Recruiting Lessons from the African Bush
I am delighted to be here and share some thoughts with you about what I believe is a very significant part of why you are in school – finding a job. I know that some of you are planning to continue to higher education. By all means, follow President Hinckley’s advice and get all the education you can, but you might wish to listen because eventually you, too, may be seeking to become employed.
A few years ago I had the chance to take my family on a safari in Kenya, and not only gained a great appreciation for Africa, but found some wilderness lessons that apply to the career search process. I would like to share some of those experiences with you and hopefully, help you keep from being eaten by the competition.
Let me begin by giving you a brief set of discussion points regarding the recruiting environment. As college students, you face a fairly favorable job outlook this year. Many entry level jobs have been created in the past few years and forecasts from NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, indicate that demand for 2006 graduates should remain quite good. There are clear shortages in certain educational areas - accounting, information systems, medical support, and nursing, to name a few. Associated with those demands, some of our recruiters have come to campus much earlier than in prior years with recruiting schedules beginning in early fall and winter.
Given that environment, let me encourage you to get going now to find internships and full time jobs while the opportunities are still hot. You will want to go out and build your network and use it to help you with your career search.
Be flexible and creative as you consider different work options. Don’t be afraid to look beyond the immediate boundaries of your training. Regardless of some disappointments, don’t get discouraged when some of your efforts don’t turn into instant results. There are some steps and processes that can help make your career search easier.
Let me start by talking about the mighty giraffe. In the wild, we noticed that the shorter animals watch, and when they see the giraffe looking at something, they pay attention. Nature has taught them that the giraffe have greater vision and they see predators earlier than the shorter animals. The other animals watch and when the giraffe look, they get ready to run. The giraffe are an early warning system. Now, how can you use this looking principle to improve your career vision?
In your job search identify and keep in tune with the giraffes of the career world. Look around so that you can see what you need to be aware of to find a great job opportunity. Start by looking at yourself; know your skills and your personal preferences. Look at and learn about industry and work function activities. Look at different employers and look at the jobs those employers are offering. Employers want to hire people who know the employer, who know their industry, and most importantly, who know themselves.
If your vision is not sufficient, look deeper and go to the Career Services Center to see if they have some ways to improve your sight. They offer assessment tools that can help you learn what might be appropriate to as career considerations.
If you are still unsure, especially in the business disciplines, consider using what I call “a walk around.” In the wild we would actually go out and observe nature during a hike in the savannah. Go out without any agenda except to see what captures your attention. Go to an office complex or a mall, walk around and see what catches your eye. Not products, but activities.
Do you see the great way something is displayed, or note the value of inventory, do you see how customers are serviced or how money is being gathered or distributed? Now associate those observations to business functions: inventory and distribution to supply chain, good personnel activity with human resources, and money activities with accounting and finance.
Why do you keep your eyes open? Because you just never know what might actually be very near you. Part of the looking around process also involves building a help network. Some people have said that more jobs are filled through networking than any other resource. Get organized and do invite people to assist you. Who’s in your network? Faculty, Church associates, relatives, friends, roommates, and classmates. While these network members would probably give you a job if they had one, it is their contacts that you want to connect to, because they are more likely to have jobs that are not otherwise available to you. This is all part of making your “net” work.
Please, always remember most networking requires give and take, so be prepared to also give when and after you get. Use your contacts in a very professional manner and ask with sincerity. You will often find greater success if you simply ask for help instead of saying, “Do you have any jobs?” or, “Could you give me a job?”
In addition to the jobs posted by your Career Services office, and checking their postings is part of looking around, some other sources to consider in your looking are: off-campus recruiters, industry and trade media (both hard copy and internet), library resources like the Occupational Job Outlook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other books and references available for your career search. Some retail bookstores carry extensive job finding resources, some targeted specifically toward college students.
Finally, consider a resource called careerjournal.com, it is an excellent Wall Street Journal website dedicated to business job finding. It not only has classified ads, but also contains many helps for the job finding process.
One way you can help yourself is by building a career search focus. This will require you to look at many things that are important to you. Consider what you want from your ideal job. Take into account work and life principles that may be important to you and then prepare a one paragraph career search statement.
There are many criteria you may use, but it helps to narrow them down to a few significant ones that I like to call your drivers. They include things like compensation (what you want to be paid), lifestyle (how much time your want to be free), work culture or environment (team, solo, collegial, independent, office, rural, campus, lab), business function (finance, marketing, HR, operations, information systems and data management, etc.), industry (healthcare, high tech, manufacturing, consumer good, automotive, etc.), location (where you want to live and work), growth and development (what education and learning experiences do you want in your workplace and employer.)
Take these drivers prioritize them and write your career search paragraph. It can read something like this: “I want to work in (location), for a family-friendly, progressive company that values excellence and produces high quality goods or services. I am seeking a position in service operations making a salary of at least $_____. I also want to have opportunities for growth and learning through ongoing training and access to experts. I would like to work in the healthcare industry.”
As you begin to look in a more focused way, you will start to see things that you may have missed in the past. My son spotted a young male lion under the bush as we were driving one afternoon. No one else saw him, but my son was focused and used his clear vision to see. Don’t be afraid to extend your vision and look under the brush. With a better focus you will notice subtle opportunities that you may have missed with your previous vision. Keep your eyes open to spot some camouflaged jobs. Examine multiple possibilities for applying your skills and talents, and look at non-traditional job considerations.
Sometimes in your job search you need to change your perspective. In the bush we found several ways to see the opportunities around us. Usually we rode in cars. A few times we actually walked to see what was around us and we were able to see small things that were less visible or hidden from the perspective of a vehicle. Like our walking around, you have to understand what you might encounter and be prepared – for instance, having someone with a gun when you are walking through lion or leopard country. We found that when we rode horses we could approach animals that would run away when we in the car or on foot. Even a camel safari proved to be a very different experience, giving us a new observation perspective. And it never hurts to get all of the heads you can, helping you find that job.
We had an opportunity to visit a special wild animal orphanage established outside of Nairobi to help young animals orphaned by poachers. There were five baby elephants and two rhinos, including a three year old, 1000 pound, black rhino. You may find it worth while to nurse along some potential job opportunities. To do that, meet with the contacts of your family and friends contacts, give an employer a research paper on a topic of interest to that employer, or visit a business office and look around to see how they work and what you might experience with that organization, ask how you might provide help, use alumni as mentors, and/or go to to find contacts.
We have seen some of these used very effectively to build relationships and show employers how students can add value, even before actually interviewing or working for them.
Sometimes there is value in being involved with a crowd. To use the crowd to help you, talk to those in your major or classes, see find out from career services where people are being hired, and get as many people as possible involved in finding you a job. Don’t fear asking for help—ask others to keep their eyes open for you. And sometimes you will need to work all alone and make the effort without much support.
You just never know when an opportunity might happen that takes you up close to a potential contact. Don’t let these chances pass you without taking full advantage of them. You can do this by preparing a 30-second elevator speech ready to deliver so you can take advantage when an up close and personal situation happens. An example of that 30-second speech:
Who am I?
Hello, my name is (name).
Why am I talking with you?
(Referral’s name) suggested that I speak with you.
What is my objective?
I am interested in advancing my career in systems management.
What are my strengths?
I have three years of work experience and will complete my Assoc. degree in April. I have been effective in problem solving, collaboration, leadership, and increasing sales.
How did I achieve these strengths?
I developed these skills in a variety of jobs with ___ company while attending school. I have focused my schooling on data systems activities and finance.
What are my passions?
I enjoy working with a team to improve processes and solve difficult problems.
How do these apply to your company / industry/ location?
I am confident in my abilities to assist an organization in improving its operational processes, reduce costs, and achieve its mission objectives.
What do I want from you?
I am especially interested in company / industry / location and would like to learn more about systems management functions within your company / industry / location.
Put it all together, reduce the number of “I” uses, and rehearse it until it sounds natural and unscripted. Remember to practice this speech with a friend. It needs to sound very natural and unrehearsed to make it truly sincere.
In your job search you might find a need to change your stripes. Two species of zebra have very different characteristics even though they walk in the same herd. How do we change our stripes? Start with your resume. To make it stand out, target it to the employer. Make it your interview advertisement.
I am a tie collector and I found a tie that can be worn with almost any color shirt or suit. While the tie, the zebra, and your present skills never actually change; depending upon the background, different parts of the tie standout and the zebra’s stripes blend in.
The zebra uses this to confuse the eye of a predator and not allow the predator to distinguish the individual from the herd. My tie shows different color characteristics that stand out against the a particular background.
Your resume can be written to highlight different skill and experience perspectives depending upon the background (or requirements) of the job that you are seeking.
Here are some things to consider in the stripe changing world. Is there experience, education, or activity in your back ground that would open a door to non-traditional employment for your training? Is there something you can do that would support your entry into a career that is not your first choice, but would lead to your first choice. Example: Could you begin work as an accountant for Goldman Sachs to open an opportunity to move into investment banking.) Finally, will your education give you what I call a power-boost in your current career by promoting you to a new level?
I promise you there will be predators in your job search. They are sometimes disguised as fear, anxiety, doubt, and nervousness. They want you to look bad or make you feel inadequate. Do your homework, come prepared for the search, and you can beat them.
Please understand that you have individual skills, characteristics, and qualities that some employer, somewhere, is seeking. You can match those qualities and be the right candidate.
I have to include an exciting experience my family had. It was the fourth of July and we certainly didn’t expect this kind of fireworks. A cheetah jumped up on our car as we were watching her look for an evening meal. She was just looking for something to eat, kind of like you are just looking for a job. We were the highest vantage point for her search. She spent about fifteen minutes up on our car looking for food. We learned not to panic, but to enjoy the closeness of this experience. Also, that humans are not a cheetah food source. So, when you are faced with potential adversity, just keep smiling.
When the cheetah finally saw a potential meal, just as when you see the right job, all her concentration was focused on getting the result. Be just as intent in your job search.
Over my many years of experience I have found that most job searches look like this: No, No, No, No, No, No, No…Yes!. You will see many “No’s” before the “Yes”. Be patient and understand that it is important to get the right job, not just any job. Keep working at it even when you feel discouraged.
Try to not get behind, but if you do, go to work and catch up. There are campus opportunities available even now, take advantage of them while you are here.
I love the application of the scripture Alma 38:12 to the job hunt: “Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.” We must be bold, but not overbearing in the job hunt. We must have passion for the job, the employer, and the process, but we must bridle and control that passion. We must work and not be idle in the process.
I don’t want to imply that your job will take you to the Celestial Kingdom or that it is even equivalent to the Gospel’s spiritual progression model. There are some jobs that could hinder your Celestial progression, so stay away from them, but I do think that there are some lessons to learn from the gospel plan. Start at the beginning and follow the necessary steps. Set goals that will help you to continually move forward. Look at the direction you are headed and hold on to the iron rod if you feel doubt.
Take a path that supports the career you are seeking. If you want banking, then make sure that your present job is supporting you along that path. Look for an internship that will enhance your employer attractiveness and lead you to a desired full time job. This is true regardless of your area of study.
You want the result to be great, not just good. Goodly men inherit another kingdom.
Understand that you do not have to do all of this alone. Career Services is here to help you in your effort. Call upon your career services center when you need help with employer research, resume writing, and interview preparation. Use their web site to see what is currently available and to help build your network with contacts and alumni who can give you a fighting edge. Use the seminars to help you be prepared. If you are prepared you don’t have to be afraid. You have a great resource in Sister Howe, use her to help you. We want you to be this as outstanding to your potential employers as some of the beautiful wildlife we saw in Africa. I commend you for your efforts and wish you the greatest of results.
May you enjoy your job hunt adventure as much I enjoyed my safari, and may you be blessed with results equal to my African experience.