By J.T. O’Donnell
Setting aside the fact the current economy has eaten up tens of thousands of jobs, creating the worst job market for new college grads in decades, the truth remains that even if there were plenty of entry-level positions available, many of today’s grads would still feel at a disadvantage because they don’t know what they want to do.
At CAREEREALISM.com, we tell students this reality: College teaches you everything EXCEPT how to get the job. The diploma gets you to the career starting line, but what direction should you take to engage in a meaningful and successful career after school? As many college grads have learned, that’s up to you to figure out!
To further complicate things, determining what you want to do can be more than a little challenging when:
A) There are millions of career choices. And,
B) You have a degree in some general category with no special skill to market (i.e. history degree versus nursing degree)
Honestly, what do you do if the ‘traditional’ jobs related to your major aren’t of interest to you?
I suggest a new spin on an old tactic….
Years ago, young people ‘apprenticed’ under an experienced professional to gain insight into the business, to learn new skills, and to develop a network of connections they could leverage in the future. More recently, Donald Trump made the concept popular again with his hit reality show by the same name. And yet, while landing a spot on that show was probably as difficult as winning the lottery, there actually is a job recent grads can snag which provides all the benefits of being an apprentice – it even pays well too! In fact, this job also begins with an ‘a’ – it’s called being an ASSISTANT.
Professional assisting comes in all forms and is in needed in every field. Whatever your interests, you can find assistant positions that can put you in direct contact with an experienced individual in the field. So, how does one go about preparing themselves to land an assistant job? Well, I asked Ethan Bull, co-founder of Proassisting.com – an interactive assistant training site, to explain what it takes:
“To start, there are some things that can’t be taught but must be present in a good assistant. Work ethic is one. A desire to be efficient at all times is another. Those who don’t attack assignments with a sense of urgency also don’t do well. But, if you do have those traits, then it’s highly likely with a little training and access to the right resources, you can quickly become a top-level assistant and the right-hand person to a high-powered executive.”
As a veteran assistant himself, Ethan started out as a production assistant in film and quickly moved up the ranks, eventually earning a spot as an Agent Trainee for The William Morris Agency, also considered an assistant role within the corporate side of entertainment. Eventually, he landed the coveted role of assistant to the Chairman of USA Films.
Ethan says what’s great about being an assistant is that it can be a low-stress job, offering a high quality of life while giving the assistant an eagle-eye view of the company and industry they work in. In fact, he recognized the value of the skills he acquired as an assistant when he realized he was now able to move into different industries with ease:
“I wanted to be able to focus on my filmmaking pursuits outside of the office (writing and directing). I realized I could make more money and have my nights and weekends free by working as an assistant for marketing and advertising companies. This gave me that freedom and paid enough for a decent standard of living in the very expensive city of New York, which I love. I was able to make the transition because I have valuable assisting skills that are needed in many industries.”
In fact, that’s when Ethan realized there was a need for an assistant training program. He and his wife (also an assistant in the finance field) realized they could pull together their combined knowledge and resources (over 20 years worth) to create an internet-based program that would help college grads successfully launch either assisting careers or use the position of being an assistant to work in a field they’re passionate about and then get promoted from within into their chosen career. You can check them out here: http://www.proassisting.com, where they have a blog with free resources to help job seekers learn more about becoming a professional assistant.
For those of you who have the diploma, but no direction, I strongly suggest considering a position as an assistant as a first step in your career. In spite of the bad economy, opportunities do await those who are willing to apprentice!