A lackluster economy, off-shoring, productivity pressures and Baby Boomers’ delayed retirements are partly to blame for the dearth of entry-level opportunities. Yet the main culprit is the shift in the way companies procure and manage technology, which is altering the skill requirements in a labor market where new grads often have to compete against unemployed veterans.
Specifically, companies want specialized generalists often called T-shaped people, because they’re deep in one particular skill set and possess general knowledge in other areas.
Have you found that having the right mix of general and specialized skills helps in your career? Share your thoughts below.
Not sure if you’re T-shaped? Well, here’s Scott Ambler’s definition of a “generalizing specialist”:
A generalizing specialist is someone who: 1) Has one or more technical specialties. 2) Has at least a general knowledge of software development. 3) Has at least a general knowledge of the business domain in which they work. 4) Actively seeks to gain new skills in both their existing specialties as well as in other areas, including both technical and domain areas.
So, how can you convince employers to give you a shot?
“New grads need to emphasize a technical specialty to get their foot in the door,” says Judit Price, partner at Berke & Price, a career coaching firm based in Chelmsford, Mass. “Then, they need to demonstrate their flexibility, emotional intelligence, as well as their ability to learn new things and master a generalist role during the interview.”
Price keeps new grads from spinning their wheels during a grueling search by steering hard-core technologists toward opportunities in the high-tech industry, while guiding affable grads with varied expertise toward T-shaped positions in other industries.
Colleges are trying to adapt their curricula to meet shifting employer demands, said Joyce Gioia, president of the Herman Group, a human resource consulting firm based in Greensboro, N.C. But in the meantime, Gioia says grads with limited business experience or coursework need to close knowledge gaps and alter their job hunting strategy in order to become the “candidate of choice.”
“Current students should acquire business knowledge by interfacing with clients and finding a mentor during internships,” advised Gioia. “While recent grads should enroll in business courses at community colleges, listen to TED lectures, take free online courses at KHAN Academy and offer to work at local businesses for free so they can become T-shaped candidates.”
Unrealistic salary expectations and a lack of real world knowledge are also keeping new grads from scoring entry-level jobs, according to a panel of CIOs interviewed by TechRepublic. New grads should be flexible so they can acquire marketable skills and be ready to pounce on a better opportunity as the labor market improves.
Shelley Ladin, president of Contemporary Careers, a staffing and career coaching company based in Manalapan, N.J., notes that new grads need to network and consider any and all opportunities to overcome competition from experienced workers.
“Start with a list of 100 people and expand your networking circle from there,” says Ladin. “Plus, you have to persevere and be patient at the same time, because there are still plenty of people out there with two to five years’ experience who would be glad to have an entry-level job for half their former salary.”