Four Fail Proof Actions that Improve Hiring Among Graduates
Okay you are about to graduate. Did you graduate already? You are ready to impact/change/influence the world. Only no one told those that hire that you are a premier social work graduate. You are knowledgeable about social work methods. You are excited about helping people. You are also saddled with debt. You look just like so many other social work graduates entering the job market, enthusiastic, inexperienced and desperate. To make matters worse, you are competing with experienced credentialed, social workers.
Finding a job in a tight market is not unlike finding a compatible companion. In the dating world prospective dates are consciously or unconsciously categorized. Not Serious, Could be Serious, This is It! Before categorization occurs, an attraction brings two people together. The attraction is based on “something” that was communicated that completely and totally interested the other party. A joke, a twist of the hair, or a smile could have caused the other party to interact and want to experience more.
After the initial introduction, an assessment takes place to determine if the initial attraction was REAL or just a passing fancy. The assessment also provides information to determine whether more serious discussion is warranted. The two parties may continue to get together, interacting and sharing information with each other. Information is shared verbally, non-verbally and is gathered by numerous means. The process continues until one or both parties gathers enough information to decide to continue or to discontinue the relationship. The process is a two way street. Both parties are making a decision about the other while each decide the type of relationship that meets their individual needs.
Determine whether the characteristics of the organization meet your professional needs and desires:
Besides a salary, what do you need and expect to gain from working for a particular organization? This is important for you in determining whether the organization is a good fit. Do you desire mentorship? Do you want help with licensure? Are you expecting promotion opportunities? Do you want to develop foundational skills to take elsewhere? Do you want a flexible schedule? Is a desk job attractive or do you prefer to work in the clients’ environment?
The answers represent characteristics that you may desire in the organization in which you work. These answers will also provide a framework to determine if the organization falls into your “Not Serious,” “Could be Serious” or “This is It!” category.
When we look for a job, we often expect an organization that knows nothing about us to welcome us into its walls. Imagine knocking on a stranger’s door and trying to get the stranger to invite you in to their home. Door to door salespersons created techniques to engage homeowners before pitching the product. The introduction, engagement, and pitch was a highly condensed version of the dating scene described above. Some salespersons were more successful than others. Sales success was directly related to connection with the buyer.
Those, who had a connection with certain buyers received referrals from those buyers. They also sold more products to those buyers. They build a sense of trust among their customers by building a relationship and by delivering the expected product or service.
Relationships are never built on one meeting or one discussion. It takes ongoing exchanges and interactions. Becoming an employee of an organization is a relationship, albeit a professional one.
Figure out and promote that which distinguishes you from other MSW graduates and/or other social workers in general:
We look, sound and act like everyone else who is looking for a job. Organizations are looking for what makes a person different and what makes them stand out from the other applicants. It is the factor that makes an organization say “this is it!” Isn’t this how you chose your current companion or how your companion chose you? Companions are chosen based on what makes them different and on what makes them stand out to the other person.
Every applicant will try to convince an organization that they are the right choice by using and overusing the same words and phrases. They will make every effort to appear to be the person described in the job description. The job description may state “conduct specialized assessments using ZXY instrument.” The applicant will put on their resume and say “I am highly skilled at conducting specialized assessments using ZXY instrument.” Perhaps the organization would be more interested to know that the applicant wrote an article that was published in the Journal of All Things Good Bad and Indifferent on the inconsistency of ZXY instrument when used with the organization’s population.
This leads to another key component in transitioning from school to work.
Participate in professional activities that set you apart from other graduates.
Choose extracurricular experiences that will enhance your marketability in the workplace:
Let’s face it, graduate school is a very intense. In addition to classroom work, accredited social work programs require field placements as an integral part of the curriculum. Field placements provide the student with a “taste” or sample of various social work disciplines. Graduate social work students would be well served to enhance their experiences in a social work setting.
Organizations know that the quality of field experiences vary depending on the commitment of those who host field placement students. Be proactive in setting yourself apart from all the other students. Work with your field advisor or supervisor to create a concrete item or resource that demonstrates the work you did or information you learned while in field placement experiences. For example, I developed a checklist of Familial Indicators of Juvenile Delinquency for the organization that hosted my field placement. The organization worked with youth and their families and did not have this type of screening instrument.
The product you develop can and should be documented on your resume. This will set you apart from other applicants and former field placement students.
Cultivate individual professional relationships and build a community of like-minded professionals:
An applicant can build a relationship by facilitating interactions and building a community. Get to know others who work for the organization for whom you want to work. More human resource personnel rely on personal recommendations to make hiring decisions. Individuals who know you can share positive information about your skills, abilities and fit for the organization.
Volunteer for the organization. Demonstrate your capabilities through the volunteer activities. Board work is an excellent way to demonstrate decision making, creativity, and collaborative skills. You can also demonstrate these skills in other capacities.
Building individual professional relationships are similar to building romantic relationships as well. Positive interactions facilitate the relationship. There is give and take. Provide helpful information and resources. Send thoughtful notes and messages. Expect the same.
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