Graduation season is upon us once again and many new college graduates are facing what could be the most challenging assignment so far…..Finding Work. In a recent survey conducted between February and April of 31,470 students from over 400 colleges and universities by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, just 25% of students who had applied for a job before graduation had secured one. (Wall Street Journal). The challenge for new grads seeking that first job is nothing new; but in today’s economy it warrants a well conceived plan to be successful.
10 Job Search Tips for New College Grads:
1. Don’t Get Fixated on the Perfect First Job. Remember, the economy still has a grip on unemployment. So you will need to remain flexible. Lindsay Pollack, author of ‘Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World’, and recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, says “I see a lot of students who are taking whatever they are offered so they are employed.” And these jobs may not be related to their careers. However, she goes on to say, “I think there will be a lot of understanding in the market about where the people were from 2008 to 2010 because of the recession.” So, what does this mean for the new grad job seeker? Maybe that first job is not in your chosen field. Maybe it is part time job or even an unpaid internship where you can get your foot in the door.
2. Get Organized and Have a Plan for Your Job Search. Set up a filing system in Word on your computer where you can organize the companies you have applied to, job postings, resumes sent, etc. It is critical that you be able to easily access information when an employer calls you for a telephone interview. Believe me, there is nothing more frustrating to be caught off guard when an employer calls you and you don’t have a clue as to who they are.
3. Network with Friends and Family. Don’t rely exclusively on job boards, career fairs etc. A lot of young adults I coach are hesitant to use their family connections for that first job. My advice to you is ‘get over it’. Networking is a proven tool to access the hidden job market which makes up 80% of jobs filled every year. Your closest circle of contacts for potential employers starts with the friends of your parents. Remember the”1:50 Principal”. Everyone knows at least 50 other people from various parts of their life who could lead you to that career opportunity. For a detailed discussion on networking, see my April Newsletter,’ Career Splash’ at www.thirdwavecareercoaching.com. Don’t be shy about your job search intentions. Get the word out there to everyone you know!
4. Use Social Media with Care. Beware of digital dirt. If you have a My Space or Facebook account remember that employers use these internet tools frequently to conduct background checks on potential candidates. So you either need to restrict access on these accounts to those you invite into your network or clean up your profile.
5. Have a Clear Career Objective. It is absolutely essential that you know what your career objective is and be able to articulate it in your resume, cover letter and during the job interview. Remember, it is not the employer’s responsibility to figure out what you want to do. If you leave it up to them, you have just missed out on a potential job opportunity.
6. Get References in Advance. Obtain references from your college professors, intern, summer job or other part time job bosses. Contact friends who know you well and can provide a character reference. These can easily be stored electronically on a flash drive which you can take with you to an interview.
7. Customize your Resume. Resumes should be customized for each job. Refer to the job description or job posting and pick out key words to use in your resume. Your resume should reflect pertinent skills, education and experience (paid or unpaid) relative to the job description specifications. Remember, one size does not fit all when you are crafting your resume. The goal of the resume is to get you an interview and therefore it needs to be tailored to the job.
8. Include a Cover Letter. The cover letter should: Be addressed to a specific person; state what position you are applying for; and include a few sentences as to why you are the most qualified person for the job. ( i.e. how you can solve the employer’s problems) Close the letter with a proactive statement saying you will contact the employer to set up an interview. Be sure you follow up as promised. Have a friend or relative review the letter for spelling and grammar. If you are emailing it, send it to yourself first to check for formatting errors. Remember, a cover letter provides you another chance to strut your stuff so include key words and accomplishments.
9. Prepare for Your Interview – While this may seem academic, the fact is, many people do not know how to properly prepare for an interview. First, you must be familiar with the company you will be interviewing with. Review their website to understand what markets they serve; who their biggest competitors are; and current products or services they offer; financial history etc. Check Linkedin for profiles of the individuals you will be meeting with. (Note: Company profiles on Linkedin often include profiles of ‘recent hires’. This is an excellent way to identify the qualifications of employees who may have been hired for a similar job you are applying for.) Review the job description or job posting carefully. Most important, think of how you can convince the employer that you are the most qualified person to solve their problem(s). For instance, if you are applying for an entry level sales job and you know from your research the company’s market share is less than some of their competitors, be prepared to share examples of where you were able to succeed or overcome some adversity either in school or as part of an internship or summer job. The point is, you want to convey to the employer that you are a problem solver and can help the organization become more profitable.
10. Ace the Interview – Many of my coaching clients ask me how they can get over being nervous in the interview. I tell them to treat the interview as a conversation. This will happen if you are prepared and have gone through the steps in No. 9 above. You must be able to convey to the employer that you are not only the most qualified candidate but you are someone they can connect with on an interpersonal level. The interview is not only about communicating your technical skills and accomplishments, it is also about chemistry and building rapport with the other person. Next, you need to demonstrate through your interview answers how you can solve the employer’s problems. Remember, the interview is not about you as much as it is about the employer and how you can help them solve a business problem. Finally, show sincere interest in the job and the company and ask intelligent questions which tell the employer you understand their business and that you want to be a part of their team. Be aware of your body language at all times. Sit upright in your seat and make eye contact with the interviewer.
Good luck in your job search!