Recently, I talked to "Adam," a college senior who was disappointed at having not received any on-campus interviews for full-time positions in investment banking (several of his friends had received multiple interview invitations prior to the news of turmoil at Lehman Brother and Merrill Lynch).
Despite the market trends, I could understand Adam's frustration: he had a strong GPA, two banking internships and two government internships under his belt. To emphasize his experience in corporate finance and government, I suggested he create two separate sections in the "work experience" category of his resume.
Adam looked surprised, particularly as a Senior VP at one of the major Wall Street banks had advised him not to draw attention to his government experience as it wasn't relevant. We talked about the hot button issue of the month--the relationship between government and investment banking--and changed course. Instead of hiding the government experience, it became a point of differentiation: he would market himself as an attractive candidate precisely as his experience in the two sectors helped him gain a wider perspective on the issues--and the stakes--of a potential bailout. In addition, his experience had essentially enabled him to diversify: if he chooses to, he can apply his skills in financial analysis in government or in other "in-house" positions across industry sectors--he just needs to research opportunities and articulate why he is interested.
Prior to starting my own private practice, I spent nine years working with students on college campuses. Adam reminded me of my previous observations of the similarities between applying for jobs and lotto tickets:
Your chance of winning goes up if you participate in the game. (If you don't apply, it's hard to be selected for an interview).
Your odds of getting picked--or passed over--are directly affected by the volume of applications received. (Even at the campus level, the process can be very competitive with hundreds of applications received for one interview schedule. You can be well qualified and have a great resume and cover letter, and still not be selected for an interview.)
Your chances of winning increase slightly if you diversify. (If you buy more than one ticket, there is a better chance you'll win. If you apply to multiple positions in your area of interest, there's a better chance that you'll be selected for an interview.)
Here is where the lottery analogy ends:
The job search process is more than a game of luck. In any market, you increase your chances of success by researching opportunities, assessing company and market needs, and presenting your skills and experience concisely and clearly within the context of the industry and the position in which you hope to work.
My advice to Adam was to continue to pursue his interests in banking and government. In addition, I suggested that he could further increase his odds by identifying both positions and an additional industry sector to follow.
In short, I advocate using a "pick three" approach to recession-proof the job search process. Here's how this works.
1. Pick a functional area (i.e. Financial, Communications, Marketing). Stay up to speed on current trends. Professional associations are a great way to build connections and increase your knowledge of opportunities.
2. Select at least two or three positions within your functional area. Validate your interest by conducting informational interviews with people who currently work in that capacity.
3. Select two or more industry sectors to follow, including at least one "growth sector." (This press release on average starting salaries provides clues on hot industries.)Use Web 2.0 research strategies such as "Google News Alerts" and setting up RSS feeds to follow your industries-and key players within the industries. This will help you get a read on current trends and your employment prospects within a particular industry.
Follow this "Pick Three" approach to narrow the scope of your search and increase your opportunities of getting hired--even in a tight market.
Cross posted on Career Hub.