Because you’re new grads, not New Slaves.
Yeezus came out mid 2013, the same year I and many others graduated from the University of Guelph in an Honours Nutrition program. This is around the same time I realized that I wanted to be in a much more creative role and apply to design companies and writing positions. *insert fire emojis here*
But honestly, that year was effing tough.
Inter?Sorry, you need 5 years experience for this role?rejection.
Little known fact: It took 17 interviews to get to the position I have now.
What’s worse is that a lot of grads are still struggling to get their foot in the door, working part-time jobs or are unemployed entirely, even though this generation is hands down the most talented, promising and innovative. Period. And as frustrated as I was, one thing spoke to me as a grad unlike anything else: That thing was Kanye West, Yeezus, and this:
Fashion, language and antics aside, the one thing we can all identify with is the idea of breaking a glass ceiling, and the frustration involved. Kanye’s interview and Yeezus were all about that frustration of being marginalized. It’s the same frustration every grad feels, and the same feeling of marginalization anyone has trying to do something outside of their degree. I mean really, it’s a lot like dating if you think about it. Drawing some parallels?
As a new grad, taking from Kanye’s innovative and quirky approach can help you stand out from the rest of the fish in the unemployment barrel and be a shark. A shark who often wears all black and doesn’t smile for photos, but hey, a shark nonetheless.
Here are four examples from Yeezy’s career that provide invaluable lessons for new grads, and give you a better chance of landing interviews and/or employment in your field.
3 beats a day, 5 days a week
When Kanye was 14, Donda (his mother) introduced him to No I.D., a Chi-town producer and MPC enthusiast who went on to be Ye’s mentor for production and sampling in his younger days. It’s here that he developed his signature sound that involved sampling old soul records and speeding up the BPM.
In the early 2000’s, Kanye did production for Ludacris, Beanie Sigel and Alicia Keys, but before that he was doing “3 beats a day, 5 days a week” with minimal equipment in his basement for local Chicago emcees, and whoever else would provide the $$$.
Lesson: It’s that type of work ethic you need as a new grad. There is considerable strength in numbers, so try and make a goal of sending out 2 resumes per day, 5 days a week. And don’t just wait for postings, directly email or call companies you want to work for. Keep track, too. Make a list of companies you see yourself in, and check them off as you apply. And speaking of minimal equipment…
Do follow up with those companies! You significantly increase your odds and stand out as an applicant by doing so! Put some numbers on the board, and the calls will come.
“You’re just a producer.”
Let’s get one thing straight: You. Are. Not. Your. Degree. That BA, the BSc, that BComm?it’s just a piece of paper. That’s not what you worked for for however many years.
What you are is a complex amalgamation of all of your experience, quirks and skills. That time you taught at a dance studio? Relevant to your ability to command a room. That blog you run? That’s design, content, coding and more to add to your portfolio (which you should have if you’re in a creative field, or want to get into one).
If that BBC Interview with Kanye and Zane Lowe in 2013 taught us anything, it’s that marginalization sucks. Whether that’s Kanye being told that he’s just a rapper, just a producer and can’t be in the design field, or you being told that you can’t do anything outside of your degree:
Do the work. Embellish on your skills, experiences and competencies, and everything in your past experience that is relevant towards your future goals.
Lesson: For starters, every bullet point (yes, bullet points?employers are skimming through your resume) should start with an action word, and one that describes your relevant experiences.
Don’t simply list a position, a degree or certification. Do reveal what skills came out of it?they’re always transferable!
For years in the 2000’s, Kanye produced for the likes of Common, Nas, and most notably Jay-Z on his early Blueprint albums under Roc’ A Fella Records. When Kanye tried rapping, Damon Dash laughed him out of the room and told him he’d always be a producer.
Well, I guess we know how that went. HAAAAAAAH?
You can always do a 180 and transfer fields?it will be significantly harder than having a degree in said field, but it’s possible. Start with your resume, internships and volunteer positions, and embellish on experience from work and all that is relevant in your past. Blogs, school projects, whatever gave you experience you can work with. Bottom line: make your own opportunities. Aside from Ye’, Humans of New York is a great example of that.
New Slaves Campaign
On May 13th, 2013, Kanye proved himself to be an innovator when it came to album launches. Worldwide, Ye’ projected an eerie video for his debut track, “New Slaves” on 66 buildings throughout the night.
For a mainstream artist to take that approach on a new album with virtually no other advertising was a pretty gutsy move, which leads to the single most important point of this article:
Be an innovator as a new grad. Do things differently. Network differently?call CEO’s directly, write handwritten letters to creative directors with your resume attached. Get heard!
Lesson: Go big. It’s a high risk-reward situation, but otherwise you’re a grad aimlessly sending resumes online in the dark, only to be dismissed by HR department screening processes.
Kanye’s still making drastic moves to this day. From the whole Beck thing at the Grammy’s to his live performance of “ALL DAY“, his methods are controversial but they ensure that he’s part of the conversation, all the time.
MBDTF – Film, Visuals, Creative Direction
I think it’s safe to say that Kanye’s 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was nothing short of a masterpiece. As an interesting tidbit in Yeezy’s latest lecture at Oxford, he even highlights MBDTF as the greatest album of the past 25 years (and that Nicki Minaj was quite the standout on “Monster”). If the sonic landscape of MBDTF wasn’t enough to convince you of that, then hopefully the associated film would.
In the same sense, your resume, cover letters, LinkedIn profile and more need to be optimized with the best damn content possible. Masterpieces, at that. Be sure to have resumes that look great, period. Obviously content is important, but the average employer spends about 15-20 second glancing over a resume. That being the case, be sure to format resumes accordingly by making use of the proper fonts, themes and lines.
And like MBDTF with all its interchangeable album art, accompanying film and fine instrumentation, your job-hunting approach should be similar with resumes tailored towards specific fields, cover letters and alternative approaches through LinkedIn and even social media platforms. Employers are ultimately real people with real feelings, real interests and sensibilities. Play towards those while hunting and during interviews.
After all these experiences, frustrations and being kept under a glass ceiling in terms of fashion, Kanye is finally making strides, made clear by his partnering with Adidas, the release of the Yeezy Boost and the stunning (albeit controversial) Yeezy Season I. All while still killing it on the music tip. ALL DAY.
Long story short, do not be marginalized as a new graduate. Keep fighting, be unorthodox and break through that ceiling. But don’t stop once you do that, because life has plenty more ceilings to break through along the way.
Featured image via Daniel Pham