Oh, what a difference a year makes.
A year ago, young people were graduating from college and nabbing top jobs in all sectors of the economy. They were fielding multiple offers, and once in a position, they were candid about the fact they would leave if they felt the opportunity for advancement wasn’t great enough.
But now the story is very different. College graduates are willing to accept thousands less in pay just to land a job anywhere. Many young people are moving back in with their parents because they’re unemployed. Jobs that were once open to young employees are being filled by older and more experienced workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for those age 29 and younger is greater than for other age groups.
Still, experts say that while it’s tough for many twentysomethings to find a job right now, it’s not impossible. The key is to use their energy, creativity and sense of adventure to propel themselves into jobs that can help see them through such a tough job market, say career experts.
“I think it’s tough for young people right now, but for those who know how to network, there are opportunities,” says Miriam Salpeter, founder of Atlanta-based Keppie Careers. “The key is that they’ve got to do more than just tell everyone they know they’re looking for work. It’s not enough.”
One option for young people struggling to find a job in the United States is to consider working overseas. Diane Morgan, director of London Business School, says that while the international job markets are not robust, they are often a bit better than the U.S. job scene right now.
“While the number of jobs for graduates is down in the United Kingdom as well, there is much more of a culture of temporary or part-time or contract work,” Morgan says. “Those jobs can help people get the experience they want. And it’s very common to take a ‘gap year,’ where graduates may tend bar or something until they find a job they want. So someone from the U.S. could move here and just take what they can get for a while. No one would think that was unusual.”
Further, Morgan says young workers from the U.S. who are frustrated by the lack of opportunities may find some international experience can really pay off in the future, because U.S. employers “really like people who take risks and get international experience.”
Both Salpeter and Morgan say that young job seekers – whether looking internationally or nationally – need make sure they’re being very targeted in their job-search approach because the competition is so keen these days.
“People will understand that you’re looking for work. But you don’t call them and say, ‘Do you know of a job?’ because they’ll look on their desk and not see anything that can help you so they’ll just tell you to call human resources. Instead, you say, ‘I’d love to learn about your job, what you like and don’t like.’ By convincing them you’re interested in information and learning, you’ve started networking more effectively,” Salpeter says.
Morgan recommends that anyone wanting to work abroad should also look to gain information on a job and an employer, just as they would when looking for a U.S. job. That way, they can specifically target their cover letter and resume to the employer. “It’s not that different over here,” Morgan says. “You still have to be prepared.”
“Even if you’re applying for a job overseas, they’re going to be looking at how relevant you are. You might be required to speak the (native) language well, or maybe have second generation ties to someone in the country,” she says. “But any employer is going to want to know why you want to work outside the U.S. and what you can bring to the job.”
Morgan recommends that a young person wanting to work overseas should first understand the local culture. “Go to the Internet and find a local newspaper written in English by expatriates who live there,” she says. “And use your university’s career placement center or alumni relations to help you make connections with those in other countries.”
Finally, Morgan says that while it may be daunting to consider leaving the U.S. to get a job, young workers should see it as a great opportunity to get experience that will benefit them professionally and personally. “It will really open your eyes to what business is like outside the U.S., and expose you to lots of different cultures and people. That’s invaluable.”
Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.