This economy has been tough for all job-seekers, but perhaps no segment of the population has been more severely affected than the recent college graduate. There you are, diploma in hand, limited real-world experience and tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debts on your shoulders. How can you compete? The recession led to a long-term hiring freeze, and millions of people either underemployed or unemployed for months and even years at a time. Hiring has loosened up a bit, but now you have thousands of highly-qualified candidates applying for the same types of jobs as you, just because they need the work. Experienced employees are willing to make a lateral move or even take a step back right now, and that means you’ll face competition from some much more compelling resumes. So how can you find a job fresh out of college?
First of all, your references will be very important. Since you don’t have a resume packed with years of industry know-how, the hiring manager will have to roll the dice on you. What your references say to back up your resume will make the difference between a second or third interview, or never hearing back. So take the time to coach them. Whether they are a family friend, a former associate or a college connection, reach out and let them each know what type of job you are searching for. Describe the skills that are most important for each position, so your references know what about you they should discuss. And if you’re in serious consideration for one job that you really want, actually send a description of the company and the position to your references. If they care enough to do a little research, that could help you get hired.
Before you even head out into the job market, look at how you’ve presented yourself to the world up until this point. As a student and often part-time worker, your social media pages could simply be fun and expressive. There’s probably quite a few photos up there that are less than attractive, and some tweets and updates you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. If that’s the case, clean it all up. Your profiles shouldn’t be without personality, but they absolutely shouldn’t feature anything incriminating, nasty or revealing of bad decision-making. Wipe it all clean, and do a Google search of your name to make sure all is good. You don’t want to lose out on a job because of a keg stand you did three years ago.
Networking is always hugely important in any industry, but perhaps never more than when you are looking for a job. Since you’re just starting out you probably don’t have years of associates and supervisors to keep in touch with. But work with what you have. Stay in touch with your college professors, especially the department heads if you’ve gotten to know them. They often receive calls from recruiters or hear about upcoming jobs, making them a valuable information source for you. Staying connected with your peers from college is important too, but don’t forget their parents. Your friends are all in the same boat, but their parents may have contacts that could help out. Think of every conversation with a parent almost like a job interview. If they like you, they may lend a hand.
Finally, don’t forget to make a splash at each interview opportunity. No one likes bragging or cockiness, but you’ve got to do something to stand out, especially since your resume may not do that heavy lifting on its own. First of all, think of your inexperience as an asset. You are young, hungry, idealistic and persistent, and a clean slate for their company. You may not have decades of experience, but it’s not like you just graduated from GetaRealDegree.com. Stand by the excellent work you did in school, and make one bold statement about yourself or what you want to accomplish. Stand out during the interview, and you’re much more likely to get a call back.