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.