Crafting Your Edge Instead of Chasing a Job
[This is the text of the article, prepared by my friend-journalist. He asked to stay anonymous …]
At a time when college graduates are more vulnerable to unemployment than other workers, how can they crack the job market?
Northeastern professor Julia Ivy has come up with a strategic method to not only find work after graduation—but also to build a career in a field suited to your interests.
“This became for me a kind of puzzle, a personal challenge to figure out,” says Ivy, author of Crafting Your Edge for Today’s Job Market. “Millennials have multiple interests, and they are the most-educated generation, but they cannot capitalize on their education as much as previous generations. I feel pain for them. I want them to shape their own space in the job market.”
Ivy has devised a step-by-step method that enables students to transform capstones (as well as other consultations) into stepping stones that will propel their careers. Her strategy, which she has named BE-EDGE, hinges on connecting each student’s desires with an employer’s needs. She says her book provides tools for personalized, or “boutique,” employability.
“I’ve been polishing BE-EDGE for six years, based on feedback from my students,” says Ivy, an associate teaching professor at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “The students say that BE-EDGE lets them formulate their own career strategies.”
Q1. Your book is based on four stages, which you call the EDGE steps. What is the first step for career-seekers?
Step one is “Elucidate your professional core.” This is an opportunity to define who you want to be. I encourage you to follow a series of exercises, templates, and examples in my book to define and articulate who you are professionally.
This will help you realize the type of organization that interests you. It might not be a traditional choice. I want you to relax and understand that, at this early stage, you are the one who is hiring your employer.
Q2. How may a job-seeker develop a relationship with an employer?
Stage two is, “Develop trust.” You have chosen your future employers, but they haven’t chosen you—yet.
Think of Northeastern as your platform. Use your capstone, your co-op—or any other type of project—and ask the organization of your choice, “May I please write a story about you?” You want to develop a case-study of the company. My book provides templates on how to actually do this.
You’ll be developing trust with the key insiders of the company by showing that you have interest in them—that you care about the company’s vision, challenges, and circumstances. Think of yourself as a deeply-interested researcher and biographer for the company.
But do not offer any ideas yet. This is extremely important: Do not pretend to be too smart too fast. At this stage you are just learning about the company, the market, and the industry. The more you listen and learn, the more you deepen your investment in your own social capital.
Q3. What should the job-seeker do with this information?
Stage three is, “Generate value.” This is what you have wanted to do from the very beginning. You develop knowledge and ideas that enable you to analyze the company and come up with solutions to its problems.
You will prepare a consulting report that will include recommendations. Along the way, you will be developing professional capital by proving that you can generate value and deal with real-life challenges.
Then you move to stage four, which is, “Excite market and industry insiders.” In a variety of ways—interviews, LinkedIn, and other networking events—you share your work with the key insiders of the company and industry. This provides you with proof that you have found your niche professionally.
Q4. How have you used this approach in your own life and career?
I was born in the Soviet Union, in Minsk, Belarus. I was a PhD student in psychology when the system collapsed [with the dismantling of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War]. For the second time, I had to define my space in the market: I moved to the U.S. and earned another PhD in strategy, entrepreneurship, and innovation, while writing cases to connect with my new professional environment.
This unconventional path enabled me to craft my own edge and develop tools that work for multidimensional market players—which is a good description for many Millennials.