You remember applying to college like it was yesterday, but the next thing you know, you're walking the stage in a cap and gown. Now you're worried about finding a job -- as you should be. According to a survey by Intern Sushi and AYTM, 96.8 percent of college students and recent grads are concerned about job prospects after graduation, so you're not alone.
As of May 2012, more than 2.6 million new grads nationwide are suddenly facing the harsh reality that their dream careers might be out of reach. With the national unemployment rate at more than 8 percent and an average of 3.7 applicants competing for each available job (Labor Department statistics), you must realize that you and your fellow new grads are battling each other for a finite number of jobs, whether you like it or not. You will not (okay, you might not) survive if you're not armed with the right weapons. It's a jungle out there.
Early on in college, you were probably coached to explore majors that interested you, only to choose one that would provide the "requisite skills" that would ensure you'd get a job after graduation. But, now that you're fiercely competing against the millions of other new grads who too are fighting in the same war, you're realizing that they were all told the same thing. You all have the same weapons and they aren't going to advance you over anyone else in your battle for a dream career. This is especially true if you're shooting for a spot in the highly selective and competitive creative industries like film, television, sports, music, fashion, advertising or art.
I was in your shoes not too long ago and it was this very problem that inspired me to design Intern Sushi's website to provide a platform with the best weapons for people like us. For new and recent grads, here are my top three suggestions for arming yourself to win in the creative job market war:
• When you're on the battlefield, remember why you started fighting in the first place. Follow your passion when you're searching for opportunities. -- When the going gets tough, it's easy to forget you're not after any old job, or that there are a world of possibilities if you combine what you love with what you've learned. Your major was meant to help you focus your studies, not define your career. So, I urge you to look at your major as the foundation of your knowledge, rather than the determinant of opportunities available to you. Follow your passion first and your skillset second. If you love design, but majored in math, there are many opportunities available -- designers need critical thinkers too. Everyone is the best version of themselves when they are doing something they love -- and knowledge or skills you lack at that point, you'll be more than eager to learn. When you change your approach to the job search, you'll land a position where you'll have the best opportunity to thrive.
• If the résumé is a bow and arrow, you need a Bazooka. Trash it or upgrade it to better tell your story -- If you were standing in a row of four people and you knew only one of you was going to get the job, what would you say or do to make sure it was you?
When applying for any position, you have to show them why you're better than the others and you must do it in a unique way. Forget talking about your GPA or what your major was. Focus on what your passions and interests bring to the table. Do you have a skill that may not directly align with the job requirements, but can enhance them? Where did you come from, what do you believe, what's important to you? Tell them your story and humanize the hiring process by adding some emotion to it. While the résumé is the most common application tool, I guarantee the other three people in your lineup are using it. If you're all fighting with the same weapon, it's going to be a long fight. Use a far more powerful medium -- video, images, audio, music. What would move you if it landed on your desk?
• Once you land the interview, there is no better artillery than industry knowledge -- An understanding of the latest industry trends, concepts and leading players will quickly pull you ahead of the pack. Guess what? You need to know more than what you learned in a classroom to not only survive, but thrive in these cutthroat, creative industries. They don't have high expectations because they want to -- they have to. Keep in mind that just like you are in your application battle, every company you are targeting is focused on fighting its own brutal war of innovation. They certainly don't owe you a spot in their army if you don't have the strategic thinking needed to help them advance. My best advice is to learn as much as you can by reading industry blogs, trend reports, following industry experts on Twitter, and staying up-to-date on everything that's going on in the field. You never want to be caught in an interview quoting a book that you only read the first chapter of during freshman year of college. Try Intern Sushi's Industry News Section for a one-stop-shop way to get up to speed on the news and happenings in your target industry. It's not just a tool for interns. The more in-the-know you are, the more valuable you'll be.
Shara Senderoff is the co-founder and CEO of Intern Sushi, a company created to reinvent and reconstruct the internship application process to be more effective for breaking into tough, creative industries.