Millennials face higher unemployment and underemployment than other demographics. Many feel keenly the difference between their expectations of a "good job" after college and the unenthusiastic realities of today job market. As one millennial put it in a recent Forbes article:
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.
While that's a valid observation, Millennials should not lose heart. It is still possible to find not just a good job, but even your dream job, if you're willing to rethink the job hunting process and take a longer-term view:
1. Value your college experience.
Many colleges promote the idea that a degree is essential for career success, thereby justifying the expense. While that's still true in some professions, like law, medicine and teaching, it's no longer true in general business.
In the past, companies used a college degree as a "marker" that a job candidate could work hard. That concept, however, has fallen victim to statistics showing that a college degree, by itself, is not a good predictor of success in an entry level job.
Does this mean your degree and the debt your incurred was a huge mistake? Absolutely not. Dedicating a segment of your life to intensive learning is never a waste because you won't know for a decade or more what will prove useful in your career.
For example, the college courses proved most useful to my career were Latin (which taught me formal grammar) and a "physics for boneheads" class where the class project included use of an advanced computer. Both courses were outside my major, BTW.
Rather than thinking of your degree or college experience as something that "didn't work," think of it as an investment that's will pay off eventually, very possibly in completely unexpected ways.
2. Create a vivid image of your dream job.
At various parties, conferences, and gettogethers, I've asked hundreds of people, "If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?" Almost every time the answer is something like: "Uhhh . . . I don't know . . ."
If you don't have a clear idea of what constitutes your dream job, the likelihood of getting one is exactly nil. By contrast, the clearer the picture that you have in your mind about your dream job, the more likely it is that you'll achieve it.
The author of the Dilbert books, Scott Adams, credits his successes to writing down his dream job fifteen times a day. There's nothing supernatural about this. Affirmations train your brain to notice more opportunities to move closer to your goal.
For example, suppose your dream job is to be a best-selling novelist. If you write "I am a best selling novelist" 15 times a day, when you've got free time in the evening, you'll work on your novel rather than binge-watch on Netflix.
3. Find and imitate virtual role models.
Every "how to succeed" book suggests that you find a role model. Unfortunately, many people use role models in a way that guarantees failure: they imitate the specific tactics that the role models used to get to where they are today.
The problem with this approach is that what worked back then won't work today. For example, if you want to be a film director, you might try to break into the film business the way Steven Spielberg did it: by hanging around a film studio as an unpaid intern.
There's only one problem with this . . . no, two. First, everybody else is trying to do the same thing, because they've all heard the same story about Spielberg. Second, and more important, today's film studios are run differently from those of the 1970s. More security and less access.
What's valuable about role models is not the strategies they pursued, but the thought processes that led them to those strategies. It's those ways of thinking, channeled through today's realities, that will create the approach you'll need to land your dream job.
Spielberg, for example, had an almost megalomaniacal belief in his ability to make good films, and a complete imperviousness to the opinions of others about his talent. (He was rejected from film school twice.)
If I wanted to be a film director today, I'd strategically imagine myself believing myself what Spielberg apparently believed about himself. Tactically, however, I'd be making animated movies on my PC with a tool like iClone 6 and posting them on YouTube.
4. Be willing to pay the price.
You can do anything, but you can't do everything. If you're going to pursue your dream job--and absolutely succeed at achieving it--you may need to sacrifice other things, such as having a family, or eating regularly.
I emphasize the word may because that sacrifice is not always required. Plenty of people have their dream jobs and still manage to spend time with their families, pursue hobbies, and so forth. (I'm one of them.)
While you might not be called on to make huge sacrifices to achieve your dream job, you must be willing to do so. IMPORTANT: sometimes "paying the price" involves working in a crap job while you focus your free time on your success plan.
Hopefully you'll be able to get to where you want to be without having to give up the other things you value. However, if you're not willing to give them up, you'll never reach your goal, because you won't take the necessary risks.
5. Learn to sell yourself and your ideas.
No matter what your dream job might be, you're not going to get it unless you learn how to sell. I'm not saying you need to be a professional salesperson. However, if you can't sell, you can't sell yourself or your ideas.
For example, suppose your dream job is being a hightech CEO. You may have the most innovative idea since automatic breadslicing, but if you can't sell that idea, you won't attract investors, customers, or talented employees.
Knowing how to sell yourself gives you the edge. Consider this: a mediocre performer who knows how to sell always beats an exceptional performer who doesn't. And an exceptional performer who also knows how to sell is virtually unbeatable.
Finding a dream job always involves selling yourself and your skills. And being successful at any career means constantly selling the value of the services you're providing. For example, Picasso was a brilliant artist, but he was equally brilliant at selfpromotion.
If there's one thing that you should take away from this column, it's this: you will probably need to create your dream job rather than find it on LinkedIn or Monster.com.
6. Build a plan and take massive action.
Every "success formula" starts with (1) knowing where you are today, (2) knowing where you want to be, and (3) building a plan to get from here to there. Now you need a plan. Create one.
That plan may involve meeting new people, doing new things, learning new things...the specifics of the plan are going to vary according to who you are, where you are, and where you want to get.
Even if you've followed the advice in this post, your initial plan won't be perfect, and chances are, it's not going to work . . . at least not all of it.
However, you can't let that keep you from taking action. In fact, you want to take as much action as possible so you learn as quickly as possible which parts of your plan are going to work and which need adjustment.
The sad truth is that even when people have plans, they don't take enough action. Tentative steps simply aren't good. Where the normal person would do a couple of actions to make the plan real, you should do twenty. Or thirty.
For example, I recently met two men--millennials both-whose mutually-shared dream job was to write science fiction for a living. Both were equally talented, but one sent his manuscript to a single small publisher and waited for six months. The other sent his manuscript to a dozen small presses and a dozen agents.
Guess which of these two writers is now a published author.
7. Adjust your plan based on results.
Taking massive action makes it impossible to fool yourself into thinking that the reason you didn't get your dream job is that you didn't try hard enough. Massive action forces you to reevaluate your plan if you don't get where you want to be.
In other words, your results allow you to go back and build another, more refined, plan based on your hardwon experience. Now that you're armed with valuable knowledge of what didn't work, your new plan will be far more likely to succeed.
If you truly believe, in your gut, that your dream job is right for you, and truly believe that you're willing to do whatever it takes to get that job, you'll find a way to get it. It's truly that simple.
You may also find that your dream evolves and changes as you learn. You might even land your dream job and then decide that it's not really what you expected or really want to do.
So even though you need to be focused, it never hurts to explore more than one area of interest, if only to diversify your skills.
For example, at one time my dream job was that of playing rock and roll professionally. I have absolutely no interest in that career path now, but my pursuit of that goal in my young adulthood taught me valuable lessons about stage presence, how to sell services, and how to build a team that can play well together.
Each of those skills has stood me in good stead at some point in my career.
8. Cultivate active, watchful patience.
I like instant gratification. Who doesn't? Careers, however, are long-term projects. You can't allow yourself to get discouraged if it takes more time than you'd like to get to where you want to go.
Most people vastly overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and vastly underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade. If you're committed enough, you'll eventually achieve your goal.
Like yourself, I entered the job market during difficult economic times. It took me two years to find ANY job and two decades to achieve my dream job. If I'd known what I know today, I could have gotten here sooner.
If I were you, I'd set a five year goal to get your dream job and follow through with all the steps in this post. It probably won't take that long, but it probably won't drop in your lap tomorrow. Although I have known that to happen.
Never underestimate the power of commitment.