By Jack and Suzy Welch
Or perhaps we should say, “Congratulations*” – with a footnote reading:
“This salutation is reserved for graduates who majored in engineering, computer science, or finance at a top-tier school. All others, enjoy a primal scream.”
Because, hello, it’s hard to get a good job out there. Make that very hard. With four kids in their 20s, we get that. The facts are: the economy is just not growing fast enough to absorb 1.8 million entry-level employees a year, with the noted brainiac exceptions. As a result, the vast majority of graduates – 73 percent by some estimates – end up in jobs not in their areas of study, too many at minimum wage.
What’s a newly minted B.A. to do?
We won’t bore you here with the answers you already know. Create a killer resume; no jargon or dumb errors. Network like crazy. Make your college’s placement office your second home. Instead, we’d like to offer three pieces of advice you may have missed in your panic to make it across the finish line (that would be Commencement) with a bona fide boss and salary waiting on the other side.
First, don’t think about finding a job. Think about finding your “Area of Destiny.”
Have you ever known someone who’s blown up their career at 40 or 50 to do something totally different? Ever notice how much happier they seem?
Area of Destiny is all about getting to that place long before a midlife crisis sets in. It’s a simple but powerful construct that posits career satisfaction and success are most likely to occur when you work at the intersection of two “super highways,” if you will. One is what you’re uniquely good at, and the other is what you love doing. Thus it was that our daughter, a poetry major who was always preternaturally adept at picking Oscar winners, and who (much to our chagrin) who loved nothing more than watching TV, landed in Hollywood in the casting business, where she is as happy as could be.
Now, there’s no guarantee that an Area of Destiny job will be easy to find, or pay all that much to begin with. Sometimes an Area of Destiny pursuit shocks everyone around you. “What do you mean you’re going into the Wilderness Adventure industry?” But in time, if you’re working at the juncture of your strengths and passions, the money will usually come. And at least you’ll be thriving emotionally and professionally until it does.
Second, understand that a job interview is not like a college test; it requires umpteen times more preparation.
Not long ago, friends of ours got very excited when their daughter landed an interview in the HR department of a well-known company. She was about to graduate from a good state university with a business major, and she spent an hour or two boning up on the best way to describe her resume highlights.
On the appointed day, after the usual niceties, the interviewer looked our friends’ daughter square in the eye and asked, “What’s our stock price today?”
And that was that.
Look, your job interview is not just about you. It is not just about you going on and on about your classes and internships and how much they taught you. It’s not about you claiming to be a team player who’s an outside-the-box thinker with high integrity. Join the club, OK?
No – your job interview is about how much you know about the company you are hoping to join, its industry, and its industry’s dynamics. So prepare for your interview as if it’s most important test of your life. Google your brains out. Go in with ideas and knowledge and fresh insights.
Because a job interview isn’t a like any exam you’ve ever taken. It’s bigger.
It’s real life.
Finally, let your parents help you. This is a hard one. We understand that you’ve spent the past four years becoming an adult, getting your parents to let go.
But in this day and age, the senior year job search changes that. You need all the help you can get, and if your parents can provide some in terms of advice and contacts, you need to draw close again, with all the emotionality that may involve.
It can get fraught. Again, we understand. No one wants you to get a job more than your parents do, and they may have their own ideas about what you should do and where you should live.
In that sturm und drang, find a way to listen. Grown-ups know a thing or two, like how to talk to grown-ups, which you will be doing a lot of in the interview process, to what to wear to interviews, to how to write a proper thank you note.
This period, infantilizing though it may seem, will not last forever. Resistance will only make it harder, and may undermine your efforts to boot.
Eventually, you’ll get a job. You will – your first, probably, of many.
We hope it’s in your Area of Destiny, earned with a stellar interview, and cheered on by your folks. In which case, congratulations are truly in order.
Jack and Suzy Welch are co-authors of the new book, The Real-Life MBA — Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, which debuted as a #1 Wall Street Journal and Washington Post best-seller.
Jack Welch began his career with the General Electric Company in 1960, became its eighth Chairman and CEO in 1981, and was named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine in 2000. Upon retiring from GE in 2001, Mr. Welch published his autobiography Jack: Straight from the Gut, an international bestseller; his second international bestseller, Winning, was published in 2005 and written with his wife Suzy Welch. For the past decade, Mr. Welch has been active as a special partner with the private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice, an advisor to IAC/InteractiveCorp, and a popular public speaker addressing audiences around the world. In 2010, he founded the Jack Welch Management Institute, a fully accredited online MBA program with 900 students.
Suzy Welch is a best-selling author, television commentator, and noted business journalist. Her last book, the New York Times bestseller 10-10-10, presents a decision-making strategy for success at work and in parenting, love, and friendship. She is the former editor of the Harvard Business Review, and she spent several years at Bain & Company, the management consulting firm. Mrs. Welch is on the advisory board of the Jack Welch Management Institute, and actively engaged with several non-profit organizations promoting animal rights.