For the first time in his young life, Charlie Hoehn was stuck in a rut.
A recent graduate of Colorado State University, he’d done everything that he was “supposed” to do to prepare for a job in the real world— he was a member of the honor roll, had participated in several clubs, and had maintained an impressive 3.8 GPA during college. He’d scoured the online career sites for job openings, worked his networks for leads, and had sent his resume out to scores of potential employers. The only problem? Three months after graduation, he still hadn’t received a single promising job offer.
His parents and friends offered their heartfelt words of advice. They dug into their deep wells of wisdom and came up with pearls of advice— advice like:
“A crappy job is better than no job. Lower your standards; you can always move up in the company!”
Or, “Move back in with your parents and come party with me every night, man!” (Don’t pretend like you don’t know this guy).
Charlie recounted one story about a college friend who was excited to have landed a position at a cell phone store. “In a few months, I could be promoted to middle manager!” his friend had exclaimed.
The thought of settling for a crappy job induced a sense of dread within Charlie that crept steadily upward toward his esophagus. Sure, it seemed like the safest thing to do, but could he stomach it?
For a slight moment, a part of him even thought about giving up altogether and joining that dude at the college bar down the street. After all, how bad could it be? Top Ramen for dinner every night… free room, board, and laundry service… no work, ever. Why not become Colorado’s very own Van Wilder, postponing the responsibilities of the “real world” until later (or never, as the case may be)?
But somewhere deep inside, Charlie knew that he was worth much more than that. He hadn’t invested years of his life and thousands of dollars in tuition for nothing. “Is this all that my college degree has amounted to?” Charlie wondered silently.
If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably wondering the same thing.
How do I put this?
As much as I hate to break it to you, the answer to Charlie’s question is…
Well, it’s a big, fat,
Now, before I get attacked by an angry mob of parents and graduates (let’s add teachers to the mix, too), allow me to qualify the statement above.
It’s not that your education is worthless- this is FAR from the truth. I highly value education—heck, I have two degrees myself, and I wouldn’t trade the knowledge I’ve gained for anything.
It’s just this: if you want to get noticed by an employer, make a good living, and do meaningful work, then a college degree alone is not sufficient.
YOU ARE NOT REALLY THAT COOL
Yeah, I said it—and I’ll say it again.
You are not really all that cool.
Believe it or not, graduating from college does not cause you to suddenly morph into the “magical unicorn” of job applicants. It doesn’t automatically make you special or unique or highly employable. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t make you awesome.
You need to understand that college degrees aren’t given to unique snowflake children.
True, a degree can help you get your foot in the door (and in some fields it’s even a necessity). But consider it a prerequisite, not a qualification in and of itself. Why? Because unless you have something else to back it up, unless you have something meaningful to contribute to your workplace and to the world, then you ain’t got sh**.
You know that guy who sat two rows down from you in Business Comm? You know, the one who copied his homework from the Asian kid every day and then spent the rest of class flinging boogers at the girl in front of him?
Yeah, that guy.
Does he have a college degree?
Would you hire him?
YOU ARE A CLONE IN THE CORPORATE WORLD
It used to be that if you graduated from college, kept your GPA high enough, and joined a few clubs, you’d be the poster child of job applicants. This was once considered the “gold standard.”
Today, the “gold standard” has become the new boring.
That is, instead of making you stand out, it now makes you blend in. Guess what? There are thousands of other people out there just like you. They all have degrees, they’re all proficient in Microsoft Office, and they can all follow instructions. Some of them even live in India. Not to be depressing, but they’re willing to do your job for $3.50 an hour.
So what makes you different?
WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT?
This is the very same question that Charlie was faced with.
He quickly realized that based on his degree, his resume, and his work experience, nothing really made him stand out. Although he had worked hard and done well during college, this wasn’t enough to convince employers that he was valuable, and it was killing his chances at obtaining gainful employment.
So what did Charlie decide to do? Did he roll over and give up, deciding that it was all worthless? Did he join his friend at the cell phone store, silently praying for an upcoming promotion? Or maybe he decided to go to grad school so he could avoid finding a job and continue racking up debt?
Nope. Charlie did none of the above.
Instead, he decided to do something out of the ordinary… something that would actually get him noticed by employers and show them what he really had to offer.
He sat down and crafted a strategy that was anything but traditional. Then he took action, proving beyond a doubt that he was much more valuable than any employer could’ve initially realized.
Like Charlie, you’ve also got a lot of value that employers just don’t recognize. You aren’t like every other graduate out there, but no one would know it by looking at your resume.
You want to do more than just “get some crappy job.” You want to truly make an impact, a real contribution… you want to give a piece of your best self. And you want to find someone who will pay you for it.
Here’s what you need to do: you need to stop sending in your crappy resume and expecting someone to hand you your dream job. Obviously, that approach hasn’t gotten you anywhere.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
You’ve got to find a way to bend the rules and change the playbook. You need a new approach, an approach that will allow you tostand out from the crowd and dominate the competition.
In upcoming posts, I’ll show you how three young people like you have managed to do just this, using very different strategies (but the same core principles) to stand out and to score the work of their dreams:
- How University of Texas graduate Ian Greenleigh landed his dream job as a Social Media Manager… after his resume had already been screened out by recruiters… and after he had been turned down the week before for a simple job at a mall kiosk.
- How 27 year-old John Morefield went from being an unemployed architect, twice laid off from local firms, to becoming the owner of his own thriving design studio… by charging 5 cents per architecture question at the Seattle Farmer’s Market.
- How Colorado State alum Charlie Hoehn went from being a normal college graduate with no experience, no job offers, and no special connections… to working with top-notch industry experts, including four New York Times best-selling authors, a Hollywood producer, and numerous entrepreneurs— all within the time span of eight short months. (Seriously).
STOP playing by the same old rules and blending in with every other person who has a degree.
STOP getting turned down for stupid jobs at mall kiosks.
START changing the game… and start doing the work that you’re destined to do.
[Main image Flickr credit: j.o.h.n. walker]