Peddling Inexperience: 4 Tips for Young Job-Seekers to Compe

by Vault Education Editors | April 26, 2010

  • My Vault

I'm not going to lie to you: If you're a recent graduate looking for work, the numbers do not look pretty. Despite the fact that the U.S. economy as a whole added 162,000 jobs last month, the unemployment rate for Americans ages 16 to 29 actually rose to a whopping 15.2 percent, its highest point since World War II. The discrepancy worldwide is even larger: workers ages 15 to 24 are almost as likely to be unemployed as those over the age of 25. Suffice to say, the job market is a far cry from the 1980s hiring heyday enjoyed by earlier generations.

Young job-seekers waitingThe fact is, those of us who graduated in the past few years are finding out that it's not just a matter of weathering the storm. While much of the general population hopes simply to keep the jobs they have, a recent grad is trying to get hired in an industry where, chances are, she has never held a full-time, salaried position in the first place. What's more, employers have the luxury of requiring and hiring a more experienced applicant. A position that, 10 years ago, might have been filled by someone a couple months out of school today likely requires a minimum of one to two years of experience up front. In short, the competition is stiff. Not only are you contending with an ever-growing pool of recent grads; you will also be compared against an older, more experienced (and some might even say over-qualified) subset of applicants.

But think of it this way: There would have been little point in writing that downer of an introduction if all hope were lost. Though you may not bring the same level of experience to the table, there are many ways that, as young job-seeker, you can yourself apart from the rest. The trick is, oddly enough, to take advantage of your age.

1. First and foremost, always present your age in a positive light.

Confidence is everything in an interview, so don't ever talk yourself down. Focus on how hiring a fresh-faced whipper-snapper like can actually be a huge asset to the company (see examples below).

2. Emphasize your ability to learn quickly.

One good thing about having less prior experience is that you have the potential to be a better learner. Each company has a different way of completing the exact same task, and a recent grad will be able to adapt more easily because she won't already have a set idea of how it "should" be done.

3. Emphasize your computer literacy.

As a member of the generation that went from the bottle to the computer, chances are that you are more computer literate than an older applicant. The trick here is to include your understanding of the internet and social media in the computer skills portion of your resume. Many companies are especially keen right now to figure out social media, and as the young, hip, Tweeter you are, you can plausibly offer a level of expertise others won't have.

4. Use your school's alumni network.

As a recent graduate in an economic downturn, you are undeniably at your most endearing to a successful alumnus/a. Take advantage! Reach out to alumni via email or attend mixers in your area. And remember that friends from a few classes above you graduated in a better job market and therefore might be able to lend a hand.

5. Maintain an interview portfolio.

I recently wrote a blog post about what an interview portfolio would look like for a recent graduate. The short version is that an interview portfolio should include any and all materials that will be useful for a potential boss. Preparing one has several benefits: Not only will it show you to your fullest advantage, it will also make you look especially prepared and savvy, qualities that are all the more striking in a recent graduate.

Even in the best of times, the job market can be horribly intimidating for a newly minted job-seeker. Yet, as a young person, you have a lot to offer in a corporate environment. You are a better learner since most likely you won't have pre-set ideas for how everything should be done; you are--or will be perceived to be--more bright-eyed and enthusiastic; and you can most likely claim at least some level of social media or internet expertise. The point is, you have a lot to offer. Don't sell yourself short just because you aren't old enough to remember when that Paul Simon/Chevy Chase music video came out. You've got your own thing going on.

--Posted by Madison Priest

Filed Under: Education

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