You’re young, you have a degree, big hopes, ambitious dreams, lots of time, a liver the size of a football and if you happen to live in the US a student loan bigger than Jeff Bezos’ net worth. But today that all doesn’t matter, because you’re done, you’re out. You did your time. Today you throw your study books and your graduation hat in the air with joy and with it, all certainty you had on the future that was promised to you during schooling. You’re about to step into a world where a degree gets eaten by experience. Where a strong network out performs pure knowledge. A professional world where experience and a network are key elements for opportunity and you possess neither. Everybody demands them, but nobody wants to give you the chance to obtain them. Unless you graduated in a domain that is high in demand or you’re already a Bitcoin billionaire, you will start the frustrating journey of looking for a job and finding that one person that is willing to give you a chance. Now before you stow away those dreams of becoming your country’s or industry’s next leader and that call center job in your home town is beginning to look like the next best thing. Read and apply the 5 lessons I learned myself in my young career that will most surely kickstart yours.

NOBODY CARES

You are not unique, there are millions out there that have the same skillset, degree and ambition as you. All of them looking for the same thing you are, a chance, an OPPORTUNITY to prove themselves. So nobody cares that you think you are the next heir to the career throne and just because you have a degree, put in the work at school and your teachers and parents told you that you are the best, doesn’t mean the world owes you that opportunity. Don’t get depressed just yet, the sooner you accept the above as true, the quicker you will GROW. You will expect nothing from nobody and will not get disappointed. You will not live on hopes, but you will realize the only person that is able to give you that opportunity is YOU. And that the only way you are going to make employers care is by adding value. Your teachers and parents were right, you are the best, you are the heir to the throne, not by heritage, but by work and perseverance. You will not hope for it, you will not beg for it, you will EARN it. So ask yourself how are you adding VALUE while in school if you still happen to be a student and how are you adding value now after graduation, to show the market you are worth working with?

STOP TAKING PICTURES OF YOUR LUNCH

“Gotcha, add value, put in the work! I’ve send out 12 application letters together with my curriculum vitae, but still nobody is answering or I’m getting rejected on lack of experience. It doesn’t work.”

Unless you completely unicorned your application, which would probably have resulted in a job offer, you are still hoping together with millions of others. Having a degree and letting the world know you are available and interested through applications is your TICKET TO PLAY, but it doesn’t mean you will ever make the team. You live in a world controlled by the internetwebs, where your phone has more calculating power than that of the space shuttles that have put people on the moon. You need to ask yourself, are you using that power to take pictures of your lunch or are you adding your salt and cutting your meat in such a way that you will become the next Saltbae, a millionaire and best friends with DJ Khaled? How are you using the internet and the technology that comes with it, to make yourself, your PASSION and expertise known and wanted in the world? You don’t have to become an influencer, just someone that knows how to leverage the most powerful network ever created to his or her advantage. I myself created a blog about marketing/communication in the early days of the internet. I was in my second bachelor year, no degree, no network, no experience, but I had a passion for my trade and wanted to share my thoughts, ideas and observations with the world. A simple blog that got me 3 internship offers at very known agencies in my country and 2 job offers while I was still in school. Is this to boast, no. This is to BOOST your willingness to grab the opportunity around you and use it to add value, expand your network and make a DIFFERENCE in your young career. You believe you are or going to be the best and most wanted professional in your industry? Show it to the world and instead of you asking for a job, have employers hoping for a chance to make you part of their team.

INTERNSHIPS SAIL TO THE PROMISED LAND

Besides the internet good old fashion internships and graduate programs during and after schooling are still an ideal way to get you RELEVANT experience, to build a professional network and get yourself the launching pad you need. Don’t underestimate the impact of these opportunities. It’s tempting to brush internships off as something you are obligated to do during your education or see it as a cheap way for employers to abuse you at a low cost after you graduate. Therefor many are seduced by easy to come by spots at companies, in regions or in positions that add no value to your career or personal development, but require minimal effort to get into. You might be cheering with pride that you got it and that you can tick the box, but what is intended to send you on a successful career path, will then soon reveal itself as a swamp you will never get out off. CHOOSE, but choose wisely. When you made your choice, the above lessons also apply. You create your own opportunity by adding value. Do the internship, just run through the program or decide for yourself that you will completely OWN IT.

LIONEL MESSI DIDN’T TRAIN ON A TENNIS COURT

Location, location, location is what real estate agents have as their mantra when it comes to determining current and future property value. The same goes for your personal market value. If you want to become a professional football player, there is no point in spending time on the tennis court. When you are having a hard time finding a job, you are in need of money and experience, it’s tempting and understandable to, after a while, take any job that is thrown at you. Better be working, then doing nothing. Totally agree, but realize when you take that route, a golden cage is quickly formed around you, money will make you less eager to pursue what was once a college dream and most importantly, the opportunities in your preferred industry will present itself most likely in that industry. Even if you have to do a job that is not immediately what your schooling and your ego prepared you for, make sure you are on, or close to the right field. Work in your preferred industry. Be where the ACTION is. If not, people will applaud you for having a random job, putting food on the table, but your degree will diminish and the experience you are building will mean nothing in function of the goal you have set yourself.

YOU ARE THE CEO OF YOUR OWN LIFE

Which leads us to the 5th lesson in this blogpost. Have a GOAL, a plan, a dream or if you’re lucky, a passion. You are the boss of your own life, the creator of opportunity, the only person that can determine if you will succeed in your career or not. Have a plan for yourself, know where you want to go and map out the people, the location and the resources you need to get there. I have been in HR communication, advertising, digital transformation, public speaking,… Your interest will evolve overtime, but always make sure that they lead to a clear goal. Make your choices in function of that goal. Learn to say ‘yes’ and even more to say ‘no’, when an opportunity is a mistake in disguise. You’re smart, you’re young, you have time, you have a degree, you have ambition, you live in a connected world, put all those things to work and discover that even if all odds seem against you, opportunity is waiting around the corner, if you are willing to see it. As Napoleon Hill said:

Knowledge is not power. It’s only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.

Now I might seem a bit strict in this blogpost or could come across as a Sunday morning preacher. But I realize how hard it can be, I know employers all over the world still have much to learn when it comes to hiring people. I see so much young talent being waisted due to outdated hiring processes or corporate cultures. We all need to keep pushing for improvement, but until the day that system and mindset is fixed, hoping, complaining or despairing won’t get you anywhere. Start STANDING UP, adding value, networking and using your knowledge to create your own future. STAND OUT and inspire people to work with you. You are the next working generation, the intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs of today. Don’t let a stupid auto-reply that says, ‘Interesting profile, but we went for a more experienced candidate’, stop you from kickstarting your career. 3,2,1, GO!

#standuptostandout