Advice for College Seniors and Juniors As I Graduate.

In October, when I mentioned that I’m starting my job search, my alum friend Jennifer replied, “May the force be with you. I spent 8 months trying to find a job.” At first, I didn’t take her fateful words seriously because I figured that a job search couldn’t be that hard.

Well.
Despite having a strong resume and doing all the things listed below (and then some), I am like millions of other job seekers who have encountered painstaking difficulty with landing a job in this recession. In the last several months, I learned a lot of valuable information from all the career experts (my dad was a recruiter), books, and first-hand experience. Since I’m done with college now, I need to share the knowledge in hopes that your job search may be a bit more bearable.

If you aspire to work upon graduation, remember to:

1. Network.
If you don’t know what that means, you better ask somebody. Then build a profile on LinkedIn.com to get you started. About 70% of job seekers find employment through a connection. Also sign up for more organizations in your prospective career field to meet more people. Now is the time to ignore your parents’ advice to “never talk to strangers”, as their network may lead you to shiny new opportunities.

2. If you study most of the time, hit PAUSE and acquire more work experience!
If you can’t find someone to pay you, then volunteer or do an unpaid internship. I gained some my most valuable work experience by stepping up to help publicize projects I was already involved in. Employers want to see proof of results and what you can bring to their company. Unlike college admissions officers, many employers don’t ask about our transcripts, or care about our A’s. Sorry.

3. Start your job search way before you graduate.
I recommend at the beginning of your final semester. It will likely require at least a couple months to research and secure a job. This includes researching companies, exploring potential careers, doing informational interviews, as well as networking. Also, be sure that you do not apply for immediate openings until you’re really close to graduation. I almost snagged two different jobs, but the companies said that my timing was off since I wasn’t out of school yet.

4. Manage your online presence, and periodically google your name.
The sad reality is that employers check Facebook, Myspace, and will run the job candidate’s name through search engines to dig up background info. It is beneficial to create a personal blog or website that relates to your career ambitions, so that they can get a better sense of your personality. With that in mind, if you wouldn’t want your current/future boss to see specific information, remove it or increase your privacy settings. Especially those pictures from that one crazy night you’d want to forget, unless you already have.

5. It’s unlikely that you will land your dream job straight out of college.
Therefore, broaden your career interests. You gotta crawl before you can walk. I just realized this as I read a job posting recently and thought, “I’m not interested in this position…well…let me keep my options open”. Needing to compromise is especially true if you’re in Liberal Arts, while a business school curriculum is obviously more focused on jobs (you lucky ducks).

6. Learn to negotiate salaries, and don’t jump at the first offer that comes to you.
I’ve heard multiple times that people regret not receiving what they’re worth, and find better jobs soon after they chose the first offer.

7. Follow-up, and follow-up again.
Avoid sending out 50 resumes, then chilling and hoping someone calls you. Call them! Email is an over-used form of communication, so always follow-up with a phone call, too. In this competitive market, you need to persistently initiate contact and be assertive in searching for a job.

8. Despite your career accomplishments, remember that we’re in a recession.
Honestly, I thought that my campus involvement, management experience, and supportive network would land me a job pretty quickly. Although it’s great that I receive compliments on my resume, call backs, and I have upcoming second interviews, I’m still seeking a job. SO, if my background seems like yours, please remain prepared for an uphill battle.

9. Be persistent and optimistic.
Amongst the rejection you’ll receive, it’s important to keep on steppin’. In job hunting it’s never been more true that one can’t accomplish anything great unless they’ve tried and tried again. My favorite quote these days is by Vince Lombardi, “it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.”

10. Check it:
- The most helpful book ever for college job seekers, free online: collegegrad.com/jobsearch.

…and, if all else fails, apply to grad school sooner than you planned.

Each one, teach one. Feel free to pass this along or comment.

- Court
my “professional” website

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