According to a February 2012 report by Pew Research Center, the share of unemployed young adults (ages 18 to 24) in the U.S. is 46 percent — the lowest since the government began collecting data in 1948. This group also makes less than any other age group. Another study by Rutgers University revealed that 50 percent of college graduates had gotten a job — any job — between 2008 and 2011. To say times are bad is an understatement for young people. That is why I encourage this group to not make things worse through poor job searching skills.
I train, teach, and mentor a lot of young people for the ad industry. They work hard to learn the craft. I also condition them to better market themselves. Because there’s a whole lot of people out there that want the job they want. Perhaps you are just out of school or you just got laid off. Or maybe you just want to increase your potential through a better opportunity. Regardless of your situation here are the keys to marketing to employers more effectively.
1. Be old-fashioned. By old-fashioned I mean you have the social skills to impress your future employer. You understand the importance of decorum and civility. You are capable of representing yourself as one who understands and appreciates professional behavior. You know that how well you present yourself to a potential employer has as much to do with successfully landing a job as your experience and capabilities.
2. Focus on what the employer needs rather than what you want. Unfortunately, many young professionals don’t realize the importance of this approach. A study by McKinsey & Co. said that employers put more importance on soft skills like work ethic, teamwork, and communication skills than on hard skills. Unfortunately, these “soft skills” were lacking in graduates and students interviewing for jobs.
3. Treat your job search like an ad campaign. Your business objective is the career you want. Your target audience is a short list of potential employers. Your resume, job application, portfolio, interview and follow-up are the communications of your ad campaign. This may sound contrived, but it works. Remember: Potential employers are the same as consumers; if they connect with you (the product), they are going to buy.
I once hired three interns when I only needed one. Here’s why I did so. First, I received a hand-written note or letter explaining each individual’s intense desire to do great work. The notes indicated an awareness of the agency’s work. Each followed up with a call to make an appointment at my convenience. Each came to their interview fully prepared. Each dressed and behaved professionally. Each followed up with a handwritten thank-you note. All three did an amazing job as interns and two of the three became permanent staff members.
Today, the proper attitude in approaching potential employers is more imperative than ever. Your talent can get you in the door. But soft skills get you the job offer. The days of crazy geniuses in the back room are over. If you want to work at the best agencies, you’ll have to be a genius both in the back room and in the boardroom.
Originally published May 28, 2014 3:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017