Job search advice for new graduates

We’re hearing from a number of December graduates, and we welcome you to the working world! As many colleges and universities have limited capacity for preparing their graduates for job search, we’re always happy to give advice for how to conduct an effective search. Here’s the best of what we know.

Be clear what kind of position you are seeking. Do your homework, reading job descriptions online to figure out what job titles align with your strengths and what you want to be doing. Have a clear answer when someone asks you, “What kind of job are you looking for?”

Make sure that your resume and LinkedIn profile align with the positions you are targeting. If the key words in your documentation don’t support your objective, then you likely won’t make it through to a first screening or interview.

Don’t rely 100% on job postings. There are many jobs that don’t get posted until late in the process (when finalists have already been selected, but the employer needs to demonstrate public posting), or sometimes not at all. You need to be in the talent pipeline of all the places you might be interested in working, and that requires proactive submission of your resume and cover letter to hiring managers, HR representatives, and talent recruiters.

Leverage your contacts from your internships. If you’ve had an internship or two, the contacts you made in them are some of your biggest assets. They can give you recommendations and further contacts. If you didn’t have an internship during your college career, you can look for a post-graduate internship (or create your own by making a proposal to a potential employer). That looks just as good on your resume and creates the same kinds of contacts and fans.

Get out of the house and talk to people. Go to networking events or professional association or club meetings – such as the local chapters of professional associations in your industry – many of those people in attendance are hiring managers, and all of them will be eager to help you. In many cases your peer-level competitors for jobs won’t be doing this, and you can meet people who will be valuable contacts, who can make suggestions and refer you to others, and in some cases they may even know who’s getting ready to make an entry-level hire.

Keep a record of the contacts you’re making, so that you can retrieve that information and follow up later. Some of the people you meet or talk to now will be desirable contacts for the future, and starting your professional contact database now will pay dividends in the future.

Practice your phone and interviewing skills. The ability to have a live conversation on the phone and leave a professional-sounding voicemail message is desired by hiring managers and will set you apart from your competition. And of course, confidence, poise, and clear self-expression win the day in an interview.

Have realistic expectations. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get your dream job immediately. You may need a “starter job” to build some skills, track record, and reputation in order to move toward the one you really want. And remember that there’s a large population of new graduates (even in December), and if you haven’t been recruited in a competitive category (like accounting or engineering), you may need to be willing to start at the very bottom, salary-wise. This will not be intended to offend you or cause you hardship, but rather it’s a function of supply and demand. If you’re good, the rewards will come quickly enough, as you will be valued and they’ll want to keep you – or, someone else will scout you for a new opportunity.

Your first full-time job is a milestone, and these tips will help you not only get hired as quickly as possible, but also to begin to build your profile and professional network for the future. Good luck and best wishes!

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