An easy way to pay it forward

29 Jun

The job market today is really tough for many people. It’s especially discouraging for new graduates, who’ve spent years working and dreaming of making an impact on the world, but can’t get a foot in the door of their profession. In fact for many, it’s hard to get a foot in any door at all since so many people with so much background are competing for every job. It’s akin to the year I graduated from college when unemployment was 13%. I remember how my peers resigned to papering their rooms with enough rejection letters to cover all four walls. But it’s even worse today, because new graduates face the dual whammy of demographic overload (when will those baby boomers retire?) and global recession.

I was very fortunate to have people open doors for me and coach me informally from the very start of my career. That made the difference for me in gaining a toehold in the field that’s become my life’s work. That’s why when I recently received an out-of-the-blue email from a freshly minted University of Oregon graduate, asking for an informational interview, I made the time. He’d found me through the local Chamber of Commerce business directory. He was pro-active. Maybe I’d know someone who could help him.

As it turned out, Ryan has credentials and passion for business development, and I’m working on a feasibility study for a social enterprise with an all volunteer organization.  His skills lined up with some of the project needs, and he offered to volunteer his time to get a “real project” under his belt. He’s been great so far; eager and productive! Today, we had coffee to catch up on next steps, and he told me again how much he appreciated the opportunity to be able to work on this project. He noted that among his peers, this opportunity is rare. They are finding only closed doors.

I, of course, feel equally grateful to have his assistance. And the community does as well.  So, I’m posting a second blog in one day (never happens!) to make a plea to others to open a door if you can. Give informational interviews, let a new graduate shadow or even volunteer if you can’t pay for their services. Perhaps not even a new graduate– just someone who needs experience in our field.  Seeing one door open is a source of encouragement in what are discouraging times for job seekers. It’s been surprisingly easy and rewarding to do.