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They Are Who We Thought They Were. Not When It Comes to Your Career!

If you are a “student” of professional football, then you likely remember the famous post-game press conference by Dennis Green, the late great head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Explaining the reasons for his team’s upset loss to the Chicago Bears, he said: “They are who we thought they were”. He added a few more colorful words before he stormed off the podium and the video is now immortalized in sports history.

Now, what does Dennis Green’s outburst have to do with the job search for soon to be college graduates? Quite a bit if you allow me to explain. U.S News and World Report recently published an article discussing how your college major does not define your career. While in college, students tend to naturally categorize themselves by the major of study that they have selected to pursue. College students are skilled at quickly answering the question: “What’s your major”. Except for career track specific majors such as Accounting or Mechanical Engineering, there is not a direct correlation between college major and the first post-graduation job or career. For example, if your major is Psychology, do a search on any of the major online job boards using the word Psychology. You will not find any job postings titled “Psychology”.

More important than the major are the skills and competencies that you develop as you pursue your degree. As I have discussed previously, finding a job is the most important sales assignment of your career. As a “salesperson”, it is critical to understand what your customer values and wants to purchase. The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently completed research on the skills and values employers value most in new college graduates. These skills and values are your customer’s buying criteria (i.e. what you need to demonstrate to get the job). Ranked in order of preference:

1. Oral communication

2. Teamwork skills

3. Written communication

4. Critical thinking and analytic reasoning

5. Problem solving

6. Information literacy

7. Innovation and creativity

8. Technological skills

9. Quantitative reasoning

Also rated highly by both executives and hiring managers were:

1. Ethical judgment and decision making

2. Ability to work independently

3. Self-motivation

It does not matter the major selected as a college student, you can develop, refine and market all these highly sought after skills in any selected college major. The skills that employers are seeking today for entry-level professional positions transcend the classification of a college major. The challenge for the soon to be college graduate and job seeker is how to package those skills into a compelling story. That story needs to take the form of an elevator pitch.

In my career coaching business, we define the elevator pitch as the first step you take in your job search process. For your job search, your elevator pitch is the essence of who you are and the unique value that you can bring to an organization and a specific job. The elevator pitch is the first step in building your brand and starting the job search process. Your elevator pitch is like the genetic code of your job search. Without DNA, there is no life. Without an elevator pitch, it is very difficult to execute a successful job search.

Your elevator pitch enables you to sell yourself with a story in a conversational manner. The pitch is rehearsed but with a natural delivery. The elevator pitch becomes the professional summary on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile. It is the story you tell your network contacts and in exploratory meetings. And equally important, in every interview, your elevator pitch is the answer to the standard question: “Tell me about yourself”. That is why the elevator pitch is the most important and critical step in an effective job search process.

That brings us back to Coach Green. When it comes to your career and your job search, you are not who they thought you were. Craft your own story and learn to sell yourself. Your college major will not find you a job. That comes down to you!

Dan Troup is the founder of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a certified career coach can assist you in your job search, please contact AdvantEdge Careers at:


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