Graduation 2018 is just around the corner for many college students and searching for and finding a job is top of mind. While the economy – and job opportunities – are much better than they were in the midst of the “Great Recession” ten years ago, there are still challenges.
Each graduate deserves the very best job they can find – one that challenges and fulfills them. Here are my tips on what to do (and not do) while job searching.
What to do to find and land that first (or next) job.
1- Research the market.
Each new graduate – congratulations, that’s you – has a job goal (implicit or explicit) and you need to research what the hiring companies are looking for. How? Find ten job descriptions in your target market and highlight all of the key words and phrases that are most commonly repeated. Then, highlight those skills in your résumé, cover letter, and during the interview.
2 – LinkedIn. Period.
Over 70% of recruiters rely on LinkedIn to either find candidates or to learn more about a candidate. College job-seekers need to spend less time on Facebook (although there are some jobs posted there) and more time on LinkedIn. Assignment: have a 100% complete LinkedIn profile, a list of current and past recommendations, know how to do advanced searches, and learn how to connect with professionals. For example, when asking to connect with someone you don’t know, include a personal message.
3 – Use a computer, not a phone!
For any job-search-related communications, don’t use a phone. Sit down and use a computer. Why? Too many errors are made with thumbs, communications look unprofessional when composed and sent via phone, and the message to the recruiter or hiring manager is, “This is not important enough to spend any time on it.” More importantly, type important communication in Microsoft WORD first, remove all typos, then copy and paste into any digital communication. Formal formatting and grammar are critical!
What could contribute to not being able to find a job?
Sometimes not being able to find a job is more of doing the wrong things, than doing the right ones.
1 – Winging It.
Unfortunately, before graduation only about 10% of students actually use their campus Career Center and only a fraction of those really study every step of the job search process. Most graduates cobble together a résumé with little thought and insight, and they may only prepare for an interview the night before. As a result, they are stuck and frustrated.
2 – “No There There”
Can you do the job, and will you enjoy it? College graduates need to select one to two job goals. If they don’t know what types of jobs are available, then they should conduct an organized exercise of “window shopping” for jobs that they are suited for and they will enjoy doing. While finishing a college degree is fantastic, a college major does not define a type of job. For example, a political science major can choose to go into sales and marketing.
3 – No Process to Juggle.
College graduates need to be organized to apply to 10 jobs at a time. A simple job tracker and a calendar for follow-ups is a great start. Have you found that, too often, you to one job and wait…and wait…and wait? You need to change your game and project-manage your job search. This is serious business!
What can you do to stay motivated, so you don’t lose hope if you’re having trouble finding a job?
You’re in this for the long haul, so you need to keep your spirits – and your energy – up.
1 – Block time on your calendar every day.
Many college graduates have not yet developed advanced time management skills. Now is the time. You need excellent time management and project management skills in any job for a company. So, using your calendar, block time, remove distractions, and focus on improving your job search steps. This will help you avoid frustration since you will be busy and productive.
2 – Use your campus Career Center!
It’s tragic that the Career Center is an optional benefit for college graduates; it’s use should be mandatory in order to graduate! There are often online resources. The key is for you to be open to trying new techniques for employment success.
3 – Don’t wait.
To me as a career coach, my least favorite 4-letter word is W-A-I-T. College graduates often say, “I’m waiting to hear back,” or, “I’ve applied to 10 jobs online and nobody is calling me back.” It is so much more motivating to know that YOU have the action item in your calendar to follow up in 5 working days from the day you applied. Ask your college alumni on LinkedIn for their help if they work for your target company.
What are the most important things you should keep in mind as you’re job hunting?
1 – Even though there are a lot of jobs out there, it is still highly competitive.
College graduates need to be better than the next applicant – on every level. No typos, grammatical errors, sloppiness, or excuses for being late to a phone, video, or face-to-face interview.
2 – There are no shortcuts.
Just because the job search process is mostly online, pressing “send” on a résumé submittal or posting a résumé on a job board without any other action is NOT a recommended strategy.
3 – It’s not about you.
That’s right. The job search process is all about the “buyer” or the hiring team at a company. Everything you do and say should focus on their job description, their company values, and knowing what the business does. For example, when asked “Why should we hire you?” most graduates answer, “I can do this, I can do that, and I have a degree in X.” Pivot the way you present yourself by saying “Well, there are three reasons you should hire me. One, you are looking for someone who is analytical, and I have strong analytical skills. Two, you need someone who …”
See the difference? Study the job description and make yourself relevant and paint yourself as the best square peg for their square hole. You don’t have to have every skill on their job description to win that job!
Over 70% of jobs are won by networking, not by online applications alone.
For every job you want to apply to, take the following two steps:
Apply through the front door: Do a great application online, ideally on the company’s website. Count this action as 5% of your job search process.
Apply through the back door: The other 95% is spent connecting with total strangers on LinkedIn who may be able to help you gain an interview for that specific job. Find alumni, recruiters, or friends who you connect with, then them ask to forward your credentials to the hiring manager and recruiter.