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5 Reasons New Grads are Failing in the Job Search - Part 2

Friday, January 09, 2015


Last week we covered two of the main reasons new grads are failing in the job search. To review, something like 53% of new grads under the age of 25 are unemployed or underemployed. The word we’re using for this now is “malemployment.”

What’s discouraging is that many give up the job search far too soon, and settle for one to two other options:

Taking a part time, low wage job to create some level of sustainable income, or, consider taking on more debt by going back to grad school.

My response is to say not yet, to both. Because many grads have not put in the work to overcome the systemic issues which created their conundrum in the first place.

Here are the next three reasons new grads are failing in the job search. 

3. They Don't Understand They Are in the Self-Promotion and Marketing Business

Grads with any major would do well to take a course in marketing at some point in their collegiate careers. 

The job search is really about the marketing process.  It begins with understanding the “product”; what you offer, who will want it, how you’ll add value and then identifying potential customers (in this case employers) who will pay you. 

Therefore a successful job search strategy requires that you:

  • Market – identify the potential employers who would be a good mutual fit for acquiring you as talent, and,
  • Sell – turn them into buyers by convincing them to hire you.


All the messages, documents, and interview prep a new grad develops must focus on marketing what they have to offer in all of their materials.

And then selling; closing the deal, accepting the offer, when they’ve positioned themselves as the most qualified applicant for the job. 

The Solution: Get Clear on Your Identity and Messaging to Construct Good Marketing Materials.

  • Develop a marketing mindset and identify who your potential customers (employers) could be.
  • Identify 15 to 20 target employers to whom you will direct your marketing efforts.
  • Continually ask, “Where do I find my potential customers (employers) and how do I connect with them?”
  • Use your networking tools to seek out connections into organizations, and ask for referrals to hiring managers.
  • Use cold calling or cold emailing as a way to connect with hiring managers at your target employers.


4. Their Self-Awareness Tank is Nearly Empty

How many times in the academic process do we ask students to describe themselves?

Yet, this is the hallmark first question of many interviews, and a great metaphor for the job search in general: 

“So, tell me about yourself.”

Whoa! This is a whole new level of self-awareness that grads don’t typically learn in school.

In job search preparation I often ask clients to describe themselves, and I can tell immediately that many simply haven’t done that kind of homework. Frankly, they've never needed to.

But how does this show up in the job search?  Well, everywhere:

  • It’s difficult to develop a job search strategy when you don’t know who you are, what you are looking for, and the kind of work you might find satisfying.
  • It’s hard to write a resume when you don’t know how to describe yourself.
  • It’s impossible to succeed at an interview when you can’t translate who you are and what you offer into a “value proposition” for an employer.
  • It’s difficult to answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” when you don’t really know why an employer should, other than it would put money in your bank account. 


The Solution: Get Clear on Your Identity and Messaging to Construct Good Marketing Materials. 

  • Get into self-assessment land and learn as much about yourself, your strengths, your desired workplace qualities and how you’ll add value. If necessary, contract with a career counselor or someone who can help with this work.
  • Find self-help books such as StrengthFinder 2.0 to develop your personal profile.
  • Based on your findings, develop clear messages about who you are and the value proposition you represent.
  • Create compelling marketing materials that support your messages and attract employers.


5. They Don't See Things From the Employer Perspective

One of the biggest misconceptions grads have about the job search is that it’s about finding work they love to do. And I agree, in Nirvana that would be awesome. 

And, grads also need to understand what it’s like to be a hiring manger, and what that hiring manager is looking for.

They are NOT looking to provide grads the opportunity to make their dreams come true. 

The ARE looking for smart, likable people who will fit into the organization and help them solve their business problems. Dreams coming true is icing on the cake.

The crux of the entire job search strategy is to present yourself as someone who is capable of helping an employer solve his or her problems.  If grads think about their job search strategy this way, then fundamentally they will start asking different questions.

They will stop asking: "How can I find a job that pays a lot and that I love?"

And they will start asking: "Who has problems that I love solving and how do I find them?"

The Solution: Get into the Employer’s Head.

Use LinkedIn to research what employers want. Identify what jobs are posted, what problems are they trying to solve, what outcomes candidates are expected to achieve.

If this feels like a new language, look at literally hundreds of jobs so you can begin seeing patterns and common themes emerge.

In areas where you have interest, align your messages with the needs of employers in those areas of interest.

Talk to hiring managers you may know socially or meet at networking events. Ask them what they most look for in a qualified candidate. Listen to their words and messaging and align your messages so that you’ll be heard.

The job search landscape for new grads is challenging right now, there’s no doubt. But after working with and talking to hundreds of young adults I’m sure of one thing: it’s not all about the economy.

We've got to help new grads develop the skills, the mindset and the strategy to get them successfully from college, to career. 

You can download this entire report here. Lea McLeod created The Resume Coloring Book E-course to help you craft a step-by-step, color-coded resume in 6 simple sections that is proven to pass the “7 second recruiter scan.” Her career insights have been featured in Forbes, Mashable, LifeHacker, Daily Muse and Business Insider. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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