When I graduated from university a decade ago, there was no jobs on offer. Correction. There were no jobs that harnessed the skills I’d learned from my newly obtained, and very expensive, Bachelor of Business.
One lecturer suggested I do honours. Which was sound advice if I was planning on leaving the classroom, but I knew that more letters after my name weren’t going to translate into more zeros in my bank balance.
So I sucked up my pride and went to work in country Victoria fixing roofs with a guy called ‘Wolfman’. True story. He wolf-whistled women from high above, which I assume is how he got his name.
Man that job sucked. Yet when the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) called a month later, I was the only graduate on their shortlist who’d spent his summer doing something practical.
Tough times ahead
Like me 10 years ago, things are tough going for today’s graduate, with around 24 per cent still looking for work four months after graduating – the toughest time since 1994, according to a survey released this week by Graduate Careers Australia.
I’m not saying that university isn’t a good bet. Being a doctor, a nurse or a teacher is a great way to serve the community – and you’ll always be in demand (although teachers, in my opinion, aren’t paid nearly enough).
Yet the harsh truth is that ultimately we’re all self-employed. And increasingly we’re competing with graduates not just from other universities but other countries (China, India and anywhere else producing millions of bright, hungry, hardworking graduates).
Your greatest wealth-building asset is not your fancy degree but your character and your ability to forge relationships. Young graduates whinge to me all the time that it’s not ‘fair’ that someone else got a promotion or scored a job over them because of connections.
Get used to it. That’s the way the world works.
So what are three practical things I’d do if I’d been out of work for four months?
Three Practical Career Moves
1. Volunteer Work:
I’d volunteer for a charity. They’re crying out for smart young people, and you can use all your expensive skills − analysing, organising, fundraising, whatever. Not only does it look good on your résumé, but it may be the only time in your career you do work that really matters.
2. Start a Side Business
I’d look at starting a small side business like maybe setting up an eBay store, or selling your skills freelance. You may not make much money, but being a business owner, and sticking with it, shows a potential employer that you understand that business is bloody tough. Having the ability to think and act like a business owner is the quickest way to climb the corporate ladder.
I’d mark down three people in your chosen industry that you want to make an impression on, and seek them out over the next 12 months. How would I make an impression? By helping them in some way.
I learned this from Eddie McGuire. People say he’s a super-networker, but that’s selling him short. The Eddie I know is one of the most giving people I’ve ever met. The bloke is forever doing charity nights and helping people out in other ways. He pays it forward, and he’s doing alright isn’t he?
Tread Your Own Path!