While the post-pandemic improvements to the economy will boost the number of new entry-level jobs, recent college graduates are still going to face some of the stiffest competition seen in years. The class of 2021 will produce close to 4.5 million graduates, adding more candidates to an applicant pool already swollen by last year’s unemployed graduates, those who were laid off during the pandemic and those who chose to continue their education in a poor job market.
According to Peter Hubbell of Apply:You℠, a personal branding consultancy for college graduates, “the competition is going to be fierce and the best jobs are going to go to the candidates who have figured out how to meaningfully and memorably differentiate themselves. They’re going to need to stand for something to stand out”.
Peter offers the following advice for first-time job aspirants:
1. Expect to work hard at getting work. While many assume that their hard work in college is going to pay off in a great job, the offers are going to go to the candidates who know that it’s not about getting a job, it’s about winning one. Think of yourself as a competitor and formulate a game plan for beating your peers who will be prone to think of themselves as mere applicants in a process they can’t control.
2. Think of interviews as opportunities to market yourself. There’s a time-worn belief that getting a job is about being “better” than the other candidates i.e. you attended a better college, had better internships and did a better job of answering the interviewer’s questions. But that mentality only gets you so far. If you’re good enough to get to the final round, you’re going to need to be great. At that stage of the interview process, the employer is evaluating a short list of applicants who are all as equally talented as the next. In this parity scenario, they’re looking for the person who stands out from the others. They’re looking for the candidate who is better because they’ve done something to prove that they’re “different better”.
3. Tell a story and tell it well. The focus of our work with graduates is in helping them to describe an interesting experience in their life that expresses their skills and strengths in an engaging and entertaining way i.e a personal story. Why a story? Because a story replaces facts and information with a narrative that has meaning and is more likely to be remembered. So when an interviewer says “tell me a little bit about yourself”, you can be prepared to tell a story about a moment in your life when you overcame adversity by demonstrating all of the skills the employer is looking for. Your story will always work harder to help you stand out versus your peers who are answering questions with answers.
— Peter Hubbell is the Founder and CEO of Apply:You, a personal branding consultancy for college graduates.