Ask Stacy: Why Can’t My Son Find Work?

A reader’s son earned a master’s degree in business, but hasn’t found a job after more than two years of looking. The parents think the problem is a lack of experience. I think it’s something else.

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This week’s question comes from the parents of an unemployed MBA.

Our son graduated with a master’s degree in business. His undergrad degree was political science and history. He has not found a job after 2 1/2 years because he does not have experience! No one will give him a chance or even an interview! He scored high but could not work due to the massive reading, writing during his master’s. We are scared!
— Gayle and Fred

I disagree with your assessment, Gayle and Fred. I don’t think the failure of your son to find a job is because he lacks experience. That’s simply not logical. Everyone who’s ever had a job found their first one without experience.

So if a lack of experience isn’t the problem, what is? There’s no way to know for certain from the information you’ve provided, and odds are it’s a combination of factors. But let’s go over some potential problems and possible solutions.

He’s not applying for the right job

Last year, I ran an ad for a video producer. I specifically asked those without the required five years’ experience not to waste their time or mine by applying.

Result? Tons of applications from new grads.

Submit a thousand applications for jobs you’re not qualified for and you’ll get a thousand rejections.

A different story: Six years ago I hired a guy right out of college for $12 an hour. His degree wasn’t related to this business and his job was grunt work. Today that guy — Dan Schointuch — is in charge of all technical aspects of this website. I won’t say how much he’s making now, but it’s a heck of a lot more than $12 an hour.

The way to prevent rejection due to lack of experience is to apply for jobs that don’t require it. They probably won’t pay well, but that’s OK. Create value for the company, then ask for more money. If that doesn’t work — if you can’t add value or make your voice heard — find a different job.

He’s not applying at the right company

Small businesses like mine are often easier to get into than giant ones. If you’re applying at IBM, there’s a rigid vetting process that can’t be deviated from. If you’re applying here, all you have to do is convince me you can add value.

Smaller businesses may also offer broader responsibilities, which makes the job more interesting. Our small staff has input into virtually everything we do, from editorial content to website design. You won’t find that at CNN or The New York Times.

As for advancement, a small staff means fewer layers of management and more opportunity for advancement, or at least recognition. At a business this size, no one can falsely take credit for your ideas.

He’s not applying in the right industry

Money Talks News competes in two vastly different businesses. One is television news, where it’s increasingly difficult to make money because, like newspapers and other traditional media, it’s losing audience and becoming less and less profitable. The other is online publication, a business that’s in its infancy and exploding in popularity.

Finding work in a shrinking industry is much harder than finding a job in one that’s growing.

If I were looking for work today, I’d look for something related to the Internet. It’s as much a game changer as electricity, cars, TV and refrigeration. And it’s just getting started.

He’s not interviewing well

There’s plenty of information out there on proper interviewing: See posts like “Job Interviewing: 8 Things to Do and 8 Things to Avoid” and “10 Ways to Ace Your Next Job Interview.”

But don’t stop with reading. Once you’ve learned the proper techniques, practice, practice, practice. Have someone pose as an employer and go through the entire process until it’s second nature. Tape yourself doing it, then pick it apart and do it again.

There’s a reason for the expression, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” From body language to dress to the tone you use and the words you speak, get it right.

He’s not using all available resources

You can get training and advice for every facet of employment, including job leads, at your state’s employment offices. Some offer seminars on everything from creating a resume to interviewing. They can also provide networking opportunities and a sympathetic ear.

You can find a state employment office directory here.

In addition to regular job search sites, there are also some specifically targeted toward recent grads.

Then there’s networking — a fancy term for a simple idea: talking to people.

While I’ve run lots of ads, Dan is the only employee I’ve hired that way. The other full-time members of our team are people I’ve known personally or were recommended by someone I knew.

He’s not casting a wide enough net

Sometimes getting a job means radically changing your life. For example, if you can’t find work where you live, move. This is not a bad thing. New locations offer new experiences, and new experiences make you more well-rounded. The best time to pull up stakes? When you’re young and single.

So if you’re not finding what you want where you want it, prepare yourself for a little adventure and broaden your horizons. Now more than at any time in history, people work worldwide.

Flexibility applies to more than just geography. Be willing to consider not just your chosen career, but any career. My degree was in accounting, but the last time I worked as an accountant was 1981.

He’s not thinking outside the box

Suppose I said, “If you get a job at XYZ company within a month, I’ll give you a hundred million dollars.”

What would you do to get a job there? Answer: Anything.

You’d certainly find anyone you know who might have a friend at the company and ask for a hookup. But would you stop there? No way.

You’d use the Internet to find out everything you could about the company and the specific people doing the hiring. Then you’d use that information to get close to them. You’d find out what clubs they belong to and join them. You’d find out what kind of volunteer work they do and do it. You might even “accidentally” run into them at their favorite watering hole.

Heck, you might find out where the company president plays golf and slip a course employee $50 to make sure you were placed in his foursome.

The point is, when people say, “I’ve done everything I can,” that’s rarely what they mean. Many people have used clever, imaginative and even bizarre ways to find work. (If you don’t believe it, do a search for “weird ways to find work.”) Will you always succeed? Nope. But you’ll succeed more often than you will by doing nothing.

Got a money-related question you’d like answered?

Drop me a line! Just make sure your question will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

Got any words of wisdom you can offer for this week’s question? Share your experiences on our Facebook page.

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  • Jeffrey Fox

    Are you kidding me? That is your response? And i can assure you it is very much true, I have exactly the same problem and have been told as much by potential employers.

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