As I speak on campuses around the country, that is the question I get more often than any other. And often, the answer expected is “finish your education” or “follow your passion.”
But those well-worn cliches are never part of my answer, in large part because a college education no longer makes you employable and that “follow your passion” thing is probably the worst career advice ever given.
Instead, I answer with the five items that have become the new minimum requirements… the new “job search basics”:
Complete One Internship for Every Year of College
We know that 9 out of 10 direct-from-college hires go to those with internship experience on their resumes. We know that to even be considered for an internship (let alone a job) at many high-profile companies (Google and AOL, for example) an applicant must already have 3 or 4 internships under their belt. We know that employers look for entry-level talent with real-world experience.
Good candidates know that internships are near mandatory – and if you want a real job, at a real company within your chosen career field, you should complete at least one high-impact internship for every year you’re in college.
Present an Amazing LinkedIn Profile
There are now 36 million Millennials on LinkedIn – a dramatic improvement over just two years ago. And yet, many students and recent grads – about 60% – are still not active on LinkedIn. In fact, at a recent workshop YouTern completed at a university for engineering majors, the 100+ students (95% of whom were seniors) were asked how many were on LinkedIn.
Only 4 – four – raised their hands.
If you aren’t on LinkedIn… to employers, you don’t exist. If you don’t present an amazing (meaning: complete!) profile… you’re wasting an opportunity to impress those employers.
Membership in a Professional or Industry Association
A survey by Millennial Branding said that about 78% of college students and young professionals had not yet joined a professional development or industry-related association. From this, we can infer that those young careerists are behind on not just networking skills, but also are far less likely to have established a mentor relationship with an influencer – or gained any hands-on experience in their industry.
In today’s job market, you must be committed to your craft. Failure to get involved with your future colleagues may indicate that you’re just going through the motions.
Discover a Unique Value Proposition
What are you really, really good at? And who will pay you to do that?
Few young careerists know what they are really good at, right now. They don’t know specifically how they’ll help a company grow. They don’t know how to sell… themselves. While coming across as clones of every other applicant, they give off the “I’ll take anything” scent that destroys recruiters’ confidence in them.
Take some quiet time and write down the 5 words – just five words – that describe your unique value proposition. Avoid phrases like “hard worker” or “detail oriented” – instead, focus your mini-elevator-pitch on your most marketable skills. Then try that 5-word phrase on a mentor, professor or an objective networking contact. Rinse and repeat until you get that “a-ha!” moment. You’ll know when you’re done… and then you can begin making a list of those employers who will pay you to do what you do well.
Exhibit Subject Matter Expertise
Employers – including some who repeatedly state that young careerists are woefully ill-prepared to enter the workforce – are universally impressed by a candidate who already walks the walk and talks the talk. They may have read a blog post by the candidate. They might have retweeted a candidate’s clever comment during a Twitter chat. Or, they may remember them from their industry association meetings.
Through blogging (not a writer?… then comment), social media (Twitter chats, Facebook communities and LinkedIn Groups are gold) or in-person (time to leave that comfort zone!) show that you’re ready, right now, to do the job.
By completing just one of these minimum requirements – the new job search basics – you’ll quickly race ahead of your would-be competition. Deliberately do all five, and do them well, and you’ll have little trouble advancing your career in 2015!
About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable and Forbes regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Harvard Business Review and Inc.
Mark’s new book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM), with Ted Coine is now available.
Questions? Contact Mark on Twitter.