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Future Career in Jeopardy? No it’s Not

Future Career in Jeopardy? No, it’s Not.

The current job market situation is enough to scare the pants off you. It doesn’t help that the news media are talking about yours becoming a “lost generation,” a generation whose careers are irretrievably blighted already before you’ve even left the education system.

Okay it is pretty bad but there’s an awful lot that you’re not being told and which you really ought to be told, if only because you would realise that there’s not nearly so much to be scared of as you imagined. In this blog, I’m going to do my best to boost your hopes and I’m not going to do it by trying to trivialise the challenges you are going to face. I’m going to give you some strategies that you can apply right away…because no-one can stop you, not even your pet whale!

Let me begin with a story.

Every year (except this one) I  attend a careers fair at the Three Counties show ground at Malvern. Employers have trade stands at the fair and the stands are usually manned by senior executives. Schools bus their year 7 to year 10 students to the event from all over Worcestershire. There are no job vacancies being promoted at this event and, even if the exhibitors did have any vacancies, none of the students attending would be qualified to apply. The oldest are still a year from sitting their G.C.S.E.s. That begs a rather obvious question doesn’t it?

  • What is in it for the exhibiting companies to be there? Why would senior executives feel that the best use of their day is to attend an event where they’re not going to meet a single person who’s qualified to apply for any job vacancy they might have?

The answer is simple. They’re on the look-out for talented young people who they can get on their books and with whom they hope to build a relationship, even though not one of the students they meet is old enough or good enough to be in anybody’s team yet. Some of the students left the event having been invited to have breakfast with company Chief Executives during the half-term holidays. Those businesspeople are acting in much the same way that football talent scouts go about their job. You can bet your life that the stars of today, players like Ronaldo or Messi, were on someone’s books long before they were old enough or good enough to be in anybody’s first team. Their talent was probably noticed by age 12!

The students who were invited for breakfast will continue to have regular contact with business managers for as long as both parties want the relationship to continue. It could last for 4 or 5 years. So, when a job vacancy comes up and the student is now about to qualify, a phone call is made that goes something like this:

“Hi. Am I speaking to Lauren? This is Barry Jackson here. I’m phoning to let you know that we have a vacancy in our research department. We think you would be the ideal candidate. Would you like to apply for the position? You would? Excellent. Lauren I’m authorised to tell you that, subject to a satisfactory interview, the job’s yours if you want it.”

There are a number of things I want you to take note of about this situation:

  • There are no other candidates. Lauren is it!
  • Lauren is not faced with 50 other candidates. Lauren is it!
  • The job offer is not dependent on what exam grades Lauren achieves.
  • The job is hers because the company have known her and built a relationship with her, perhaps over several years. The reason “Lauren is it” is based on knowing how good she is.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That’s not quite the whole story. It’s who knows you.

Now for some other things you need to know and which you are most unlikely to be told at school or even university. You need to know all of them and some of them are really cool and very exciting:

  • Well over 50% of jobs are filled without ever being advertised. When I share this in school classrooms, almost every student asks me the obvious question, “Why are we not being told things like this?”
  • You can’t develop a strategy for accessing the unadvertised job market if you don’t know it exists!
  • Companies don’t hire by making random phone calls to people who happen to be called Lauren.
  • The relationship begins long before Lauren is old enough to apply for any job vacancy and, in any case, she’s not qualified either.

Savvy employers have been adopting strategies like this long before the Covid outbreak. Academic qualifications are not top priority when assessing who they want to nurture as a potential future employee. That is why it’s utter nonsense to suggest that your whole future career is in jeopardy if you can’t sit the usual exams. If you’re good, employers will be trying to find you long before you’d be sitting your exams. Make it easy for them to find you. Announce yourself…to them. If you can get yourself known from age 15 or younger, the corona crisis will be over by the time you need a job. Even the most pessimistic forecasts suggest we’ll have a vaccine by the end of next year, probably sooner. You’ve got time. Time is on your side.

Getting on someone’s books requires persistent effort. It will lead to more rejections than  invitations and that could turn out to be extremely frustrating, but when frustration does kick in remind yourself that what you need, by the time you need a job, is a minimum of ONE company who rate you highly enough to make the kind of call that Lauren received. Preferably more than one but at least one shouldn’t sound like an unrealistic target that you can’t believe to be achievable. And don’t’ worry if you’re name isn’t Lauren!

Now, if you think “yes but you haven’t told me how I can get on someone’s books,” that will come in a later blog but if you want immediate tips, they’re in my book, “The Job’s Yours,” and you can have it for £5.0 (to cover the cost of packaging and postage. The book is free).

I hope this blog has helped to put your mind at rest.


Barry Jackson.

The Coach Who Rocks.