Sometimes, the honest truth is you just don’t (yet) have the skills and experience to fit the job description.
So use this to your advantage.
Millennial job seekers typically don’t need to worry so much about a mortgage, a mammoth credit card debt or family commitments, and with this comes some flexibility to take on unpaid internships and professional job “tasters” to develop a sense of the industry they wish to enter.
The reality is that for many sectors is that an unpaid internship is now one of the strongest ways to build up professional connections which lead to an opportunity down the line.
If you can afford it, make a list of the ten workplaces you would love to work in, and contact their management team to see if they take on interns.
Once you land an internship, don’t let the workplace exploit you – it’s a two way street. Understand that while they’re giving you a shot, they’re also reaping the benefits of your time and effort.
I would suggest setting up a basic agreement, agreeing on the length and role of the internship, and once the gig has lapsed, set aside some time for critical feedback and performance evaluation.
It’s also okay if you found the type of work was not for you, but remember to say thankyou! If an internship opportunity confirms your gut feeling that this is what you wish to pursue, then remember to stay in touch and keep an ear to the ground for openings in the organisation.
5) Exercise patience
I have left this as my last tip because it’s something that applies particularly to the contemporary millennial job seeker.
We live in a world where we need everything right away, right now, and this applies not just to catching the latest episode on Netflix.
In the job-seeking climate, we want to know “yesterday” if we are the perfect person for the job.
Not everybody answers an email straight away, and not everybody can take your call when you’re what to know then and there if you have the job. In larger organisations, management and HR teams follow set structures, process and timelines, and it takes time when recruiting candidates.
So once you’ve sent off that job application, relax and exercise patience. When you’ve had that interview, accept there is nothing you can do until you hear back. And when your job hunt is hitting a brick wall, or taking you into a direction that you are unhappy with, remember to take stock of things and be mindful that eventually, you will land that opportunity.
And remember, while you do this, to hunt wisely.