9 things young job seekers say that make me want to scream

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Recently, I’ve been talking to more and more college students and recent graduates looking for jobs in advertising, marketing, media and communications. When I give job search advice, they look at me like I’ve got three eyes. Ugh.

Somebody is giving creative students awful job seeking advice. It’s likely somebody who’s never actually hired a young creative.

The stuff I hear from creative students drives me insane.

It makes me so mad that I want to join a university and develop programs that spit out highly employable, skill-rich graduates ready to dominate — instead of deer-in-headlight creatives unprepared and $120,000 poorer.

If you’re a creative employer, please join me in trying to rid these 9 things that young creative job seekers say.

Keep in mind that these thoughts are only for 20-something job seekers looking for creative careers. It’s different for people beginning careers in industries like finance and engineering, which have much more established career tracks.

uptown skyline sunset from wework

“I just applied for the social media manager position on the website, but I haven’t heard anything back. Weird, right?”

If a creative job has been posted online, you’re too late.

Job postings on creative roles from companies you’ve heard of receive anywhere from 300-500 applicants on average. If you’re just randomly sending your resume into an online job posting, you’re screwed. Stop it.

“I’m definitely not interested in a sales role, I’m looking for something in digital strategy.”

If you think sales is just for Michael Scott types, you’re wrong.

If you can’t sell, you’re limiting your creative career. Go sell something.

Some of the best experience you can get as a young person is software sales. Look at growing software startups like Passport, MapAnything and AvidXchange.

“There are no open job postings, so I didn’t reach out.”

Creative companies are ALWAYS hiring smart people that can solve problems.

Hiring you just isn’t that expensive. You likely cost between $30k-$50k. That’s just not material to most employers IF they’ve got a shot at landing their next superstar employee.

If a company has under 200 employees, go directly to the owner/CEO and tell them how you’re going to solve their problems and grow their business. “But that’s hard to do,” you say. Exactly.

“I don’t want to meet with the CEO and pitch ideas on how I’d grow her business.”

Let me guess, you want to grab coffee and “pick her brain on the industry.”

It’s exhausting for a creative leader to spend 60 minutes in small talk at the Starbucks on East Blvd in a brain picking session — all the time knowing that you’re just thinking, “Can you hand me a perfect job without me doing anything?”

Don’t put them through this torture. Don’t take, give. Add value by pitching solutions to the CEO’s problems.

“I’m not looking for a freelance, contract or internship position — I’m only looking for a full-time job.”

And I’m looking to only fly private.

Whether you like it or not, without a track record, many top tier employers will test you with project work. Always get paid (don’t do unpaid stuff), but take it seriously — creative leaders are always watching everything.

“I think my resume is perfectly polished”

Oh cool, you have your 3.5 GPA, college involvement and industry-specific internship showcased on your resume. Guess what? So does EVERYBODY.

The best way to get hired is to have a reputation, not a resume. And the best way to develop a reputation as a young person is to go launch stuff.

There’s just no excuse for creatives who haven’t brought an idea to market. Go launch an Instagram handle dedicated to local fashion and grow it to 10,000 followers. Go run an ad campaign for your favorite pizza joint that drove 50 customers on a Monday night. Go shoot 15-second Facebook food videos that never get under 5,000 views on Facebook. Go sell social media services to 5 small businesses.

“Haha, no I didn’t put Snapchat on my resume, but of course I know how to snap.”

But let me guess, you put “Proficient in Microsoft Office” on the bottom of your resume?

Keep in mind, you’re a subject matter experience on how communication works in the 18-25 demo. Act like one. It’s valuable.

“I don’t want to keep reaching out with good ideas because I’m scared of being annoying.”

Deleting emails is easy. It’s really not annoying. Management at creative companies and high-growth startups probably delete 200 emails each day from somebody pitching something.

“I’m not interested in this candidate because they send too many good ideas and they’re too ambitious,” said no employer, ever.

Be persistent.

“I’m just really eager to learn.”

Wait, that’s your pitch?

Your pitch is that you want an employer to pay you so that you can learn from them? I give up.

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"It's good. I promise." - Ted   Ted Williams
Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).