Crafting Your Edge Instead of Chasing a Job
For the first time in 30 years, recent college graduates are more likely to be unemployed compared to overall workers. This is happening at a time of historic overall low unemployment rates. While Millennials are the most educated and multidimensional generation, they’ve not been able to capitalize on their education in the same way as previous generations.
At a time when college graduates are more at risk of being either unemployed or underemployed, what can they do to crack the job market? Rather than attempting to impress potential employers with a useless, catch-all resume, they’re better off using a proactive approach. This approach involves devising a personal strategy based on their boutique (or built-in) employability that will not only help them find work after graduation, but provide them with a tool to build a meaningful career that best suits them.
Coined “BE-EDGE,” this step-by-step method allows new graduates to shape their own space in the job market through utilizing consulting cases that they develop as stepping stones to their desired employment. The method focuses on students’ own multidimensional profiles, and connecting them with employers’ needs.
Initially, the BE-EDGE method was used in masters and capstone courses, as well as consulting case writing competitions. The students involved reported that BE-EDGE let them formulate their “what’s next?” personal strategy and equipped them with a tool to implement that strategy.
Follow these BE-EDGE steps to craft your own strategy for optimum employability:
Focus on the outcome.
The outcome entails connecting your Boutique Employability (the “BE” in BE-EDGE), or your core capabilities, with a company of your choosing in order to build trust and create value for the employer. In this way, you craft the career that fits you and your multidimensional profile. To make this happen, use these following E-D-G-E steps.
(E)lucidate your professional core.
In this first step, you define your multidimensional profile, or the essence of how you envision yourself as a professional. The key here is that you take ownership in choosing who you intend to become and the strengths you’re able to bring. You’ve defined your core and defined the type of organization that interests you. It might not be a traditional choice. Understand that, at this early stage, you are the one honing in on your potential employer, not the other way around.
Approach the employer(s) of your choice and explain that you would like to be allowed to investigate a real-life challenge the company faces that’s related to your area of specialization. The goal is to become involved in the work or your target company, helping to tell the company’s story, while establishing yourself as someone who has expertise to lend. Assure your contact that he or she will have the final word on whether or how the consulting case will be utilized. With the company’s approval, you develop trust among key company insiders by acting as an industry- and company-centered researcher and biographer. At this point, you don’t offer any ideas to the client. You’re strictly at the listening and learning phase.
In working with your company insider to decide a challenge upon which to focus, try to find something related to your prospective position in the company. For example, one graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, a passion for live music and an interest in brand development, reached out to a small music venue to offer her expertise in brand building. The consulting case let her gain her voice as an expert and position herself in the music industry.
The process for preparing your consulting report involves collecting market and industry data, applying your knowledge and expertise in analyzing the data, and then presenting recommendations for how best to resolve the company’s challenge. Be sure that your report provides more than general recommendations, like “improve customer service” or “strengthen corporate culture,” but offers very specific recommendations for overcoming its challenge, along with an achievable action plan.
(E)xcite key insiders of the company.
Here you share your work with the key insiders of the company. With company permission, you may wish to share your consulting case more broadly across the industry through journals or conference workshops to further carve out your niche and illustrate your professionalism and ambition. The result of developing an on-point consulting case that generates value for the company is that you show, not just tell, your clear sense of professional direction, your willingness to take initiative, and your suitability for the company. In this way, you set yourself apart from other applications and you earn management support.
Employability is Key
Using the BE-EDGE method, you’re able to craft your own edge as an expert and a multidimensional player in the market. You’re able to make your case to shape your space within the company and industry of your choosing.
This guest post was authored by Julia Ivy
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 a 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.