Let’s pretend you’re throwing the party of a lifetime. (Of course you’ll also have to pretend that you have enough cash left over after tuition, textbooks, housing, transit, incidentals, cell phone bills, and pet food to spend on said party.) You’ve got reservations at the hottest club in town, paid for full bottle service, and your best buds from Daft Punk are DJing. You send invitations to all your friends highlighting how awesome this party’s going to be. You figure it’ll be a matter of minutes before your guest list is overflowing.
But instead of RSVP cards returned with check marks and smiley faces next to “attending,” you receive the same discouraging response from nearly everyone you invited: “Maybe. Who else will be there?”
Offended? Don’t be. You and your friends, who are today’s crop of soon-to-be entry-level workers, often ask the same question about everything. Even about your career choice.
Brainstorm Strategy Group Inc. did some research on what today’s graduates look for in potential employers. President Graham Donald said, “(A) finding that I thought was very interesting, almost across the board, is that students place a very high priority on working with people they like. So they’re looking very carefully at ‘who will my colleagues be?’”
That probably sounds obvious to you, but this revelation is very interesting to Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers, the older folk who’re likely to be doing the hiring. It conflicts with the attitudes they held when they got their first jobs. These points are important for two reasons:
A) Employers know how vital it is for their personnel to get along. Life, business and marketing coach Monica Magnetti, from LunaCoaching.com, should know, she talks to a lot of them. “Almost all (employers) will tell you they will teach you the skills and the knowledge — but it’s the personality that’s important,” she says. “When it comes down to it, each company knows its personality … . They’re looking or someone who speaks their language.”
B) Even if you don’t actually care about jiving with your co-workers, odds are that your co-workers will care about jiving with theirs. You’ll have to get along if you don’t want to be left behind by your peers.
Let me introduce yourself
For today’s graduates, knowing yourself could be even more important than knowing your field of study. Career coach and author Karen Schaffer helps her job-seeking clients find out for themselves. “I try not to make recommendations so much as guide clients to their own answers. However, that guidance takes the form of getting people to understand and articulate what they desire from their work. More than saying, ‘I want to like my co-workers,’ they need to ask how they want to like them. They need to know what their own strengths are, what they value, what they’re passionate about.”
Depending on your experience, these may be hard questions to answer. But that’s the key right there — experience. You can’t know yourself until you’ve put yourself into action and learnt from your mistakes. Make the most of your horribly embarrassing blunders by engaging in heavy-duty reflection, says Schaffer. “As we gain new experiences, we grow, and that leads to discovering new things we want in our career.”
Alright, don’t roll your eyes so loudly — lest you think I’m telling you to drop out of school and start freelance navel-gazing. I suggest you make an appointment with a career coach or counsellor at your school who can give you some much needed focus.
If you’d prefer to do it on your own, here’s a quick alternative you can try that will not only give you a roughly accurate personality portrait of yourself, but you’ll also be getting other people to do the work for you: ask someone else.
Ask anyone who knows you even a little. It could be mom, dad, your teachers, your parole officer, cult worshipers, that guy in line at the cafe you work at who never leaves you alone. Anyone. Get them to guess what job you’d be really good at. You’d be surprised.
Those who know you very well will answer with something you’d predict because they know what you study, but they will also be unafraid to consider the aspects of your personality that you dislike and try to hide. Are you a granola-eating animal lover, but ashamed of being an insufferable rules stickler? Your mom might suggest working in conservation law. And she might be right, because although you may want to fight against your dark side, you’d tear your hair out trying to get a family of orangutans to sit still for the zoo’s photo op.
What hue is your jetpack
Once you have a better understanding of what you’re all about, it’s time to understand what the industries of the world are all about. You’ll have to do some research, but here’s an approximate map of which industries attract which personality types.
Keep in mind, the world is a large and strange place, so not everyone fits nicely into an infographic, nor does every industry require only particular traits to the exclusion of all others. We can, however, get a quick glimpse at the big picture (see graph below).
Once you’ve embraced your true personality, and are equipped to make an informed decision about what industry you’re going to apply to, go full force.
But don’t be surprised if you want to back out.
The funny thing about experience…
… is that you have to have a bad one now to make a good one later. It doesn’t matter how many questions you ask or how much research you do, you simply don’t know how something will turn out until you do it. Take it from Jess, (name changed to protect her social network status) who landed the entry-level publishing job she’d been working to get for years only to find it wasn’t her scene.
“It’s not that my coworkers were bad. We were just different. Politics, music, movies: you name it. I was a stranger in a strange land. And like any relationship where the fundamental values of the two parties just don’t click, things fell apart pretty fast — I was only there for a year.”
Jess thought a publishing company would be overflowing with people who love books just like her, but it turned out that her field was more suited to business-savvy and marketing types. Now she’s dabbling in a few different jobs to discover the next career path to take.
But now she’s got experience. Now she knows more about her own personality and the personality of the industry she worked in — things that are invaluable in a job market where so much depends on being in the right place with the right people.
And if you don’t want to end up at the wrong party, you’re going to need that knowledge and experience too.