Monday, December 5, 2011

What a Rapper Can Teach You About Finding a Job

There are some days when I think I possibly have the coolest job in the world. Because I'm a journalist, I've attended presidential inaugural balls, I've been with cops as they raid a drug den and I now have interviewed a rapper.

For this latest story I did for Gannett/USAToday, I learned that the power of marketing yourself for a job can be learned from college professors -- and from hip-hop artists. Now, does that make my job cool or what?

Here's the story...

For the past decade, Larry Chiagouris has watched college seniors troop into his office every spring at Pace University in New York, seeking his advice on how to get a job.

As a professor he has tried to share his advice throughout their college years, but not until many of his students are preparing to graduate do they start to gear up for a job search. So he repeats much of what he has told these students for years, telling them to market themselves like a product, promoting their unique qualifications to attract employers.

Because he was beginning to feel like a broken record repeating the same advice, Chiagouris says he decided to write a book called The Secret to Getting a Job After College (Brand New World Publishing, $14.99).

Still, he says he knew from his years of teaching that he needed something else to hammer the message home.

Enter "Timid."

"Timid" is the rap name of Jaylon Carter. His videoInferno attracted Chiagouris' attention, because he thought Carter was delivering a message that spoke to the fire-in-the-belly attitude students need to develop if they want to find a job.

"The message I had was more than about the book," Chiagouris says. "Young people or anyone has to know their value and be proud of it. No one else is going to know your value unless you market it. And if you can't sell yourself, what can you sell?"

Carter was receptive to the idea of helping others to find a job through his music.

"I know the mainstream message of rappers and hip-hop artists is not a great one," he says. "But I know from being in the culture that's not completely the case. Not everyone fits that negative image.

"I don't think anything since the civil-rights movement has done more for intercultural communications than hip-hop."

Carter says he was further attracted to the get-a-job message because he also is a college student. Enrolled at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J., Carter expects to graduate in February with a degree in communications.

He knows firsthand the challenges of the current job market but believes, as Chiagouris does, that young people can't become hopeless and believe they won't be able to get a job.

His rap video, also featuring students from Pace University, addresses the difficult economy and job market.

"Truth be told you have to be sort of a salesman, with the product of you packaged ready to sell to them on display," Carter raps for a student audience.

Chiagouris hopes the video will help college students better grasp his message. For those will soon be entering the job market, he also offers this advice:

• Think broadly. Students should list what they're good at and what they like to do.

Then they should take that list and apply it to a career direction.

"Zone in on a couple of occupations," he says. If you write well or are good at public speaking, don't just think about a job in journalism. Every company needs good writers and people with good verbal skills to persuade others, he says.

• Prepare a marketing spin. Chiagouris suggests students complete this sentence: "I'm one of the few graduating seniors who can …"

Maybe you have volunteered consistently, had three internships or have done four or five projects on a particular topic.

"Look hard in the mirror at what makes you, you," he says. "Think about how you can position yourself to stand out."

• Look at your resume with a fresh eye. "Does your resume scream the things you've just learned about yourself?" Chiagouris asks.

He counsels students to think about effective print ads when structuring their resume.

"You will rarely see a lot of copy in these ads, but the main points are made," he says. "Less is more on a resume. Don't try to cram in too much. Put in those things that you like and you're good at."

• Forget the objective statement. Busy hiring managers don't have time to read — and don't care about — objective statements. Instead, summarize what makes you unique.

Go back to the "I'm one of the few graduating seniors who …" he suggests. "You want that statement to be an attention grabber, like a headline."

• Be ready. "The phone is going to ring when you least expect it with someone wanting an interview," he says.

"Be ready to answer questions like, 'Tell me about yourself' and 'What are you good at?' any time you pick up the phone."

Any other suggestions for young job seekers?


1 comment:

Helping You Hire said...

What an insightful post! :) These are great tips. As a recruiter, I have found that having a good "elevator pitch" is essential. It is possible to deliver a summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes which is enough time for most hiring managers to decide whether you are worth their time.