Recent College Graduate’s Guide to the Job Market

Advice & Stories, Affording College
on April 18, 2014

Recent College Graduate's Guide to the Job Market

‘Tis the season for mortar boards, humorless commencement speeches and an endless stream of inquiries into post-grad plans. The degree’s been conferred, but like many Americans in the 22+ set, the end of college marks the beginning of a transition period unlike any other. The good news:  The National Association of Colleges and Employers estimates that employers will increase the hire of recent graduates by 7.8 percent. Straight from a recent college grad (yours truly), the following tips will help you maximize a friendly post-graduation hiring landscape.

Broaden Your Network

Recently, we interviewed Susan RoAne, a networking guru who specializes in the art of making lasting, valuable connections. Among many seasoned points, RoAne advises that your personal network is much larger than you think it is. Essentially—who do you know?

Young professionals and recent graduates often find themselves trying to rapidly expand their sphere of influence for career gain. But the problem with relying on “speed networking” is that many upper-echelon professionals see it as a one-sided deal. You, dear graduate, may come across offering nothing, but expecting everything. Look first to your primary connections with whom you’ve built rapport, i.e. professors, academic advisors, former intern coordinators, even friends and neighbors. Consulting these time-tested relationships can often bridge you to those new connections with a greater sense of legitimacy than if you were to reach out on your own.

See Opportunity in Every Chance Meeting

As a journalist, I’ve had to polish my ability to see opportunity everywhere, even in the mundane. I’ve realized that while you might not always be pitching story ideas, when it comes to the job market, you are pitching yourself and your story to prospective connections. In that sense, you should open your eyes to the people that you see frequently, but don’t necessarily know personally.

That guy you see everyday in Starbucks reading the Wall Street Journal? Look for a moment to reach out and say hello. Sure, this requires a certain level of fearlessness, but the payoff could be huge. When you do strike up a conversation, be prepared to make a mark. Pro tip:  Ask for business cards as a graduation gift. You might not have a company or job title, yet, but you do have a name, email address and phone number to share with that special someone … or future boss.

Make Your Resume Accessible

So the introduction happened—or you unexpectedly received an email conveying interest and a request for more information. The early bird gets the worm when it comes to information turnaround. Save your resume, in PDF form, in the following places:  personal email document drive, DropBox application, and computer or tablet.

Don’t be afraid to keep a few hard copies in your car or everyday bag, either. Part of being a recent grad is a willingness to share your personal information and market your skills. At this juncture in your life, your resume is akin to a driver’s license and house keys:  it identifies you and gets you in the door, so don’t leave home without it.

About That Resume…

My vocation allows me to spend countless hours with exceptionally creative types. The ones who know what the Pantone color of the year is before it’s announced, have mastered every Adobe product available, and seem about 80/20 when it comes to right-brain/left-brain use. Talking resumes with creative types is a flight of fancy—pristine designs, use of color, even off-the-wall ideas about resumes in infographic form—but these notions won’t find a home in every industry. Gauge your prospective industry for a window into how whimsical your life’s work should appear.

Creative or not, your resume should stand out in a stack. I had a colleague who landed her first job at a prestigious communications firm by printing her resume on heavy card stock with letterpress and metallic ink—talk about tres chic. If you’re looking for resume swag, but lack the design chops, consider sending your resume content to a design firm like Loft Resumes for a custom creation. Resume format aside, this document should ONLY be one page. Hiring professionals want to get the gist of your qualifications in 30 seconds or less.

Cast a Wide Net

Nursing, engineering, architecture—these studies have a charted post-grad course. Perhaps you studied communications, business or a similarly broad discipline. Think more about the skills you learned versus the content of your college curriculum, and use that as a basis for exploring career opportunities.

As a political science student, I polished skills in research, writing and verbal communication. Thinking in terms of particular skills gained helped me to consider a spectrum of opportunities from campaign work to communications firms. As a student, your major defined you, but as a professional, the combination of your acquired skills and your willingness to learn new skills defines you. With that in mind, consider companies or ventures outside of your academic bubble.

Stay Humble

Organizational psychologists (or anyone who went to high school) will attest to the prevalence of a pecking order. As a fresh-faced, hot off the university press commodity, you will want to take the professional world by storm. However, show deference and a willingness to be coached. For as many skills and experiences as you’ve acquired in the last four years, potential employers want to know that you are also malleable.

Part of being “professionally humble” might mean you take another internship or two before landing your dream job. Another pro tip: Always send a thank you note, even if the interview or interviewer didn’t make your short list. I once had an interview with a well-to-do company and was shocked at the decorum of the interviewer. Although it was a company I ultimately said “no dice” to, I still sent a thank you note, because graciousness is key to establishing professional ethos.

Related Articles:  How to Work a Room: Q&A with Networking Expert Susan RoAne,  11 Ways to Flush Out College Expenses,  Tax Implications of Student Loan Debt

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