It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years since I wrote this series of pieces titled ‘How to get a job in the 21st Century’, part 1 and part 2. In re-reading my remarks from 2010 most of it is still very relevant, although I think it’s reasonable to surmise that the job market and the economy in general is in a little better shape than it was in the post crash mess that was on everyone’s mind back then.
As time has gone by, my business has grown to the point that I’ve hired several people over the past few years. Most of the time, they were freelancers or other industry professionals looking for side work. All hires have been on a contract basis and at the time of this writing, Enliven SEO & Design only has one full time employee (me).
As business has grown, the profile of both myself and the business has increased as well. This wasn’t necessarily intentional or the result of a deliberate effort – it was just the natural progression of things such as media mentions, relationships built, guest lectures at local universities, etc. That said, as awareness of myself and my company has increased, more and more people come out of the woodwork, from potential clients and outsource partners, to people seeking employment. It’s the latter that I want to address today.
Last week, I received a email from a recent college graduate looking for a job. This happens often and there’s nothing remarkable about it in and of itself. The email in question didn’t reference myself or my company by name, didn’t contain any specific information whatsoever, and in all likelihood was simply copied and pasted.
The initial email read like this:
My name is [redacted]. I am writing to express my interest in working for your company. I am a recent graduate of [redacted] with a degree in marketing. I have a very diverse background with experience in several different areas of business. I would love to discuss any job opportunities further with you if you get a chance.
I also get them occasionally that say little more than:
Are you hiring?
I don’t want to be too hard on the kid – I know it’s tough out there, and the value of a college degree is becoming diminished more and more with every graduating class. I responded to his email asking him if he might be interested in contract work, which was met with a response indicating that he ‘is looking for something a little more full time‘ for personal reasons he included but aren’t worth repeating here. The email exchange predictably didn’t go much further than that.
My purpose for writing this blog post is that this is generally the approach I see from people when seeking employment, especially young people. The truth is this though, with the email above, this is about the worst approach a person can take. A copied and pasted message through the contact form on my blog tells me that you don’t care who hires you, as long as you wind up with a job.
Furthermore – and this is especially egregious, this approach also tells me that a candidate is not willing to take the time to figure out what my company is all about, who our clients are, and how they can provide value. Had this person actually read anything on my site, he would have seen that the services I provide are very explicit, and between the testimonials clients have provided and the portfolio of past projects that is very visible on my site, he shouldn’t have any any problem figuring out who Enliven’s clients are and how we help them be more successful with their online presence. He also might have noticed that I don’t have any full time employees.
Having said all that, I don’t want to discourage people from reaching out to me. I am ALWAYS looking for new contractors, and if you do a good job for Enliven, it will open other doors for your professional ambitions. For example, there are many people around who runs their companies through contract workers instead of full time employees. You can quite literally piece together your own full time gig, set your own schedule, rates, and eventually find your own clients and contractors to help you out if you so desire. That might sound a little crazy, but that’s EXACTLY how I got to this point.
As such, I definitely want to hear from you. Even in the event working with Enliven isn’t a great fit, I have many people in my network I can pass your information along to. I’ve met many of my contractors this way.
Reaching out to business owners and hiring managers is a great way to get yourself out there, but it won’t be effective if you use the wrong approach. Here are some guidelines for making a great first impression. Some of this may come off as a little harsh – but you should know that much of this comes from actually dealing with people looking for work:
Don’t ever for one second think that your college degree qualifies you for employment with my company or any other employer.
Hiring managers get a lot of emails. Remember this.
Don’t send a generic email. Customize it to the person it is addressed to. If you don’t know their name before emailing, learn it.
Hiring managers don’t initially care about your personal life, and aren’t going to give you preferential treatment because of your life’s choices and or circumstances.
Your college degree does not precede you. Your MBA does not precede you.
You are not entitled to a job, and the world does not owe you a living. This may be a complete contradiction to what you’ve previously been sold.
In most industries, there are more people in the job market than jobs to be filled. The laws of supply and demand are in full effect here.
Jobs exist to provide value to a business and it’s objectives. Businesses exist to make money, not to provide you with a job.
Some occupations, such as engineers and medical professionals require a college degree for job-function-related reasons. Only in those circumstances should your degree be a focal point.
Find out what the company actually does.
Find out who the company’s customers are, and how they benefit from the transaction.
Those that demonstrate an understanding of these things, and can effectively communicate as to how they can be of benefit to the company and it’s customers/clients are the ones that get interviews. They’re the ones who get 2nd interviews, and they’re also the ones who get hired.