Janet Civitelli: How Not To Be Young & Recessioned

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Today's installment of Young & Recessioned features Janet Civitelli, associate director of career services at the University of Houston, who helps college grads find jobs in a toughened job market.

When the economy is booming, you can have mediocre job search skills and still land a job. But in a tough economy, you really have to be at the top of your game.

Students underestimate the amount of work it's going to take to convince an employer to hire them. There's a pretty predictable formula to do it, but students don't know the formula.

Many parents are from an era where it worked very differently. That if you were in college, doors opened because of that. Many parents think, 'Well, we sent you to college. What's the problem?'

A really common misconception is that there's such a thing as an entry-level job where you don't need any prior experience. Entry-level means your bring all your education or relevant experiences to the table. Employers expect to see a track record of measurable experience, even at entry level.

If someone is just able to land a survivor job, then they probably need to keep adding to their skills, even if it means adding to their skills in an unpaid capacity.

It's a competitive process to land an internship. It takes the same type of job search skills that landing a job takes. It frustrates students, because they think that what you do is, when you decide that you want an internship, you just sign up.

There are some students that just settle. Sometimes it's worth it to do that. In some fields, just getting in is the challenge. Even if you get in a position where you seem overqualified, if it adds to your skills and puts you in the place to make a connection, then that might be worth considering.

[Job searching] just looks like it's changed because of all the technology, but a lot of the connecting that happens still happens the same way. People connect through professional associations, part time jobs, internships.

A lot of students get jobs because they met someone through a social activity almost as frequently as we see them land a job through a professional connection. The real message is just, 'Be connected.'

Things are picking up right now. We're starting to see students get job offers. This year is going better than last year. There's some positive growth, where 2008 and 2009, there was none.

One very common error is failing to have focus. If someone says, 'I can do anything,' employers don't want to hear that. It isn't a matter of just scattering 1,000 résumés to 1,000 openings and hoping something sticks. That doesn't work.

That makes you super frustrated. It feels like you're putting a lot of work into it, but it's not effective work.

The industries that are projected to keep hiring are education, health care, government and technology. But we tell students not to make career decisions based on U.S. Department of Labor projections.

People weather things like recession better when they're bringing their best self to the table. If you really love something and are great at it, you're going to have an easier time during the recession than if you picked something because you thought that was the thing to do to have a safe job.

Got a tale to tell about being Young & Recessioned? E-mail Paul Knight at paul.knight@houstonpress.com.

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