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August 02, 2022

How Young Adults Can Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market

College-Career Planning, Podcasts
There’s a “We’re Hiring” sign in just about every window; however, the contention for desired roles has been competitive.

We asked 367 college seniors what their greatest regret was regarding being ready to graduate, and their number one answer was I wish I would have started sooner. The hard work you put in now will only multiply in your future career.

Studies show a much smaller share of U.S. teens work today compared with earlier decades, leaving Gen Z (ages 13 – 24) ill-equipped and underprepared to enter the workforce.

As you look for your first job, here are five actions you can take to stand out while entering a competitive job market.

#1: Find An Internship

It is crucial to build your resume in any way you can by showing you have encountered real-life work experience. Internships have proven to be the most impactful thing an applicant can include on their resume. At CommunityAmerica Credit Union, we conducted a study of 500 employers and asked them what they look for on a resume. We found these employers ranked an internship as the most important.

Even if you have to adjust your work schedule to take an unpaid internship, gaining industry experience almost always proves beneficial in landing and excelling in a job. Finding an internship at the specific organization you plan to work for is best, but within the same industry still holds a significant amount of merit.

To help remember all the skills you have learned throughout your internships and in extracurricular activities, we suggest keeping an activities log to include on your future resume.

#2: Learn Valuable Skill Sets

You have likely been building your skill set throughout your education; however, a few skills are more valuable than others.

These are the three most sought-after attributes employers are seeking on a candidates resume right now:
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Having a strong work ethic and professionalism

Studies show the skill that Gen Z has mastered the most is the ability to work in a team. On the other hand, due to a lack of career history, employers may perceive young adults as needing more experience to be considered as having a strong work ethic and professionalism in the workplace.

#3: Set Up a LinkedIn Profile

Building your digital footprint is a practical step every high school and college-aged student can take right now. Here are four things to include in your LinkedIn profile:
  • A professional photo
  • A headline including items you are excited about now and things you want to do in the future
  • A summary describing your motivation, your skills, and your future plans
  • Your experience as a list of jobs youve held. Adding photos and videos of your work, if applicable

The sooner you start building this profile, the better. It will be available for networking and easier to keep updated throughout the years.

#4: Learn Networking Skills

Growing an expansive network has become a foundation for success. The more people you know across different industries, the more likely you are to know about particular organizations, positions, and opportunities available to you. Social media and the internet have changed networking into an everyday opportunity instead of the awkward coffee hour in a hotel banquet room that it used to be.

Key tips when thinking about social media include:
  • Searching for and connecting with professionals in your industry, preferably people you already have a connection with
  • Ensuring anything posted on the internet is something you would want a potential boss to see. It is not uncommon for employers to look at a prospects social media account as part of the interview process. Do not assume that just because your profile is ‘private’ it is off limits to employers.
  • Following brands and leaders in your industry to stay up to date on business trends and job openings
Take advantage of the wisdom of those that have gone before you. Networking may lead you to your next mentor, career path, or employment opportunity.

#5: Being a Student is a Legitimate Super Power

People rarely say no to students. Don't be afraid to ask about shadowing opportunities along with face-to-face meetings. Mentors are much more likely to prioritize an appointment with a student wanting to learn more about their job or career path.

Even if you are uncomfortable or nervous, now is the time to push past the awkward to make valuable connections. Follow up a few times if you reach out to someone and don't hear back. It will show you take the initiative and chase down the things that matter to you, leaving a positive impression at the least.

Dedicating yourself to hard work, good grades, and a major is vital to put yourself in a good position for your career. Still, one of the best things you can do to get ahead of the other people vying for jobs is to have relevant work experience, paid or unpaid internships, and an expansive network.

Access the resources designed for you by visiting the CommunityAmerica Parents and Young Adults page with college and career planning tools.

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About the Author
anita newton
Anita Newton

CommunityAmerica Innovation Lab

Anita Newton currently serves as the Chief Innovation Officer of CommunityAmerica. Her mission is to create digital products and services that help deliver peace of mind to members.