College students and recent grads, you do not have it easy. The job market is competitive and some potential employers can give off that “you’re lucky to be considered for a job right out of school” attitude. Chances are everyone is asking what makes you different or what sets you apart from your competitors. The reality is, you’ve only just begun to accrue experiences beyond your education and that may leave you feeling unsure about what it is you can really showcase. I’m here to tell you, do not despair.
Recent grads and potential employers need each other. The workforce relies on having people who are willing to work hard with a fresh set of skills to apply to their fields. But here’s where people can get into trouble. Employers want to know that you are capable of making decisions; not just any decisions – good ones! If you can demonstrate key ways in which your quick-thinking or decisiveness led to a positive outcome, this is an ace up your sleeve.
According to a recent survey, there continues to be a disconnect between what employers need and the readiness of many college seniors. The Association of American Colleges & Universities revealed that most students believed they possessed the skills needed in today’s job market but approximately 75% of employers did not agree.
How is this good news? It’s good news because you know what to play up. You know that it’s a potential concern so you can address it head on with examples of innovative thinking. It is always to your advantage to understand the general perception so that you can disprove what doesn’t serve you and emphasize what does.
Here’s a good way to think about your experiences whether you plan to put them on a resume, talk about them during an interview, or reference them in a cover letter.
Think about the last dilemma you faced and how you got out of it. What qualities did you have to draw from in order to resolve the situation (doesn’t necessarily need to be work-related)?
How would co-workers or classmates describe your style if you had to collaborate on a project?
When was the last time you took a risk? How did you decide it was a worthwhile risk and what steps did you take to ensure it was the right choice?
What steps can you take today if you’re a little low on accomplishments to demonstrate your creativity and job readiness?
Need a little help? You do not have to go it alone.
About Tava Tava Auslan is a career counselor, resume writer and dancer. After earning her BA in Psychology from SUNY Purchase and an MSEd in Counseling from Fordham University, she began her career with Donna at The New School Career Services Center in 2002. There she worked with students and graduates pursuing a variety of careers. She later went on to serve as the Assistant Director of Disability Services. This background has shaped her foundation for working with college students, recent grads and individuals with disabilities. A skilled counselor, she is compassionate, insightful and delivers the right amount of “push” to motivate her clients. She is known for her ability to help people assess their challenges, determine where they are stuck and offer tangible solutions to get them back on track. An astute writer, Tava translates this into crafting resumes that tell a compelling story for job seekers of all ages and stages.
Our lives today are chaotic and filled with distractions, whether you have an ADD/ADHD diagnosis or not. We are receiving more and more calls from clients with these diagnoses, but we have found that, in general, people in career transition have a very hard time maintaining their focus. Navigating a job search can be challenging enough without ADHD adding its “special sauce” to the pot. A successful search or career transition requires long-term goal setting, focus and copious amounts of organization. So, how can we make this process more digestible for you when you’re already working twice as hard at avoiding distraction?
Truth be told, there is no one size fits all solution. When I worked in disability services, I would strategize with students on how to develop time management skills. Some responded great to “self-talk” when they felt themselves losing focus. Others felt silly doing that and preferred the noise canceling headphones distraction-free environment approach. The strategies below are just ideas for you to consider and try on. There’s no need to feel a loss of hope if these strategies aren’t cutting it for you, there are plenty of other “tricks” out there. And, by the way, this is good stuff for any job-seeker because even without ADD/ADHD, it’s hard to figure out how to make bite size pieces out of this.
Let’s start with a common symptom for ADHD: Impulsivity
How might impulsivity manifest itself in a job search?
– You might be tempted to interrupt during conversations with people at networking events or informational interviews.
– You might develop a great weekly strategy and then abandon it to develop 3 more without gaining momentum on either of them.
– Pulling the trigger on certain things before you have adequately prepared is another way impulsivity can impact your job search.
If that sounds like you, here are some things you can try that specifically address impulsivity.
1. Interruption: Practice makes perfect. Grab a friend that you can easily start a conversation with. At the end of the conversation ask yourself to summarize what your friend has shared with you. Getting in the habit of summarizing conversations can help to develop your active listening skills. Also, this one may be challenging but if you’re up for it, it’s very helpful. Record your conversations with friends (obviously, make sure your friend is ok with this). It’s helpful to have the visual cue to get some feedback about how often you spoke vs. listened, how much of what your friend said that you may have missed the first time around, how often you interrupted, etc. One student I worked with was able to identify his pre-interuption cues and we found that consciously swallowing when he wanted to speak was a good strategy for him. As I said, there’s no one size fits all. Experiment!
2. Accountability to Your Strategy: You’ve made a plan but you have trouble sticking to it because making plans is far more enticing than carrying them out. Here’s where you’ve got to put your creativity to work. Sticking with a plan can feel sort of suffocating if you’ve got ADHD. How can you make it fun, or at least tolerable? Block out a regular time of day and set a reminder on your phone to devote a certain amount of time to your plan. Build in small rewards for your accomplishments. (Not shopping spree size rewards, but small and practical things that make you feel-good. Maybe it means dancing around to your favorite song, having a piece of dark chocolate or calling a friend to say hello).
3. Pause Before Action: I worked with a fashion student who created a brilliant online portfolio and he immediately sent it out to everyone in his network – his professors, mentors and even the Dean of his school. Well he pulled the trigger too quickly and sent it out with a lot of errors. Fortunately for him, he was able to use his creativity and address his errors with a lighthearted charm by offering some insight into his ADHD enthusiasm. The moral of the story, before you hit that send button, go through your checklist:
– Check for errors on your resume, portfolio, cover letter, LinkedIn summary or any other communication.
– Give it another set of eyes…or ears. Don’t rely on yourself to catch what’s missing.
– Sleep on it. If it’s that good, chances are it will be even better when you wake up in the morning with a fresh perspective and fine-tune it further.
I hope these strategies can offer some help along the way to landing a new job or advancing your career. Feel free to register for a 15-minute consultation if you are curious about working with us to make this even more digestible. Both Donna and Tava are experienced counselors with a background in college Disability Services in addition to our career coaching expertise. We offer 5 and 10 hour packages – as well as individual sessions if you need help setting manageable goals.
So, whether you have a formal diagnosis or not, what are the strategies that you use to counter all the distractions when it comes to job search? What are the greatest challenges you face? We’d love to hear from you.
Just for a moment, I invite you to put a blindfold over your practical side. What happens when you allow yourself to dream big with regard to your career goals? Some of the most successful companies began as somebody’s day dream or “ah ha moment.” Why is this important? Well, because it taps in to your passion and passion equals momentum. Passion and momentum are two of the most important qualities in a job search so why not use them to your advantage? You may not be in a position to go full steam ahead on your wildest dream but you can look for ways to incorporate some of the key elements.
Give yourself the gift of 5 minutes a day to close your eyes and ask yourself the following:
If nothing could stop me, I would earn my living by ______________.
When I was a kid, I always wished I could be a ________________.
If I could achieve this career dream, I would be most proud of myself for __________________.
The people who would actively support me in this goal are ___________________________________________.
This goal would make me happy because I could ______________________________.
Thankfully, there is no fantasy police. Nobody is going to read the contents of your mind and punish you for letting your mind explore what excites you; regardless of real or perceived barriers. Pay attention to how you feel after giving yourself this gift of dreaming big. I can tell you from experience that some of my clients have difficulty putting their goals first – even for the few moments it takes to fantasize about an ideal work situation. But this is an important exercise to help you explore the thoughts that get in the way of making your career fantasy into a reality.
After you dream big, you can dissect the parts that are easy to assimilate into your life. For example, suppose you have a dream of starting your own business dealing with environmentally-friendly solutions for businesses. Here are some tangible steps you can take right away:
1. Search for (or create) a Meetup group for environmental awareness. (Note: there are several in existence throughout the tri-state area).
2. Grow your network by adding these contents to LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, etc.
3. Give yourself a reading list (blogs, articles, books) to immerse yourself in the topic and see how feasible it is to establish yourself as an “expert.”
4. Do a quick search for companies and see if any of them fit your model. What don’t they offer that your dream business could?
Even if this is just a playful exercise that doesn’t lead to a career change, the simple act of letting yourself feel excited and curious will be to your benefit. Don’t be afraid to dream big and then see which pieces of your dream can fit into your life right now. You can give yourself the gift of coaching if you need some incentive to get started.
If you’re ready to jumpstart the new year with invigorated career goals, contact Tava to set up an appointment
Tava Auslan is a career counselor, resume writer and dancer. After earning her BA in Psychology from SUNY Purchase and an MSEd in Counseling from Fordham University, she began her career with Donna at The New School Career Services Center in 2002. There she worked with students and graduates pursuing a variety of careers. She later went on to serve as the Assistant Director of Disability Services. This background has shaped her foundation for working with college students, recent grads and individuals with disabilities. A skilled counselor, she is compassionate, insightful and delivers the right amount of “push” to motivate her clients. She is known for her ability to help people assess their challenges, determine where they are stuck and offer tangible solutions to get them back on track. An astute writer, Tava translates this into crafting resumes that tell a compelling story for job seekers of all ages and stages.