The Fearless Job Seeker Out of College: Seven Steps to Getting Out of Your Parents’ House and into a Career
So here you are, fresh out of school in the worst economy in decades, thinking you’ll be lucky to land a job manning the grease vat at the local burger joint. Don’t set your sights so low, says Robin Fisher Roffer, author of The Fearless Fish Out of Water. Be true to yourself and you can find the job–no, career–that’s right for you.
You did it! You survived the term papers, the exams, and all those late nights (not to mention the steady diet of Ramen noodles and greasy pizza!). Now, here you are, an official graduate of the Class of 2009, diploma in hand and your entire future ahead of you. If you’re anything like your fellow graduates, you’ve probably polished (and re-polished) your resume, made a list of potential employers, and honed your interview skills to perfection. But there’s one thing holding you back–and it starts with “bad” and ends with “economy.”
That’s right. The job market isn’t exactly on fire. In fact, it’s saturated with people, educated college grads just like you, who have given up on the idea of pursuing their “dream career” and are just looking for a job. Any job. But if you’re tempted to grab the first offer that comes your way–even if it makes you miserable–don’t. Robin Fisher Roffer says the recession is no excuse for settling.
“Even in these tough times you shouldn’t settle,” says Roffer, author of The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You (Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 0470316683). “If you make a mistake with your first foray into the corporate world, you could affect your entire future. Go after the job you really want–the job you’ll love–and you’ll set yourself up for a happier life in the long run.”
Roffer is on a mission to help fear-driven job seekers change their focus from merely keeping their heads above water to becoming what she calls a “fearless fish”–someone who knows what he or she really wants and pursues it with gusto. And if you’re thinking a recession is no time to chase dreams, well, Roffer begs to differ.
“Actually, this is the perfect time to search your soul, muster your courage, and become a fearless fish out of water,” she asserts. “That may mean finding your dream job or even venturing out on your own as an entrepreneur. When everyone else is playing it safe, the person who boldly takes chances will stand out in the crowd.”
In The Fearless Fish Out of Water, Roffer teaches that–contrary to popular belief–standing out is a good thing. Being different gets you noticed and it’s the first step to gaining influence.
“Your unique personality, outlook, appearance, or background–really, any attribute that sets you apart–is not a liability but an asset,” she says. “If you’re looking for the job that will set you on your lifelong career path, there’s never been a more important time to put your unique self out there.”
Read on for Roffer’s seven steps to being a fearless fish out of water and how they can help you get the job you’ve always wanted:
STEP 1: Go Fishing for the Real You. No one knows what’s special about you better than you do. So, don’t squander it…focus on it! In today’s economy, there’s no room for generalists. We are in an era of specialization–where being different is good. As a free agent looking to break onto the corporate scene, you’ve got to put a flag in the ground and declare who you are and what you’re good at. If you haven’t done this, I promise that others have done it for you. But, they might have gotten you wrong. And, that’s the danger.
“To write your next chapter, peel away all the layers you’ve built up trying to fit in and hone your skills to become an expert at something that’s valuable right now,” says Roffer. “You have to set yourself apart so that potential employers know what makes you special. Perhaps you majored in international studies or minored in a foreign language. Or maybe you spent a summer volunteering at a startup Internet company. Maybe you know how to leverage Facebook and Twitter to create customer loyalty. Or you’re a music aficionado and pop culture enthusiast.
“Hone in on those things that you are passionate about and have experience with that will set you apart from the rest,” she adds.
STEP 2: Use Your Differences as a Lure. If you’ve gotten a nice stash of money for graduation presents, and living with mom and dad has you currently rent-free, your tendency may be to bide your time and wait until the economic tide starts to turn. Newsflash! That’s exactly the strategy that could hang you in the long run. Because if you’re not standing up, standing out, and standing for something important right now, you will become irrelevant. There’s never been a better time to customize your cover letters and resume to reflect what’s unique about you and how you can make a difference.
“Ask former professors, employers, classmates, and friends what they think makes you positively different,” says Roffer. “What qualities do you possess that attract people to you and the work you produce? Use these strengths to find your career destiny. Choose a path that feeds your passion and builds on who you are deep inside. Don’t just do the logical thing or the expected thing. Do what resonates with your soul. When you do what you love, you’ll get positive recognition and the money will come as a result.”
STEP 3: Find a Few Fish Like You. Next you’ll need to build relationships and make connections. Finding people who have faith in you is like finding an anchor in rough seas. Now is the time to connect with others who believe in your dream and can cheerlead you on. Sign up for organizations and affiliations that associate with the field you are interested in. Then start attending trade shows and seminars in the industry you want to be in to find people who share your passion. Chances are you’ll meet some seasoned veterans who can help you get ahead in these difficult times, as well as other young professionals like yourself.
“Find a mentor who can help you strategize on how to sell yourself,” says Roffer. “Reward cheerleaders in your life for their loyalty and support and let go of naysayers and time wasters whose negativity will only hold you back. This is the moment to deepen positive relationships to ensure your security and your future.”
STEP 4: Swim in Their Ocean Your Way. One way to differentiate yourself from the pack and stay true to the core you is by the way you dress, and this is never more important than when you are making a first impression (hint: that big job interview!). Put on what’s acceptable in your industry and then kick it up in unexpected ways to become unforgettable.
Every great brand has packaging that reflects what’s on the inside. Think in those terms when you go shopping for the perfect interview ensemble. Does a dress say “wild child” when it needs to say “business development”? Does your computer bag say “student” when it needs to say “web designer”? Are you wearing ripped up jeans when a suit would speak volumes about your business acumen? Bottom line: Look the part you’re playing and you’ll play it better.
“Before you go to the interview, Google the person you’re meeting with and scour the website to learn everything you can. Check out what customers are saying about the company, too. Once you land the job, adopt the culture without getting lost in it,” says Roffer. “As a young person in transition in an unknown environment, who feels like a fish out of water, it can be deadly to get so entrenched in someone else’s culture or demands that you can’t find the real you. Instead look for what resonates with you and don’t buy into what doesn’t feel right. Stay true to your core values. If you don’t, you may wake up one day wondering whose life you’re living.”
STEP 5: Put Yourself Out on the Line. Fearless fish are perfectly positioned to make a difference in the world. Think of Oprah, Bono, and Bill Gates. It’s not the wallflower who’s going to help their customers go green, or the conformist who will invent a new business model, and potential employers know this. Getting behind a cause is good for business and makes you look like a hero. It’s especially important if there is a significant lapse in time between when you graduate and when you finally land that interview. Potential employers will want to know what you’ve done with all that free time, and telling them you’ve done nothing isn’t exactly a great way to get your foot in the door.
“Figure out a way to give back as you transition to your new career,” says Roffer. “Volunteering is a great way to stay busy, to meet new people, and to show potential employers that you are motivated and dependable. Choose to volunteer at an organization that you are passionate about, and in a position that is related to the field you are interested in. Want to work in marketing? Volunteer with the local humane society and help them organize and promote their latest fundraiser.
“You may be paralyzed by fear and feel like every minute you need to push that rock up the hill,” she adds. “But shake it off. Give to others instead and watch what you receive in return. Not only will you feel great about yourself and increase your chances for getting the job you want, you’ll also have another impressive anecdote for your resume!”
STEP 6: Evolve by Casting a Wide Net. Conformity is not distinguishing. The way to live deeply is to keep reinventing yourself and change with the times and your situation. Holding onto the essential you while updating your style, your website, your skill set, and your thinking is the fastest way to the top. Step 6 of being a fearless fish asks you to evolve to become relevant to your chosen industry and potential employers. You may have thought your life of education was over, but it’s never time for us to stop learning or adding to our repertoire of skills and talents.
“Now is the time to continue your education: learn a new language, take classes that will sharpen your skills, become an apprentice to someone you aspire to be like, and polish your web presence so that you shine online,” says Roffer. “Employers will be impressed with your drive, and your resume will continue to grow from all the expertise you will gain. Identify the next peak you want to climb and take the necessary steps to evolve who you are to get there.”
STEP 7: Reel in Your Unique Power. It’s easy to succeed when things are going right. What determines real character is what you do when faced with adversity. So the job market is tough and the future looks bleak to you. Now is when you prove who you really are. Do you sit back and whine about how unfair it is? Absolutely not. To muster the strength to succeed, look back at other times in your life when you rose to the occasion. You’ll realize how brave you really are!
“Uncertainty makes everyone question their personal value and the value of their skills,” says Roffer. “However, the fearless among us overcome these doubts by practicing their ABCs–action, belief, and courage. You know that you can be an asset to a company, that you have the talent and drive to be a valuable employee. Believe in yourself and harness that confidence into the actions that will lead you to your future.”
“It’s time to get up off your parents’ couch and start raising the bar on who you can be and where you can go,” says Roffer. “The way you see yourself can either propel you forward or hold you back. When you start going after jobs, remember, the story that you tell about yourself is what others will believe. Use your unique power to make them believe that you are indispensable and that is exactly what you will be. You’ll thank yourself when you land that great new job–and your mom and dad will thank you for giving them their spare bedroom back!”
About the Author:
Robin Fisher Roffer (Los Angeles and New York) is CEO of Big Fish Marketing, one of the entertainment industry’s preeminent brand marketing and digital advertising agencies. She has provided the rocket fuel that has ignited the launch pad of dozens of brands all over the world, developing brand-building marketing plans and promotional campaigns for top media companies like Sony, Time-Warner, and Twentieth Century Fox.
Roffer has written strategic plans and executed marketing tactics for a prestigious client list that includes ABC, A&E, AMC, Bloomberg, Bravo, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, History, Lifetime, MTV, Oxygen, and Turner Networks. Today, her client roster includes over 25 television networks, a global cosmetics company, and several insurance and investment firms.
A dynamic and engaging speaker, Roffer has given keynote presentations to some of the nation’s biggest companies and organizations, including AOL, Mattel, Verizon, Wharton School of Business, and many more. In addition to her work with Big Fish Marketing, she serves as a strategic branding consultant for a variety of corporations.
Drawing on her experience in creating some of the world’s leading entertainment brands, Roffer penned her first book, MAKE A NAME FOR YOURSELF: Eight Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success.
Her latest book, THE FEARLESS FISH OUT OF WATER: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You, hit stores in February 2009. It shows professionals how to stay connected and relevant at work while maintaining a unique identity, how to fit in without blending in, and how to transform exclusion into high impact.
Roffer’s core belief is that entertainment should be leveraged for a greater good. She has received accolades for developing community outreach programs like Lifetime’s “Women Rock,” a concert event designed to raise awareness for breast cancer issues; CNN’s “Your Choice Your Voice” high school-based election promotion; FSN’s “Reading All-Stars” literacy campaign; The History Channel’s “Save Our History” initiative, which raised money and awareness for the World War II Memorial; and Comedy Central’s “Comedy RX,” a hospital-based program promoting the healing powers of laughter.
About the Book:
The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You (Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 0470316683, $24.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, or direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.
For more information, please visit www.robinfisherroffer.com and www.fearlessfishoutofwater.com.
* For a review copy of The Fearless Fish Out of Water or an interview with Robin Fisher Roffer, please contact Dottie DeHart, DeHart & Company Public Relations, at (828) 325-4966.