Richard Bolles is considered the world’s top expert on the topic of job searching. He wrote the most popular job-hunting book of all time, What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers. Bolles recently offered some wisdom specifically for college students and recent graduates. His ideas and advice have helped millions, and now they can help you, too.
MonsterTRAK: This is one of the toughest job markets we’ve had in 10 years or more, especially for college students and recent graduates. What can students and grads do to ease their fears about finding satisfying jobs?
Richard Bolles: There are two factors involved in any job hunt: the job market and you. Most fears arise from focusing all your attention on the job market instead of first focusing on you. "Oh, but I don’t need to focus any attention on me," you may be thinking. "I know myself, what my skills are, what I have to offer and what kind of job I’m looking for."
Over the years, we have discovered that this is a delusion in nine out of 10 college graduates. They know themselves, but only in a general way; the knowledge isn’t specific enough for a successful job hunt. Further research needs to be done, not about the job market but about yourself. You need to know the answers to such questions as:
- What are my 10 favorite skills, in order of priority?
- What are my five favorite fields of interest or fascination, in order of priority?
- What are five kinds of jobs I could pursue in those fields with those favorite skills?
- Have I talked with three people already working in each of those five kinds of jobs?
Overall, what you’re looking for is flexibility and alternatives as to what you can do out there in the marketplace. Fear and discouragement arise when you feel there is only one kind of job you can do and you don’t seem to be having any luck finding that kind of job.
MT: What are some specific activities students and grads can do so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the career-planning and decision-making process, and so they can start working toward a career path?
RB: The most important thing they can do is get out there and do some informational interviewing, face to face and not with employers (initially) but with those people actually doing the jobs that they find attractive.
Questions to ask each worker:
- How did you get into this career or job?
- What do you like most/least about it?
- Who else would you recommend I talk to, in this field or a related field?
MT: What are the most serious mistakes students and grads can make where their career development is concerned?
RB: 1. Thinking that, because they have a degree, someone owes them a job. We call this a sense of entitlement, and it is poisonous in the eyes of any employer I know.
2. Having no alternative idea of what kind of jobs they can do, and would like to do, if their first choice falls through.
3. Concentrating on what a prospective employer (in an interview) can do for them, instead of what they can do for the employer.
MT: How can students and grads benefit from investing their time, energy and perhaps money in doing self-assessment or introspection activities in order to identify their interests, skills, abilities and personality traits?
RB: Beginning your job hunt or career development with some kind of self-assessment, particularly when you don’t want to, is a good way to build discipline into your soul. And discipline is what employers are looking for. That and passion — passion arising from the fact that you know exactly who you are, what you have to offer and what you can not only do well, but do with great enthusiasm.
Self-assessment is the key to discipline and discovering one’s enthusiasms. Any student or grad who declines the opportunity to do self-assessment, and hence the opportunity of getting to know himself better, is cheating himself out of what a college education can and is meant to give.