A few years ago, as a career services pro at my university, I met with a student who had just graduated. She was one of our superstars – bright, motivated, possessing an impressive level of maturity. I was – and still am – really proud of her. We met to discuss strategies for her next moves.
Her first question: “What should I do?”
College graduates are facing some big challenges, besides all of the Covid awfulness: the crushing weight of debt, a flimsy job market, and a lot of competition. Indeed, there is truth in all of those challenges. How to deal?
Answer: do little jobs.
Like many twentysomethings, Sean Aiken of Vancouver, British Columbia, did not know what he wanted to do when he graduated from college.
Everyone told him that he needed to find a career he cared about, but Aiken felt that the likelihood of developing his passion in a sea of advertised job titles was low. Aiken knew what you who have been madly posting for months now already understand: the resume-based economy is dead. Job posts go into the ether, sometimes acknowledged by an email, many times not. Uploaded resumes vanish into the Applicant Tracking Software black hole, never to be seen again
He tried out one job a week for 52 weeks. Anyone could offer Mr. Aiken a job, and he asked employers to donate his paychecks to a charity he’d selected.
“People told me that I wouldn’t be at each job long enough to make an educated decision about whether I enjoyed the work, but that wasn’t the case,” says Mr. Aiken, who auditioned preschool teaching, firefighting, fashion buying, and stock trading (among others) and chronicled his journey in the book and documentary The One Week Job Project. “Each job taught me about my skills, and what I like and don’t like in a work environment,” he says.
If you’re interested in an industry but don’t know if a particular role is right for you, email an organization directly and ask if you can shadow an employee for a few days. That will give you a chance to experience the job’s daily tasks while taking just a small amount of time off from your regular routine.
You could enlist the help of people in your network and try a professional job-sampling service. “Talk to everyone you meet about what they do, and always be curious. It often happens that a person you shadow will recommend someone else you should work with, and so on,” says Mr. Aiken.
Sean’s still on the speaking circuit, talking to audiences about his experience, still relevant today.
Once in a short-term job experience, make the most of it by reaching out to everyone around you, including people with related and dissimilar roles. Learn as much as you can about the organization in advance, and plan two or three goals you’d like to achieve.
This small investment of time might earn you a huge payoff.
Little jobs can turn into big breaks. Want to talk about it? Contact John here.