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Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Beyond Ramen

January 12. 2013 10:35PM

If you're looking for a job, the headlines can be rather dispiriting, just as they have been for the past four years.

"Tepid job growth fuels worry."

"For newly minted MBA's, a smaller paycheck awaits."

"Layoffs threaten law-firm partners."

And just a few nuggets from a couple of day's worth of recent Wall Street Journals: Neither a fresh MBA nor a paid-your-dues partnership in a law firm can protect you from the wrath of the downsized, nowhere-to-hide economy and the constant changes that are transforming global business and making nearly every decision a bottom-line decision.

Once being a newly minted grad meant your likelihood of securing a job was relatively strong. In today's market, you might have to accept an internship first to prove yourself to risk-averse employers, says Lauren Tanny, a leadership coach and executive consultant.

"It's harder because employers are still cautious about adding a head count," Tanny says. "You have to put up with the internship that stretches from three months to six months or have the patience to wait to go from going part time to full time."

And to reach that point, the prospective worker needs to convince the employer of his or her value to that bottom line.

"It's very important that people at any age position themselves: 'I know that I'm not going to get hired if I'm not contributing to the company more than I'm costing them,'" Tanny says.

Tanny, a Dartmouth College alumna who grew up in Laconia, is the co-author, with her husband, James Wood, of the newly released "From Ramen to Riches: Finding a Job in Your 20s." While the book is being marketed to young job seekers, its advice is universal.

"It really applies to just about anybody who is job searching, says Tanny, who is based in San Diego. She and Wood decided to focus on 20-somethings because they thought college students don't get enough training about the job search process before they graduate. (The book also continues the theme Wood branded in his first book, "From Ramen to Riches: Building Wealth in Your 20s.")

"We've done a disservice to people coming out of our education system," says Tanny, who adds that companies don't recruit at the level previous college students once experienced. "We felt there was a gap in knowledge and a place

? where we could really give back."

"From Ramen to Riches" guides readers through the traditional steps of the process, including chapters on career strategy, resume preparation, interviewing and negotiating, and how to get through those first few months on the job.

While young would-be professionals might know plenty about connecting with people via social media, they need to build a meaningful network of people who can vouch for them. Tanny suggests something twentysomethings might find totally uncool: Getting to know your parents' friends. Find people who have the kind of job you might want or work in an industry you want to learn more about.

"This is where your parents' friends actually become useful to you in life. You can't substitute for people who have known you all our life," Tanny says. "Someone who knows you and can vouch for you, that you're reliable and will do a good job."

And someone who can help you make the connections you need to have that HR person pluck your resume from the electronic pile to give it a look or grant you that informational interview you need to get your foot in the door.

Those contacts are more important than ever, especially for millennials, who have been hit hard as baby boomers battered by the recession stay in the work force longer. The overall unemployment rate for 18- to 29-year-olds in December was 11.5 perent, according to Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan group that tracks data for that age group.

While the idea of simply finding a good job might seem daunting enough, you still should strive to find work that is meaningful to you.

"When you are in scarcity, you're very conservative and you do things you think you should do rather than follow your heart," she says. "Passion will trump experience. Find what you really, really want to do."

Tanny once coached the son of a friend who had financial experience but found his previous job as an analyst for a biotech company deadly dull. He ultimately found a way use his financial acumen to move into sports marketing, a field that also allowed him to take advantage of his outgoing personality.

"What we love to do becomes easy," Tanny says. "You'll succeed because you really care about you're doing."

Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or

Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook

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