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To the grads of 2012: Nobody wants to hire you

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I've long since retired, my son's moved away, I called him up just the other day. I said, “I'd like to see you if you don't mind”; He said, “I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time.”



JUNE 21, 2012: The college graduation season has now passed and once again I have been passed over as a graduation speaker. I have just about given up on my hopes of one day giving the following speech:



Greetings to all members of the Class of 2012!

Some of you who should have been in the Class of 2010 or 2011 have already learned an important business lesson about this esteemed institution that honors you today: The journey is more important than the destination as long as your check doesn't bounce.

And speaking of business, all of you will be looking for a job soon and there are a couple of things you ought to know. Your perception of the job market and what employers are looking for is most likely very different from what the job market is and what employers are actually looking for.

It's like the difference between a recession and a depression. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when YOU lose your job. The Rev. Jesse Jackson campaigned for president in the 1980s using this concept. Even though national unemployment was 5 percent at the time, he would tell listeners: “But if you are the one without the job, the unemployment rate is 100 percent ... “

Your perception of the job market is affected by the government, which crows loudest when unemployment is lowest. Thus, you may be under the impression that everyone is doing his utmost to ensure that everybody has a job.

And you would be wrong.

Government says it wants full employment. But business and industry strive for minimum employment because minimum employment is the key to keeping down costs.

Thus, as you look for a job you should know this: Nobody really wants to hire you.

This is evidenced by the fact that in most cases, the job you will be applying for has been vacant for some time.

Business and industry often allow jobs to go unfilled for a while to control expenses and to learn — or be reminded — of just how important the job is to the company. By the time you show up for the interview, the company has only recently — and reluctantly — decided that someone must be hired.

There are some very sound business reasons for this reluctance.

1) You are costly. Your salary is all that you see, but the company sees health benefits, insurance, Social Security and a variety of other costs. You think you're getting paid $25,000, but to the company you are costing it $35,000 or more.

2) You don't know anything. You'll even admit it in a job interview by saying such things as, “I'm a quick learner,” or “you'll only have to tell me once.” To the company you are a person who won't generate a return on its investment for at least a year.

3) You have just spent four years being coddled in a manner the rest of the world can't afford to replicate. There are a lot of chuckleheads your age who quit jobs after six months to run home to mommy after being wounded by some minor inconvenience. Thus, you are considered a high-risk hire.

So if nobody wants you, how do you get a job? The first thing you must do is decide what you want to accomplish in your interview. That means you must learn what it is the company wants to accomplish.

Of course, there are several things you shouldn't do during a job interview. Never ask:

— When do I get a vacation?

— When do I get a raise?

— Will I have to work overtime?

Never announce which sports teams you hate. Don't say church is for idiots. If asked about hobbies, don't meander into your sex life. And don't get cute and ask what the company is doing to save the Brazilian rain forest, unless the company is actually trying to save rain forests.

Obviously, what you say will be held against you. In a way, what you are trying to do is have a lively discussion without putting your foot in your mouth.

Make a list of questions and store them mentally. They do not have to be great questions, but they will show that you are actually interested in learning about the company. When did the company start? How long does training take place? How many employees are there? Does the company encourage people to be involved in community activities? After all, most businesses and industries want to be good corporate neighbors and want employees who are on the same wavelength.

Basically, you have few advantages during the interview other than trying to control who is doing the talking.

Will any of this work? There are no guarantees, of course. Nobody has a sure-fire method for getting a job.

But I do have a suggestion on how to get your foot in the door for that crucial job interview. On your resume, write the following:

SHORT-TERM GOAL:

“To do my job so well that in a year my supervisor will receive a promotion and a raise.”

Trust me, this will work.

Good luck on your future, especially to those of you who added a self-inflicted extra semester or two to your debt load.

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