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Business Insight: Graduates can survive in the business jungle

Published July 4, 2013 2:49 pm

Create a best-odds scenario for acing interviews and landing a job.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Micheal Burt, coauthor of Zebras & Cheetahs: Look Different and Stay Agile to Survive the Business Jungle, says graduates face one of the worst job markets in recent memory so it's important they stand out from the pack.

How can a college graduate break into the job market?

A college grad can stand out by truly knowing what the company does, how it does it, and by anticipating how their "unique ability" might help the company make money, save money or solve challenges the company may face. By understanding and packaging their "invisible assets" such as ambition, drive, team-oriented mind-set, and problem-solving skills, grads walk in and knows what they can do and how it would benefit the company most. Most college students lead with "how much will it pay" and "does it have benefits" versus driving up their value in the minds of the person doing the hiring. When they can be a solution to a problem and exhibit the mind set of a next-generation asset, they will become "must haves" versus "nice to haves."

Explain leveraging one's past.

Each college student has certain unique experiences, struggles, mentors, education and perspectives. When they begin to see how their past can help them build a platform, they understand how their past offers up the necessary ingredients to look different and run faster than competitors. Look back to figure out what you have to offer that is different than what other people have to offer. A good way to demonstrate that you have this skill is to make a video of yourself articulating why you're valuable and what you could bring to the table. In fact, we sometimes ask candidates to do this very thing in order to gauge how creatively each person thinks and how they react to an open-ended assignment. If video isn't your thing, make sure to weave examples of how you've thought beyond established boundaries and actively sought efficient new solutions to problems into your interview answers.

Where does innovation fit in?

Innovation is looking at a product, service or idea and thinking of ways to bring new and creative ideas together to solve a problem or create something of deep value to others. A college grad could bring a unique perspective to a tired and old idea ... or could introduce a new market to the company. Critical thinkers are in high demand and if you can lead quickly with how you can be that critical thinker then you open the door to something bigger.

Other tips?

All college graduates, like adults, want to know one thing: What does their future look like? To answer that question, graduates first must define what future they want. The reality is most of them have not stopped to ask that question. They race as hard and fast as they can to ... say "Hire me! I have a college degree." The world responds and says "So does everyone else." True Zebra and Cheetah grads first understand why they need to "look different and run faster" than others. This helps them avoid commoditization and stand out in a noisy and busy world with global competition. Saying the same old tired things such as "I have a good attitude, I'm a people person," or "I'll show up on time" will not differentiate someone today. Critical thinking will differentiate. Being solutions oriented will differentiate. Becoming an immediate asset will differentiate. Remember, looking the same is boring and boring is out. Micheal Burt, author