By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
The national unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4%, the lowest rate since 2008, but this low percentage means nothing for Millennials (born 1980-2000).
By this point, we’ve all realized that we’ve been lied to: working hard and getting a solid education does not necessarily lead to career success, or even a decent-paying job.
What it does lead to is debt and a ruthless job hunt.
Such was the case for my client, Tess.
Tess spent years on her education before entering the workforce. When she hired me, she was working part-time at a flower shop and living with her mother so that she could make ends meet, despite being decorated with degrees from Northwestern and Berkeley… And she’s not alone.
The data is actually pretty scary: 44% of college grads in their 20s are stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs, the highest rate in decades, and the number of young people making less than $25,000 has also spiked to the highest level since the 1990s.
There are various factors contributing to the absence of jobs for Millennials.
First of all, employers are more hesitant to hire new graduates, as Baby Boomers are delaying retirement and holding onto their jobs due to financial insecurity. This creates stagnancy in the workplace.
Moreover, advances in technology are making many jobs obsolete because they can easily and cheaply be automated. In fact, renowned futurist Faith Popcorn argues that the “robot revolution” is coming, projecting that roughly one out of three U.S. workers will be replaced by robots by 2025.
This has all led to a major shift in the way of life for Millennials.
We’re adapting to the changing job market. We’re not buying cars at the rates that previous generations have, instead opting to use public transportation or car-sharing services. Buying our first homes is no longer a part of the “American Dream,” as most of us aren’t even buying homes at all. We’ve even been dubbed “The Cheapest Generation,” but perhaps a more accurate title would be “The Generation Getting Shafted.”
The job market simply has not allowed us to enter the workforce and achieve financial security the way that prior generations have been able to. Yet somehow, now we’re being blamed for it, with claims that our reluctance to make these big-ticket purchases is devastating for the economy.
But it’s not all bad news.
Despite the unprecedented challenges facing our generation — unique challenges that no other generation has been confronted with — there are actions you can take to increase your chances of landing a job that will help advance your career and put a decent paycheck in your pocket.
Here are a few best practices:
1. Cold network. An incredible 80% of available jobs don’t get posted, and thus the ones that are posted have a tremendous amount of competition. Figure out ways to gain access to that 80%. Research companies in your field, and send cold emails to their HR departments or managers. Ask for informational interviews. Reach out to colleagues on LinkedIn LNKD +0%.
2. Know where you’re headed. The world makes way for people who know what they want. When networking, steer clear of saying, “I’m open to anything,” and start picking two (not one, not three) areas that you’re focused on for your job hunt so you can clearly articulate what your career goals are.
3. Practice your elevator pitch. Not knowing how to talk about yourself can be job hunting poison. The commonplace “tell me about yourself” prompt isn’t going anywhere, so expect to be asked, and do yourself the service of preparing an intentional response. Come up with a few brief lines about your professional strengths and accomplishments, and practice pitching it to a friend.
4. Find a way to gain experience outside of the traditional job.Experience is so much more than the years you spend fetching coffee for someone. Find a volunteer opportunity in your field. Start a blog or a meet-up. This will help you not only stay current in your field, but could also lead to something bigger, like starting your own company, or linking up with a company that’s hiring.
The obstacles facing Millennials are tough, but surmountable.
When Tess came to me for career counseling, she was frustrated, even desperate, but we worked together to figure out how she could turn things around. With some cold networking, clarity and a powerful elevator pitch, she gained control of her career and her future. With a few adjustments and a little hustle, any one of us can go from selling flowers to pursuing a dream career.