GETTING A JOB — WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW WILL HURT YOU!
While there are notable exceptions, many millennials (those born roughly from the
early 1980s to 2000) are having a tough time in today’s job market.
I have met and chatted with a number of young people and I find that the downturned
economy and a rapidly changing workplace create huge barriers to entry. Sending out
five hundred resumes via email and receiving only a handful of live interviews creates
enormous stress and anxiety for young job seekers.
On the flip side, I have met young professionals who are thriving in a very difficult
marketplace by applying several rules of conduct — some new, some old-fashioned —
as they attempt to enter or re-enter the workplace.
Here’s my list of the top twelve things for you to consider when you are trying to get
a job in today’s marketplace:
1. Don’t tell me how special you are; tell me what you can do for me and my
You got a 4.0 at an elite school. You were the leader of a nonprofit group that
saved animals from extinction. But, you also tell me that you “don’t like to sell,
don’t like to make cold calls, and don’t like conflict.”
Sorry, that’s the kind of pitch that’s not going to get you a second interview. I need
you to be able to understand and articulate exactly how you think you can benefit
me and my business. This may require you do some research on the company to
understand what they do.
2. Find or build your OWN support network.
It’s a jungle out there, so don’t try to muscle through your job search alone and
without any support.
If you are fortunate enough to have a great family that supports you emotionally
and financially, you are miles ahead of the game. If you aren’t, then build one on
your own. Don’t look to your future employer to be your surrogate family. Friends,
associates, fellow hobbyists — seek out people who feel good about themselves
and good about you. This baseline network will keep you focused and strong when
the going gets tough. Misery may love company, but in this case, you really need to
associate with people who are upbeat, positive, and resilient.
3. Start networking the old-fashioned way… face to face.
Way back in the ’80s, people used to create opportunities for themselves by
volunteering for organizations, calling people up and arranging face-to-face
meetings, and networking through family, friends, and service organizations.
Of course, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media can help you
connect, but use these as search engine tools to help identify the people you
ultimately want to connect with in person.
But please don’t abuse your access in social media.
Be gracious. Be polite. Don’t ask for a job as your email introduction.
Ask for advice. Ask them what you can do to assist. Ask them to meet you for a
cup of coffee. When you meet your contact, tell them what you are interested in,
4. Don’t let others define what success means to you.
Endless comparisons to others are stressful and not necessary.
Success largely means to be in a job situation where your talents and gifts are
utilized to their fullest. And it doesn’t mean that it has to be RIGHT NOW.
There are plenty of great inspirational stories of people who started working in the
mailroom and made their way to the top of the food chain.
5. Get informational interviews so you can find out what the job is really like
vs. what you THINK it might be like because of the way it is portrayed in the
I once spoke to a young person who wanted a job in the fashion industry. I asked
her what intrigued her about the business, and she proceeded to describe the
plotline for the film The Devil Wears Prada. While I applaud the world of cinema
for opening up the eyes of people to the world around them, this film does not
accurately reflect the day-to-day realities of that business.
So the advice is simple: Get a reality check by having an informational interview
with someone who actually works in your target industry. Ask them what they love
about their job and what they hate about their job. If you are listening carefully,
you might find the opening it will take for you to get a job.
6. Be very specific about your interest but, at the same time, LISTEN for
opportunities when they are presented to you.
There is nothing that sounds quite so desperate on the dating circuit or the job
market as “I’m open to anything. I’ll do anything. I just want something.” That lack
of focus and specificity will get you nowhere. It’s not the job of the interviewer
to help you find what you are interested in; it’s their job to see if you are a good
match to what they present you. On the flip side of this equation, OPEN UP YOUR
EARS, MIND, and HEART if someone surprises you and asks if you are interested
in XYZ industry. Your response, if genuine, should be an enthusiastic, “Why, yes of
course! Tell me more about that opportunity.”
7. Keep a journal of all your contacts and interactions.
If you keep an accurate diary of your contacts sorted by date, type of industry, and
list of contacts, it will serve you well. First, it will help you see common patterns
in your interaction with potential employers. Did you come on too strong? Are
your references weak? Is your pitch about yourself getting stale and tired? You’ll
be able to get a clearer and more accurate picture of how you present yourself
to the world if you take meticulous notes. Second, a diary also provides you with
accurate notes and details just in case through six or ten degrees of separation,
you get another interview. “Yes, indeed, I did meet your associate Bonnie ten
months ago. We were discussing how I could contribute to your IT department
now that I have taught myself a new programming language.” A pen and paper will
probably slow down your thought process and give you plenty of time to reflect on
If, however, you love spreadsheets, then, by all means, use Excel to build yourself a
spreadsheet that you can access all the time.
I have seen very bright, articulate people get smaller and smaller, both spiritually
and physically, as they slog along on an endless job search.
Of course, it’s difficult, but you do need the simple elements of healthy food, a
daily routine, exercise, and a solid FACE-TO-FACE social network to get you through
this process. Feeling strong and fit, and having a positive attitude, will serve you
well when the right opportunity comes along.
9. Volunteer at the COOLEST conferences in your city.
A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of business conferences in your city.
With the right attitude and approach, you can get a face-to-face meeting with
the organizers of these conferences and make yourself useful. Key phrases to get
a volunteer job would be “I’m smart,” “I solve problems,” and “I’m great with
10. Read trade journals, newspapers, and books.
A young person who is well informed about the world and actually reads and
expresses their point of view is refreshing, exciting, and interesting. Don’t recite
your favorite tips from Facebook; read and understand what’s going on in your
target industry and the world.
Here’s the best way to get a list of recommended reading:
One, ask your contacts what trade journals they read. Two, go to the library and
raid their reference section. It’s free and comprehensive. Three, go onto Amazon
Kindle and search under FREE and the topic of your choice. You would be amazed
how much information is available for little or no cost at all.
11. Don’t let the negative from your past bleed into your future.
If you had a horrible boss whom you wanted to murder at your last job, keep it
to yourself. Telling a prospective future boss about your last job will lead him to
assume that you’ll create the same conditions at the new job, making him the next
bad guy. Keep it zipped if it’s negative.
12. Find a mentor.
Do not ignore your elders. They may have had a vast amount of experience in
whatever trade you wish to become part of and be delighted to share with you
the secrets of their success, cutting years off your learning curve. In addition, they
bring contacts that may open many doors for you. Older, experienced men and
women who have retired are looking for young people with whom to share their
hard-earned, life-long knowledge. This is gold. Pick it up. Steven Spielberg was
no dummy. He had mentors who fast-tracked him into the studios while his peers
stood on the sidelines and struggled for attention.
As a conclusion, let me share one of the most important points of all.
This time in your life will give you great perspective and ultimately strengthen
your ability to rebound in the future.
Your ability to be resilient, persistent, creative, and confident even in the face of
adversity will pay HUGE DIVIDENDS to you in the future.
Best of luck to those of you who are fighting the good fight!
Ken Lee is Vice President at Michael Wiese Productions (www.mwp.com) and has served in that
capacity for the last twenty years. The company is the number one publisher in the world for books
about filmmaking. When Ken joined the company, they had five books. Today they have published over
230 books and sold millions of copies. Ken has heard thousands of pitches and has listened to a lot of
young people seeking to find their niche in the workplace.
MICHAEL WIESE PRODUCTIONS
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