Young Professionals Need To Network In NH Job Market

By Alex LaCasse Portsmouth Herald, N.H.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Can New Hampshire be a prosperous place for young professionals who may have their sights set on more glitzy and popular metropolitan hubs?

HAMPTON

Career development professionals call it the "Business of One."

It is the need for any professional to understand how to grow their personal brand and showcase their strengths in a way to suit his or her potential employer, according to Ariella Coombs, director of content strategy and career coach at Work It Daily, a web-based professional-development firm based in Hampton.

Coombs said young professionals need to demonstrate these strengths in a way that resonates with employers is especially true for young professionals entering an ever-changing labor market that requires skill, savvy and experience.

"It's your job to market what the problem you solve is and then articulate to the employer how you're going to solve it," Coombs said. "And if you can't do that they are not going to see your potential."

Young professionals and the economy are timely topics with the fourth annual 10 to Watch contest honoring Seacoast young professionals set to announce its award winners May 24 at 3S Artspace. Coombs, 26, is a board member for Catapult Seacoast, the local young professionals network, which is running the contest in partnership with Seacoast Media Group.

The contest offers many opportunities to network.

"Networking is so important," Coombs said. "You have to get your foot in the door and make those connections with people who work in the company and articulating what problem you are going to solve."

Coombs said the companies look to hire employees on the basis of personality, aptitude and experience in that order. Keeping this in mind could help serve young professionals trying to land an entry-level position in a field they are interested in but may not have the two to three years of experience the company desires in a candidate, according to Coombs.

"If you can show them you are likeable and people get along with you, you have the natural ability to do the job, and if you really sell them on those two things then experience is less required in some cases," she said. "But you also need to get creative and find out ways to get that experience whether it's getting a part time job, volunteering or working a 'side hustle.'"

However, the $25,000 question is, can New Hampshire be a prosperous place for young professionals who may have their sights set on more glitzy and popular metropolitan hubs and are there enough of them with the skills to match what the state's employers need?

According to the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, New Hampshire's median population age is 41.8 years old, and it is the third-fastest aging state. The NHPPS also projects New Hampshire's working age population from ages 20 to 64 is expected to decline over the next 20 years from approximately 800,000 to less than 750,000. Presently, New Hampshire has the third lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, labor force growth at .5 percent in the state since the year 2000 has lagged behind the national average of .7 percent, according to PolEcon a Dover-based economic research firm. Nationally, PolEcon estimates labor force growth will continue to decrease to .4 percent by the year 2040 and New Hampshire's labor force continue to grow at a smaller rate over the same time.

From the mid-1970s to 1990 New Hampshire's labor market growth rate of 3.5 percent outpaced the national average of 1.2 percent, and again from 1990 to 2000, New Hampshire bested the nation at 1.4 percent growth to 1.2 percent growth respectively. Gottlob said this was due to the migration of many Massachusetts residents choosing to work and live in New Hampshire because of lower taxes.

According to a recent study by JP Morgan Chase, 45 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed. PolEcon Director Brian Gottlob partially attributes this slow growth to a public education system just now transforming to a competency-based or proficiency-based system.

For the better part of a century success in school was measured by how many students sought and obtained four-year bachelor's degrees, he said, but many graduates did not possess narrowly tailored skills that align with the good-paying jobs employers need filled, such as coding, welding and other specialized trades.

"What we're seeing is simply the quality jobs that are available are jobs that require having a specialized skill set, so we may be entering a period where the four-year degree is not the best path to a steady occupation, and for the cost of a four-year education it may not be the best return in the long run," Gottlob said. "This shift to competency-based learning makes the objective a continuation of learning. The academic track is not for everyone so for the students who aren't pursuing higher education let's steer them to the direction of becoming electricians and into the computer science field."

Samantha Goodwin of Portsmouth is finishing her volunteer year with AmeriCorps at New Heights in Portsmouth. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor's degree in psychology and justice studies in 2013. She said she would prefer to launch her career in New Hampshire but is not sure there are as many opportunities here as there are in other parts of the country. She said she is participating in Leadership Seacoast, a nonprofit organization that encourages community education and local participation in wide-ranging topics, to network with other professionals and increase her chances of being hired for an entry-level job in a field she is passionate about.

"A huge problem for recent college grads with a liberal arts degree is it's really hard to find a job that will pay more than $32,000 a year at best," Goodwin said. "You can teach me anything and I'll do it and I'll work as hard as I can for you even though my background is not in marketing, business or something very specific. So unless you know someone, it's hard to put yourself in a position to be in front of those employers where you can showcase your skills and personality."

Kate Luczko, director of Stay Work Play New Hampshire, is working to give young entrepreneurs the tools they need to start a business and help encourage young people to consider staying in the state to start their careers.

"There's this mindset here in New Hampshire that the only way to be successful is to leave the state and become successful somewhere else," Luczko said. "We have the highest student debt in the country. This creates a barrier of students wanting to take a chance of starting their careers here because they think they can land a better paying job in Boston or another city."

Gottlob said the trend of young people leaving New Hampshire for college and to pursue a career is nothing new. He said New Hampshire and other rural states lose their young people at more or less the same rate.

"Policy makers look at New Hampshire like it is monolithic and they see the exodus of young people like it's a statewide problem," Gottlob said. "The reality is there are certain parts of the state like Newmarket, Dover and Portsmouth on the Seacoast that are really attractive to young people. These towns all have high quality rental properties, amenities where young people can walk to and socialize at, and they can work and live all in the same town."

See all 108 contestants in the 2017 10 to Watch contest and learn more at seacoastonline.com/10toWatch.

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