Preparing for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet

November 22, 2009

Most of the time, job-seekers merely must convince potential employers of their own ability. Those looking for work in emerging fields like interactive media often must also convince them of the value of their would-be job itself.

The jobs my peers and I are preparing for don’t necessarily exist yet. We can hope they’ll be at least enough for us when we wade into the job market this spring, but shouldn’t count on it.

Given the economic downturn and lagging mainstream awareness of the tools we’re learning to use, we should prepare for that second sell. Both of these points were reinforced in class discussions this past week.

My Public Opinion professor flagged an Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication survey indicating that last year’s communications graduates had a tough time finding work. Among both bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients, about three out 10 graduates had zero job offers upon graduation, the nonprofit reported in its November newsletter (.pdf).

Are this year’s graduates faring any better? Perhaps. Nationwide employment figures would suggest otherwise, however.

Anecdotally, several of my classmates said they enrolled in grad school in part because of a lack of attractive job options. And some are saying now that the titles listed on job boards are the same ones from a few years ago — new media responsibilities are merely tacked on to the list of duties, without a corresponding bump in pay.

Whatever the data are, one can tell just by looking out the window that the economic weather’s still crummy. Employers are inclined to rely on proven core positions to carry them through the storm.

Still, recovery seems less abstract than it did a year, or even six months ago. Smart employers are already planning for it. Smart job-seekers will articulate how they can fit into these plans.

The other problem is that even if employers have money to spend, many aren’t aware that they could be — and, my classmates and I would argue, should be —spending it on establishing a presence in social media or in virtual worlds. In detailing her research on the future of nonprofits, one of my classmates said that numerous nonprofit leaders told her they had never heard of Second Life.

The best job-seekers can do is show organizations that their competitors are doing these things, and that they’re working, and that they successfully applied them themselves, either in the classroom, or, ideally, for a real-world client.

If the economy and their own persuasion skills fail them, job-seekers should be ready to bite the bullet, accept a job that’s less than ideal, then work like hell and let their actions talk for them. It’s a tried and true approach. Get your foot in the door anyway you can. If you’re as great as you think you are, you’ll quickly differentiate yourself from your peers and your bosses will reward you for it.

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