The Millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) now comprises about one-half of the American workforce, and this generation has been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. More Millennials (61 percent) have lost their job or had their hours or salaries reduced than any other generational group due to the pandemic.
At the same time, this generation is the most educated. Historical data of educational levels among people 25 to 29 years of age shows 40 percent of Millennials held advanced degrees in 2016 compared to 32 percent of Generation Xers in 2000 and 26 percent of Boomers in 1985.
Now Millennials are facing a second “once-in-a-lifetime” economic downturn at a crucial moment. They left college with unprecedented levels of student debt and missed out on crucial years of wage growth because of the lingering repercussions of the 2008 downturn.
But Millennials aren’t new to challenging conditions. They know how to take ownership for their own lives. They have multidimensional interests and talents, and know how to stay true to their core values. This means that they can capitalize on their strengths and rely on their own employability.
Millennials’ strengths are in their edge. In the current environment, they have the wherewithal to not join the ranks of the chronically unemployed. They’re confident being one of one. They’re able to elucidate their differentiator — their built-in multidimensional profile — and craft opportunities that they choose to pursue.
If this description of Millennials resonates with you, you can best connect with your chosen opportunities with the BE-EDGE method. In this way, you will “make your case to shape your space.”
BE-EDGE is an acronym representing the process for developing one’s “Boutique Employability” (BE) by following well-defined E-D-G-E steps. These include:
(E)lucidating the core of your multidimensional profile. First, it’s important to list your multidimensional qualifications and elucidate their intersection as your professional core. This will help you to define the space in the market that you wish to claim. Once defined, you can identify organizations that you believe would appreciate you and that fit your vision, strengths and interests. Make a list of such companies and rank them based on your desire to work there, and note why you selected each company, along with what kind of challenge the company faces that your multidimensional profile will be most helpful in solving.
Developing a clear focus of the intersection of your profile and the company’s needs will become your personal capital and distinguish you from others. For example, your interests are in the restaurant industry, your education is in business, your passion is cooking, your favorite hobby is online gaming, and you have impressive experience in social media. You can elucidate your core in “virtual customer relationships through the use of game-like interactions,” and list restaurants or retailers that would appreciate such a unique professional core.
(D)eveloping personal and professional trust with company insiders. Equipped with a well-defined message for why you want to be involved with a particular company, you then reach out to a company manager for permission to learn about the company and its way of dealing with the challenges that COVID has placed on the organization.
For example, the company of your choice may be looking for a way to recalibrate its business model with a higher emphasis on social connection with physically isolated customers and suppliers. Don’t rush with your recommendation, as your company doesn’t yet trust your solution. Instead, collect information on what resources the company already has for its transition, what virtual communication options exists in the industry, and what options the company might pursue in the new COVID world. You become a company biographer and provide a short “Company Case” with the data that you collect and share with the company insider.
By volunteering to take on the role of company researcher and biographer, and by playing close attention to the company’s challenges, successes and current circumstances you’ve identified, you earn the insider’s trust. This is your way to earn social capital in your targeted industry.
(G)enerating value by solving the challenge. Next, you look at the collected information through the lenses of your multidimensional profile, analyze and compare the options that you’ve uncovered, and provide a recommendation for how the company can pursue its goal to connect virtually with customers and suppliers. Summarize your findings in a Consulting Report that provides an action plan to directly address the challenge the company cares about.
Because you’ve already developed trust with company insiders, they’ll listen. Because you’ve learned the company language, vision and operations, you’ll know how to communicate your ideas. By drawing on your multidimensional profile, you provide recommendations that are unique in generating value. This is your way to attain your professional capital in your targeted industry.
(E)xciting the market. Connecting to your envisioned profession with a case challenge is how to craft the type of work you love and show your value to a targeted employer. Share your report with the company, giving its team a clear sense of your capabilities, your willingness to take initiative and your suitability in the company. Why would this company want anybody else if it already has you embedded in the company?
With the BE-EDGE method, you utilize your accumulated personal, social and professional capital to provide innovative solutions and prove your value in a space that best fits your boutique employability.
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Julia Ivy, PhD Psych, PhD Mgmt, is a strategy and international business executive professor and faculty director at Northeastern University. Her area of expertise is in bridging strategy and psychology in the concept of personal strategy. In addition to her academic work, she acts as an executive coach for those facing the “What’s next?” challenge. Her new book is Crafting Your Edge for Today’s Job Market: Using the BE-EDGE Method for Consulting Cases and Capstone Projects (Emerald Publishing, Oct. 7, 2019). Learn more at be-edge.com.