Read an Excerpt
Back to Basics
In the movie Bull Durham, a minor league baseball team is in thethroes of its worst losing streak ever. To break the streak, the players abandon the fundamentals and resort to gimmicks. The pitcher tries wearing women's underwear, and the rest of the players put voodoo on their bats and gloves. Finally, the manager gets fed up with an of these gimmicks and reminds the team to stick to the basics. "Baseball is a simple game. You hit the ball. You throw the ball. You catch the ball."
I was scanning the vast array of titles in the careers section of a bookstore one day and I was amazed at how flooded the market was with individual books deconstructing the job-search process into the most minute elements. Why would anyone need an entire book on writing a cover letter? Or a résumé, for that matter? There are even books solely dedicated to explaining how to dress for an interview! Now, it is true that many a fashion faux pas and Glamour Don't have been committed by job seekers. But an entire book? Hel-lo! Socks, shoes, shirt, tie, and suit for the men; substitute stockings and blouse for the women. Make sure the ensemble matches and is appropriate for business, and if you have any doubt, ask a store salesperson. Bingo! Ninety percent of the job seekers now know how to dress appropriately for an interview.
Intrigued, I delved further into the shelves and was struck by how the tides vie for attention: "99," "101," "301," "555" of the Best/Unique: Ways to Answer Interview Questions; Write Thank You Notes; Network; Answer Want Ads; Shake Hands," etc. There are "High Impact Résumés," "PerfectRésumés," ... .. Knock 'em Dead Résumés," ... .. Killer Résumés." Next we'll have "Résumés That Kill People Who Reject Them!" I found similar books for cover letters with slightly less violent titles. "Now," "Hidden," "Top Secret," "Guerrilla," and "Zen Art" techniques help you find jobs, and "Parachute Coloring" and "Rainbow Building" techniques help you find yourself so you can find a job. Keep in mind that many of these books are written by people who write for a living. My favorites are the hip guides written by twentysomethings for twentysomethings because they claim to be able to "speak your language," but reduce every recent graduate to a Generation-X stereotype.
What does any of this have to do with a liberal arts graduate's search for guidance about different careers and conducting a successful job search? I understand the need to creatively market a title- in a crowded marketplace, but landing an entry-level job is not about gimmicks, games, and guerrilla tactics. It is about preparation, a positive attitude, initiative, and maturity. It's about understanding who you are, what you want and need, and what employers want and need.
Some books say that the first job is critical, it puts you on the track of success or failure, happiness or shattered dreams. If you don't get the job you want straight out of college, you will have great difficulty and settle for less in your career. Now that's uplifting. Nothing like a little extra pressure when you're still searching for your first job. So, if you've already found your first job, and it didn't turn out to be exactly what you had hoped for, you might as well tattoo a big L on your forehead for LOSER!
I wonder what the following people would have to say about that first job advice: Michael Ovitz, one of the most powerful Hollywood agents, started out in the mailroom: Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, toured with a dance band, playing clarinet and saxophone; Tom Clancy is a former insurance agent; Billy Crystal was a substitute teacher; Jay Leno was a Rolls Royce auto mechanic.
"I'll Have a Part-skim Triple-Mocha Double-Latte Frappa Cappuccino"
As I've stated, the huge demand for career guidance is replenished with each graduating class partly due to our educational system. Liberal arts majors, feeling disadvantaged in their job search and alarmed by statistics that suggest they are doomed to the unemployment line, flock to career guides for advice and a new, innovative approach to give them a competitive edge. Career gurus oblige and offer unique, off-the-wall techniques many students blindly follow. Frequently the results aren't pretty, with many candidates unnecessarily shooting themselves in the foot.
Instead of contributing to the hype, we're discussing basics. Hiring managers and human resources professionals across the country know how frustrating it is to interview a parade of applicants who haven't been advised or who are misguided by career books that overcomplicate the process. However, they never despair. For you, finding the right job -- any job -- can be difficult. For them, spotting the right candidate is very easy.
They know that eventually someone will walk through the door confidently but not aggressively, smile, look them in the eye, and say earnestly, "I'm a recent liberal arts graduate and I am prepared for a career in this field. I'm intelligent, mature, eager, and have a positive attitude. I've researched this industry and your company, and I know what to expect in an entry-level position. Let me tell you what I've accomplished thus far, how it demonstrates my various skills, character, initiative, and how my strengths relate to this job. I get along well in groups because of my strong interpersonal skills, and I can also work independently. I will represent the company well and be an overall asset."
That's not being a cookie-cutter candidate, a clone without individuality. It's actually novel. It demonstrates an understanding of the process and not just what you want and need...The Liberal Arts Advantage. Copyright � by Greg Giangrande. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.