Right major? Check. Enough software knowledge? Check. Cultural Fit? Check. Sufficient years of experience? Uh-oh.
You’re looking at the job listing for your ideal gig just a little while after graduation and feel the excitement mounting inside of you with every requirement you know you can fulfill. Then you see that you need 2 years of work experience – which you don’t have as a new grad. Ugh. Do you pull back and look for a position that you don’t want as much? Do you resign yourself to a job you know will bore you for the next couple of years?
No. Stop and think like a hiring manager. They are looking for candidates who know their stuff. It just so happens that the general consensus says knowing your stuff requires some experience in the industry. This study by McKinsey & Co. and Chegg even says that college graduates are under prepared but overqualified for employment…a finding that will naturally push hiring managers away from hiring recent grads.
So clearly, your next step should be to prove that you are sufficiently prepared for employment. How? Build a portfolio of work similar to what you would be doing on the job and submit it with your job application. Refocus the potential employer’s attention on your skills and potential and away from metrics that don’t necessarily describe what you can do properly. Here’s how.
Step 1 – MOOCs: Learning the Skills
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are classes from well known Universities that professors modify for distance learning to allow access to any student for free. Many of these courses teach exactly the same material as what the professors teach in their traditional classes, but you can take them in your spare time without spending money to build your knowledge and skills base.
Keep in mind that your major and college classes are not the full span of your capabilities. An English degree is a great base for a copywriting career, but taking a few classes on your own time in marketing techniques can give your writing the boost you need to land that job at an ad agency.
Websites like Coursera and EdX provide great platforms for MOOCs. It is important, however, to record your work for the class. The assignments and projects you complete are great additions to your professional portfolio, as they legitimize the coursework you do through MOOCs. You can keep track of all this by downloading your work as you complete it, or by using websites like Accredible to transfer all of your online coursework to one place that can be linked to the rest of your portfolio.
Step 2 – Speculative Projects/Case Studies: Applying the Skills
There are case studies all over the internet – taking a few and using skills you learned from college and your MOOCs to write an analysis for each can help get your feet wet in the kind of thinking you need to solve problems in your industry.
Speculative or freelancing projects are also great ways to simulate what you will be doing later in a full time job. Telling a small or mid-sized business or nonprofit organization that you are willing to help them out for free or little charge is an easy way to land some of these projects – this is time you are spending building work experience regardless of the amount you are getting paid.
Specifically working with nonprofit organizations in a volunteer position not only gives you the added experience for your newly developed skills, it also shows a more human side of your personality. Maybe your volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity relates to your passion for fighting poverty, or perhaps your commitment to proper healthcare is showcased through your extensive work with the Red Cross. Talking about your volunteer work in an interview is also great way to transition to you personal qualities and cultural fit.
Step 3 – Research: Effectively Showcasing the Skills
Know what’s going on! Read the news, find new articles on techniques and technology, and learn to use the newest software. Once your profile gets you to an interview, you still need to prove that you can hit the ground running upon receiving an offer.
Having background knowledge about developments the company and its industry can help you come up with possible solutions to their problems before you are even working there – there is no better way than that to show that you would be an asset to the team.
Follow those three steps and you can show the hiring manager that you are perfect for your dream job because even though you don’t have years under your belt, you have the necessary skills and can demonstrate initiative to continue building more in the future.