Newbie Job Hunter

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m fresh home after traveling for nine months, a year after graduating
college with a marketable:not! History and Women’s Studies major.
My mother generously said I can live with her until I find work. I
worked for her last summer, helping in her law office and doing home
interviews for foster children and custodial parents. My only other work
experience is a volunteer stint at a mediation center, and working
weekends at a farmers’ market food booth. I started at 16 as a fry
cook and am now crew chief. But I want an office job, preferably one
that will interest me, challenge me, and pay me enough to feed and
house me somewhere other than my mom’s. How can I compete in
this job market?
Newbie Job Hunter

Dear Newbie:
Get the newbie label out of your head. You’ve been working since 16.
To many employers that’s a huge advantage. More folks than you
think might be willing to hire a recent grad instead of a long-in- the-
tooth experienced worker, who’s available but desperately looking for
something they’re overqualified for, and who might leave them sooner
if a better gig becomes available. Yes many employers will assume
they can hire someone new to the job market more cheaply. But it’s
big plusses to hire a worker who’s been honed by a different employer,
who knows the difference between copier toner and yesterday’s coffee,
and who’s demonstrated “progressively responsible experience” in a
fast pressure situation.

Sell your work ethic, your versatility, and the fact that you will do
virtually anything to please your prospective boss. Organize your
resume to sell your skills. Make sure that in the roughly 5-10 seconds
you have to make a good impression, that you do so. Sorry, that’s the
sad truth. One typo or grammatical error is what stands between you
and the “don’t bother” pile. Have a clear, bold, left justified font that
sells experience, education, and computer skills. In your cover letter
stress that you’re happily back in your hometown, ready to settle
down, and that your goal is to make everyone in the office glad that
they chose you for the job. Write me again if you get an interview. You
may feel like a butt-kisser, but better being seen as a suck-up than
too young and brash.