Hartley Brody

How To Get Hired in 2012

I wrote an article for Bowdoin’s Orient Express entitled “How To Get Hired in 2012.” Click here to read the whole piece on the Orient Express’s website. An excerpt is below.

It has become taboo to ask someone where they’re working after graduation these days, for fear that they won’t have an answer. It seems like the default is to not have a job.

A lot of people roll it up with pithy niceties: “It’s okay, I’ve always wanted to travel!” “I think I’m just going to spend a few months trying to figure out what I really want to do with my life.” But no matter how you slice it, the reality sucks — unemployment.

The world has changed in drastic and fundamental ways over the past few decades. Technology has made workers far more productive, wiping out entire industries in the process. People still refer to our current economic situation as “The Great Recession” or the “Jobless Recovery” as if, one day, we’ll finally make it “back to normal” and there will finally be jobs for everyone. People lament the current job market and hope that one day everything will work itself out.

But what if it never does?

What we’re seeing now is widespread structural unemployment, an economic situation where the qualities of job candidates are generally mismatched with the things employers are looking for. This produces a giant group of people that can’t find work, despite the fact that some industries are desperate to hire.

It is not about how good your GPA is or whether you have technical skills. It’s simpler than that. To get hired these days, you need a genuine, demonstrable get shit done attitude. It’s not that there aren’t any jobs, there are. It’s just that the old adage of “go to school, get good grades and then you’ll get a good job” no longer applies.

It sounds obvious, but companies need employees who can deliver results. Especially as many large companies are downsizing, the ability of each individual worker to make a big impact becomes increasingly important.

If you want to convince a hiring manager that you’re worthy of the position, the most important thing you can demonstrate is a track record of getting shit done in your own personal life. If you want your resume to show that you’re passionate and dynamic and hard-working and creative and self-motivated, the easiest way to do that is by turning your passions into a large side project.

If you’re a coder, build an app or web service. If you want to be a teacher, organize an after-school tutoring program at a local school. If you’re an artist, organize your own independent performance and sell tickets in Brunswick. The list goes on and on, but the point is still the same: you need to be able to demonstrate that you have passion and will actually do something about it.

You don’t even have to be good at it. You probably won’t be at first, and it might take some time before you accomplish something really cool. But pick something you care about and get started now. If you come up with a project you enjoy and work on it for a few months, you’ll be surprisingly far ahead of most of your peers.

I’ve heard high level executives joke about not hiring geniuses from MIT “because they just think too much” and wouldn’t actually be good employees. This is one of the great benefits of going to a liberal arts school like Bowdoin — there are all sorts of opportunities to work on something cool, outside of the classroom.

So stop thinking and start doing. Stop flexing your brain for a minute and start flexing your real muscles. It’s not all about getting the highest GPA or writing the longest papers. Take some time to follow your passions and work on something that you care about.

While pontificating, philosophizing and bullshitting might carry you well through you college classes, you’ll find yourself sorely disappointed if you hope those skills will help you land a career. They won’t .

Find something you care about and get involved with it. Get shit done.

Thanks to Toph Tucker and the OE Staff for encouraging me to contribute.