Job Search Advice for New Graduates

Congratulations! You’ve graduated but now what are you going to do? The clock is ticking on your student loans and mom and dad keep asking you about your job prospects. What is a new graduate to do? Finding a full-time job needs to be your primary focus and priority. Resist the urge to perfect your tan or spend the summer travelling. Finding a job can be a full-time job in itself so you need to get focused and get started. Here are some suggestions:

Create a plan – You need to define your goals and a specific plan of how you plan to achieve them. You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going. Assess your skills, strengths and interests. Think about the type of work you enjoyed on internships, part-time jobs or even on campus. Document your plan and measure your progress against it. Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable. Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.

Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags. As you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools. Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go? Have someone else proof it for you just to be sure there are no typos or errors. Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback. Having the right tools won’t get you a job but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

Prepare references – Think about who you could use for references and collect their current contact information. Ask their permission to use them as references and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job.

Develop a Target list – What companies are you most interested in working for? What industries are of greatest interest to you? Start your list with your current preferences and then begin your research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and need your skill sets. With a variety of online tools you can do significant research into these companies to prepare you for networking meetings and interviews. Your target list will help guide your job search efforts. Do your research on which companies have opportunities in your field and who has been hiring.

Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80% of all jobs are filled through networking. Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response to a single posting. To stand out and be noticed you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager. Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.

Networking is NOT asking for a job. It is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value, etc. Networking involves a significant amount of listening. Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies. Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies? What about former co-workers or classmates? Sign up for the alumni network at your school and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts. Most people will give a fellow alum a few minutes if asked. Sign up for LinkedIn and identify contacts there as well.

Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts. Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company. Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week. It does make a difference.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – When you are invited in for an interview be sure you thoroughly prepare. Utilize your career services office to help you prepare for interviews. Ask for a mock interview with feedback. Research the company thoroughly. Prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers. Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming well prepared.

Always say thank you – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note. Stand out from the crowd. If the time frame is quick, send an email thank you but still send a handwritten note. It can break the tie between two finalists.

If you need to work part-time – Maybe you don’t have the luxury of dedicating yourself full time to your job search. If you need to work part-time or on a temporary basis, be extremely selective. Think about skills that you need to develop and focus on a job that helps you develop or refine those skills. Look for ways to gain exposure to an industry or company of interest by taking a temporary or part-time position to gain experience and visibility. The enhanced skills and experience will help you further your job search instead of only putting money in your pocket. If your goal is to work in an office, try to find office experience rather than becoming a store cashier or a waiter. Focus on transferable skills.

Add value to your resume, volunteer – Can you volunteer a few hours a week to add value to your resume? A non-profit may be happy to help you gain some much needed experience while they gain coverage for summer vacations, etc. Find an organization you care about and explore opportunities to help. You can gain office, finance, marketing, sales, communications, technology or other experience while helping them address a critical need in their organizations. Not only does this add value to your resume, it also shows the employer that you care about giving back and that you showed initiative and creativity in gaining some experience.

Protect Your Social Media Presence – Some potential employers will check out applicants online before making an offer. Be careful of photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about. Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success. Be careful with your security settings.

So, plan your journey. Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search. Enjoy the interesting people you meet along the way and all you will learn about different companies, functions and roles.

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Reneging on an Offer

You survived the interview process, the company made you an offer and you accepted.  Now you hear from another company interested in hiring you and you want to drop the first offer and take the second one.  What is a job seeker to do?

Consider the impact.  Your word is your reputation and the manifestation of your integrity.  The first company has notified their other candidates that they were not selected and they are busy planning for your first day.  After telling them how excited you were about this opportunity, can you really call them and say you changed your mind?

The world is very flat these days.  You do not know where you might cross paths with that hiring manager or recruiter again but your reputation would precede you.  They would certainly not rush to take your word in the future.

Reneging on an offer also sends a message that you don’t really know what you want.

Before reneging on an offer, be sure you fully consider all the implications.  If you do renege let the first company know as soon as possible and be completely professional about it.  Do your best to maintain the positive relationship.  Be sure offer two is truly the offer you can’t refuse before taking the hit to your reputation.

When Not to Negotiate Salary

Candidates often assume that they should always attempt to negotiate salary but that is often not the case.  Here are examples of times you should definitely not attempt to negotiate salary with your new employer.

You’ve Already Said “Yes”

After a long job search and multiple rounds of interviews, the call comes with an offer.  It is a great opportunity at a company you admire and respect.  In your excitement you immediately say yes.    While you are excited you begin to doubt yourself.  Should you have asked for me?  How high would they have gone?  What about all those expenses you weren’t considering?  Once you accept the offer presented, it is game over.  You forfeited your opportunity to negotiate when you accepted on the spot.  Do not damage the relationship by trying to go back to the well after you have already accepted.

Their “Best Offer” is on the Table

The new team really wants you on board and they know your expectations are at the top of their range.  Often they will push hard for internal approval first for the highest salary they can get.  They truly don’t want to scare you away with a low ball offer.  They are trying to offer the very best they can.  When they tell you, “we really want you on our team and have put our best offer together,” pay attention.  They have done the best they can.  There is nothing to be gained by pushing for more.  If they are being that direct, they are sending you a clear message.  If you want the job, that is what they can pay you.  Don’t push harder.  It can cause bad feelings.  It is still ok to think about it for 24 hours but this is not the time to negotiate.

Research Supports the Offer

Sometimes they really are offering you the appropriate salary, based on industry, experience, geography, etc.  Do your research in advance to know what to expect.  If you are presented a great offer, say thank you!  Resist the urge to negotiate for the sake of negotiating.

While it is important for candidates to be fairly paid, always keep the big picture in mind.  Don’t walk away from an awesome career opportunity for the sake of a couple thousand dollars.  Know what your floor is in order to live comfortably and find the best fit in role and company.  In the long run, you will be more successful in a job you love.

Don’t Say “Yes” Immediately

Looking for a job is hard work.  It takes a lot of time.  Between informational interviews, networking events, resume updates, customized cover letter and then multiple rounds of interviews, you have invested a significant amount of time and energy.  It is understandable that the excitement peaks when the call comes with an offer.

It is great to be excited but do not accept immediately.  Thank the caller for the offer.  Let them know you are very interested (if you are) and ask for at least 24 hours to review the details.  This is a significant next step in your career and you want to make an informed decision.

First of all, accepting immediately eliminates any option of negotiation.  You may or may not want to negotiate but review all the details before rushing to yes.  Once you close that door, you can’t open it again.  Use the time to identify any outstanding questions and be sure to get answers before you accept the offer.  If you need time off for an upcoming family wedding or some other pre-planned event, this is the time to get that on the table.

Be sure to follow-up within the time you agreed upon with the recruiter.  Hiring managers will respect the fact that you are taking this seriously and are making an informed decision.

Can I Lie or Stretch the Truth?

Often very strong, talented candidates have a skeleton in their closets and they worry this will haunt their job search.  Maybe they were arrested for DUI, made a regrettable mistake while in college or any of a number of things in life that we wish we could do over.

It is only natural to wish to hide these incidents from a future employer but that could cause significantly more harm than good.  In this day and age, background checks are a routine aspect of most hiring processes.  It is highly likely that someone will run a background check.  If you stated on your application that you have never been arrested and then it shows up on the background report that you were arrested, you are done.  You have proven to the company that you are not a person of integrity and most likely you will not be hired.

If you had disclosed the arrest and it showed up on the report, they would realize that you own your mistakes and that you tell the truth even when it is uncomfortable to do so.  I have seen repeated instances where the incident is not the problem in a job search but the lack of honesty.  Employers are looking to hire honest employees with integrity so be sure to be completely honest in your applications.  If you are unsure what a background report would show, it is worth paying to have a report run yourself to ensure that you are addressing all possible issues and concerns.

Indeed, honesty is the best policy.

How to Successfully Find a Job in 2017

Gone are the days of waiting for the fat employment section in the Sunday paper each week but no one really misses those days.  That was not an efficient way to find a job.  What is frustrating as a Career Advisor is to see students not properly leveraging the outstanding tools available to help them find their next career step in 2017.

Job seekers who are stuck behind their computers submitting online applications are not likely to be successful.  Their application is a needle in the haystack.  Submitting an online application and then trying to find an insider contact is also not a recipe for success.  People will quickly realize that you are only using them to advance your application.

You must follow the process to conduct a success search.

Develop Your Target List – Think about what you want to do.  What skills and experience qualify you for this position?  In what industry do you hope to work?  Where in the world do you hope to work?  What functional role are you seeking?  What do you need in terms of company culture and values?  Start drafting a list of companies for whom you would love to work.

Informational Interviews – Leverage your various alumni, family and friends and former colleagues’ networks to identify contacts who work in your target companies.  Set up informational interviews to learn more about the company and your area of interest.  What is the hiring process like?  How does the company support their employees?  What does the person like about working there?  What would they change if they could?  You will likely learn things you like and things you don’t.

Continually Refine the List – Based on what you learn in your informational interviews, continue to refine your target list.  Some companies or types of roles will fall off the list and you will learn about new companies to explore further.  Continue to build and refine your list as you continue to conduct informational interviews.

Build Networks within Your Target Companies Throughout this process you are building relationships with people who work in your target companies.  Keep detailed records of your contacts.  Be sure to thank them for spending time with you and helping you learn.

Identify Opportunities – Once you have your target companies updated and your network in place, you are ready to start exploring opportunities.  When you see an opportunity at a target company, reach out to your contact to see what insight they can share.  Ask if they would be willing to pass your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager.  Maybe they can submit it in their employee referral program.  Having an internal advocate moves your resume to the short pile instead of the mountain that arrives blindly online.  This is a huge advantage.  Your internal advocate can also share additional insight and perspective to help you prepare for the interview.

If you think you can shorten your process by applying to online applications all day, you will be seriously disappointed.  Invest the time in researching, learning and building your network and you will significantly increase your success.

Are You Sabotaging Your Job Search?

You would expect job seekers to be doing everything possible to put their best foot forward in their job searches; however that is often not the case.  Here are things job seekers are doing that frustrate and annoy hiring managers and result in the candidate not getting an offer.  Job seekers need to differentiate themselves from the many others seeking the same positions.

With large number of applications received online, hiring managers are looking for easy reasons to whittle down the number of resumes they want to seriously review.  Many candidates are making basic errors to sabotage their own job search efforts.  How can you avoid a quick trip to the “no pile”?

Don’t Follow Directions —If you can’t follow the directions in the hiring process, what makes an employer believe you will be able to follow directions on the job?  If it asks you to attach a resume, do it.  If it asks for references, provide them.  Demonstrate that you are prepared and capable of following directions.

Make Errors – Hiring managers have little patience when you attach the wrong cover letter indicating your interest in a different job at a different organization.  They are not impressed with your lack of attention to detail.  Blatant typos or grammatical errors also demonstrate poor attention to detail and land that letter and resume in the reject pile immediately.  Do not send me your resume or cover letter in edit mode so hiring managers can see the changes you made.  What takes the cake is when the error is I in the sentence claiming your attention to detail.

Don’t Show Your Lack of Effort —Form letters are easy to spot.  If you are not interested enough in the job to customize a letter, most hiring managers are not interested in you either.  Don’t assume you know what the job responsibilities are based on the title.  Read the job description and refer to the job accurately in your cover letter.  Go online and check the website.  Demonstrate that you took some initiative and learned something about us.  Try to find the hiring manager on the website if it is not mentioned in the posting.  Show some initiative rather than sending yet another letter to Dear Hiring Manager.

Don’t Cause Me Extra Work to Consider You —Many applicants don’t bother with a cover letter if it doesn’t indicate that it is required.  They often feel their resume is all that is needed and that their experience speaks for itself.  Guess again.  Don’t make the hiring manager try to understand how your experience relates to what they are looking for.  Don’t expect them to figure out what it is you really want to do next and why.  Write a customized cover letter to address what the hiring manager is looking for and how your experience fits their needs.

It is NOT All About You – Don’t make the hiring manager count the “I”’s instead of reading the content of your cover letter.  First of all, it is not a good example of strong business writing to start nearly every sentence with I.  More importantly, it is not all about you.  The hiring manager has a business need to fill.  Your letter should demonstrate how you can help them address that need.  It shouldn’t be a summary of your resume or a dissertation on what you really want or need.

Don’t Act Desperate –While it can be very frustrating to be unemployed for a long time and that you are worried about making your next rent payment, that isn’t a reason for them to hire you.  Acting desperate makes them think you just want any job and that you’ll leave as soon as the job market improves.  While managers may respect your personal issues, they are not going to influence their decision and really have no part in the interview discussion.

Don’t Skip Your Homework —Information is available at your fingertips via the internet.  There is absolutely no excuse for not doing your research.  Learn about the company or organization.  Know what they do and who their customers are.  See what you can learn about the department you will be interviewing with and you can also learn about the person interviewing you.  Don’t come in and waste the hiring manager’s time by asking what the company does.

Don’t Ignore the Hiring Manager —If they go through the mountain of applications and identify a few for phone screens, you should be flattered and then step your preparations into high gear.  Don’t ignore a request.  Don’t wait more than 24 hours to respond.  Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm by being responsive.  Your lack of response will be interpreted as a lack of interst.

Don’t Forget to say Thank You —This is the easiest way to stand out from the competition.  Say thank you to everyone who interviews you.  Send a quick email thank you and follow it up with a handwritten thank you note.  Personalize each note to reference something specific you discussed.  This is a great opportunity to reaffirm your interest.

An Interview Invitation Doesn’t Mean You Got the Job –Hiring managers do not interview just one person.  Don’t assume that when you are invited to interview that you have the job.  Leave the cocky attitude at the door.  It has no place in an interview.

Don’t Forget to Network —If you claim to be so passionate about this organization or this role, who have you talked to who works there or in a similar organization?  Who have you talked to in order to learn more about this role?  Demonstrate your interest by showing initiative.

Absolutely Don’t Blow Them Off —If you have an interview scheduled, either in person or by phone, you are expected to keep it.  If for ANY reason you are not able to do so, you should call with as much advance notice as possible to notify the interviewer and ask for an opportunity to reschedule.  If you are not available for the scheduled appointment and they don’t hear from you at all until three days later, you have convinced them that you do not have the customer service skills or common courtesy to work in their department.

While it seems obvious that these are things to avoid in your job search, many job seekers are regularly sabotaging their own search efforts.  Pay attention to the details to ensure success in your search.

Unfortunately people desperate for a job think that sending more resumes to online postings increases their chances of getting a job.  It doesn’t make a difference and they are being careless in the process which hurts them further.  They need to demonstrate attention to detail and they need to network like crazy.  Your behavior throughout the process is an indication of how you are likely to behave and perform on the job.  Be sure you are putting your best foot forward.