Welcome to the age of technology. This is the first time in history where a job candidate can interview, receive an offer, and get hired – without so much as shaking their future boss’s hand. So long as you can dress yourself from the waist up (and I recommend the waist down as well, though not necessarily required) you can actively seek and interview for new employment opportunities. Many remote positions may never require you to even step foot in an office, shipping your “office” directly to your doorstep. The formality of finding employment has evolved in many ways (or devolved, depending on your stance), and new opportunities are more abundant and accessible than ever.
As I sit here at the ripe ol’ age of 33, shaking my fist at the clouds, ready to start my next sentence with “when I was your age…”, I recall my entry into the workforce as a green, unassuming 14-year-old, hired to sweep floors and pound a cash register at a local Feed and Garden Center. I walked into the store that day, donning a t-shirt and shorts, with the intention of leaving not with employment but sponsorship for our high school soccer team. We were in dire need of new uniforms that season and we were asking local businesses to foot the bill in exchange for a tax deduction and the privilege of seeing their name in tiny print on our booster club T-shirts. The owner of the store was kind enough to hear out this young, awkward salesman and sent me away with a donation that helped us reach our goal and field the best-dressed 2-12 soccer team in the state of Indiana.
He also sent me away with my first job opportunity and a decision to make.
“Is it time to stop mooching off of Mom and Dad and start earning my own keep? How will this impact my dream of being the next great soccer protege? Was I up for the additional responsibility? What actually is a job, really?”
(Spoiler: A combination of lack of skill and underwhelming athleticism ended my soccer career after high school, in case you were wondering)
Almost 20 years later, I look back on that first opportunity and though times have changed and the stakes were much lower than they are today, I’ve realized how much that first job experience has helped me on subsequent interviews and job changes. These frameworks helped me in the beginning and still remain relevant in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive workforce.
When you’re 14 years old, you aren’t getting hired based on the integrity of your resume. My resume, at that juncture, consisted of the occasional local babysitting gig and completing my chores to earn a measly allowance. I was hardly the most polished salesman the CPHS freshman class had ever seen but I walked into the owner’s office that day with confidence, ambition, and intent. Granted this particular job didn’t have many prerequisites to consider, I’d like to think my future boss took a (small and inconsequential) chance on me for a reason.
It’s important to remember that it’s not always the most qualified or experienced candidate that gets the job. In an era where culture is paramount, your resume will get you in the door but your drive, interest, curiosity, and energy will serve you well when there are multiple qualified candidates and only one position to fill. Sell yourself first. You can pick up the experience along the way.
I didn’t realize it at the time but my new boss was the very first member of my professional network. Through him, I met new people that led to new experiences and ultimately – new opportunities. Conversely, I helped friends get jobs at the store and slowly over time, my network expanded organically. In a predominantly digital world, we have new ways to leverage our network. Professional social platforms like LinkedIn or Shapr allow you to lay the foundation for your next opportunity, whenever you are ready to look for it. That said, don’t understate the value of networking in person. The art of selling yourself should not be limited to employers. Sell yourself to your peers. Your counterparts. Your colleagues. You never know where those relationships might lead.
Keep an open mind.
According to Forbes, Millenials have little fear when it comes to changing jobs or pursuing better opportunities. When I graduated from college, my Grandfather told me to find a high-paying government job, work there for 30 years, retire and collect a pension.
Talk about your all-time ‘LOL’.
Things have clearly changed since the Second World War. When my Grandfather started his career, employees were unwavering in their loyalty to their company and the companies took great care of their employees in return. That is not to say that loyal companies or loyal employees do not exist today but opportunities to gain higher pay, more responsibility, or grow your career can often be more readily found outside of your organization.
Whether you are actively searching, casually browsing, or have no desire whatsoever to make a career change, always be open-minded. I have a conversation (or exchange emails) with every recruiter that reaches out, even if I’m not open to new opportunities at the time. If I can suggest a friend who might interested in the role, I am happy to do so. Who knows, the role may pique your interest and offer perspective and opportunity you didn’t know existed. You may leave each conversation with a better definition of what what you want your next role to look like – or perhaps a definition of what you don’t. Both perspectives are equally important.
I spent 6 summers at that very first job I effectively fell backwards into. I walked in one day with a goal of receiving a donation but by keeping an open mind, I also left with a job that shaped the beginning of my professional career. I learned so many things that laid the foundation for life as a working adult and I had a heck of a lot of fun along the way.
Do what’s best for you (and yours).
As a husband and father, my attitude toward my career has changed drastically since I first entered the workforce. My top priority is no longer gassing up my truck so I don’t have to take the bus but rather providing for my family and setting an example for our little boy. The paradigm has shifted from what’s best for me to what’s best for us, with the self-awareness to realize that what’s best for me is likely what’s best for my family. When I am not fulfilled at work, I often take that home with me and am admittedly not a ton of fun to be around. We spend too much time at work to stick out a job that makes us miserable and honestly, there is probably someone out there who may enjoy that role more than you do – a benefit to your employer as well.
The grass isn’t always greener but sometimes it is.
There is a lot that goes into making a career change. Preparing for it a little each day, even if you aren’t seeking change, will pay dividends when the time is right. Approach each conversation with your best foot forward, an open mind, and the desire to be better – both for you and your family – and you’ll be happier in the long run.
Ryan Moline is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. He is currently a Solutions Consultant with DialogTech.