The Opportunity

Change no longer comes from big governments and well-endowed corporations. We are in the midst of the deepest and longest recession in the last 70 years, and yet more money is being thrown at startups than anyone knows what to do with.

Yet, we live in an environment where college career centers are telling students to use resume templates and shove every fact about themselves on one page. Then, take that resume force it down 50 companies’ job postings.

The industrial revolution is over. Millions of brain-dead, follow the manual office jobs that provided stable middle class jobs for the last century are gone. They’re not coming back, and government regulation isn’t going do anything about it. Fighting the inevitable is useless.

So what is a college student to do? How does a fresh out of college undergrad with no relevant experience find a job when they are graduating into 12 million unemployed people and not even enough job growth to keep pace with people entering the work force?

Tell a story.

Humans were built to learn through stories. As Kathy Sierra put it, our brains were not tuned for listening to facts.

After I gave my “The Opportunity” talk today at UT Dallas, I sat down with an MBA student about to graduate. She was interested in jobs at my company. I had looked at her resume before and taken away that she was an average project manager. After speaking with her, I discovered she was a middle-aged engineer who had started her own company and now was interested in working in sales. What a perfect combo for a technology company!

The problem was, that’s not what she was telling future employers.

Here’s the crux of my advice today to students:

Get out of the box. Stop thinking there is a magical process to getting a job if you follow the rules. Hone in on 3-5 companies that you’re passionate about and get creative. Meet people, find employees of the company a year before you are graduating and send informational emails through LinkedIn. Go to industry events. Heck, send them a 20 foot tall painting in the mail1! Do all of this with the intention of learning more, not necessarily getting a job, because if you wait until you need a job, it’s too late.

When it comes time to get a job, you’ve made the connections, so tell the company why they need you. Why they should make a job for you becuase you’re so insanely awesome. You’re not going to backfill an existing job, becuase the 13 million unemployed people have a leg up on you. It’s not as though companies don’t have the resources to hire. They’re sitting on record stockpiles of cash!

John Gruber nailed it at this talk at Çingleton in regards to The Next 5 Years:

The only thing any of us are going to regret is if we don’t aim big enough. If you don’t feel you are now in a position to do the best work of your entire career, to look back and say ‘I was there’ ‘I did this’ ‘I made this thing a reality,’ then we you need to find a new position. This chance will never come again.

We are so lucky that this opportunity even came this once.

Students: stop looking at jobs as something to backfill and fit into a giant machine.

Know who you are and what you want. Get out there, meet people, make something. Tell a story. That’s the key to a job you love. Create the job you want.

  1. Credit to Merlin Mann on Back to Work for this idea. []
December 5, 2011