You completed your finals, got your diploma and … have to move into your parents’ basement? While today’s job market is certainly tougher for recent college graduates than it has been in several years, there is no need to make the same mistakes that hold back so many graduates from landing their first job. Let’s look at a few common errors that stop new graduates from becoming new hires:
While searching for a position:
What not to do: Fail to take advantage of the four years you spent building relationships with well-connected people you could be using as networking contacts who already know your academic record and job skills.
What you can do instead: Career services offices exist to find opportunities for students and often offer alumni networks. Professors keep in touch with experts in their fields of study. Administrators are in regular contact with leaders at all kinds of organizations. The best part is that all three of these groups have a vested interest in seeing you, their former student, succeed after graduation. Do not neglect a network you spent four years living with, studying for and working under.
When thinking about your old internship:
What not to do: Decide not to call the company you interned with as a student because you spent most of your summer answering phones and making coffee. By making that decision, you miss out on an opportunity to pursue one of the few companies with which you have a professional employment history.
What you can do instead: Get in touch with your former supervisor to see if any positions are open or will be soon. Ask how things around the office have been and mention a few new skills you have picked up. Even if you cannot stand the thought of going back, you may be qualified for a position you would not have known about in a different department if you had not called. If there are no current job openings, you can still ask your former supervisor to reach out to you if he or she hears about anything you might be interested in.
While perusing the classifieds:
What not to do: Sift through job listing after job listing while subconsciously saying to yourself, “Internships are for students. I need a real job now!”
What you can do instead: Jobs are great, but especially in this market, there are a lot of other good opportunities that many students are overlooking. Fellowships and internships, in particular, have become increasingly popular options for students after graduation, as have service-learning opportunities like volunteering. They may not pay the bills quite as well, but today’s graduates need to be open minded enough to consider these positions – the role they play in adding resume experience and an opportunity to expand your network could be instrumental in finding your next position.
When lamenting the job market:
What not to do: Listen to the pessimists and declare the job market frozen while forgetting the federal government has been taking action to combat the recession.
What you can do instead: However you may feel about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the legislation responsible for billions of federal government dollars sloshing through the economy), the reality is that certain industries are going to grow substantially over at least the next couple of years. In particular, the health care, infrastructure, education and alternative energy fields are going to receive large investments and are expected to expand accordingly. Even if you do not have a degree within the specific industry, the organizations will be growing, creating opportunities for all kinds of graduates.
While talking to a recruiter:
What not to do: At a job fair, hand a recruiter a resume that has not been updated since your sophomore year internship search.
What you can do instead: The importance of an updated resume cannot be overstated. Does it say you graduated? Have you taken off your high school experiences in exchange for college activities and leadership positions? At the very least, handing over an outdated resume will confuse the employer about who you actually are. Considering how many applications employers are receiving for openings these days, they are more likely to just throw your resume out and consider the more accurate ones they have received. Get in touch with your university’s career services office to have them review it too.
During the interview:
What not to do: Say, “I’ll take anything” with the intention of sounding flexible and focused on the employer rather than yourself. Some sharks can detect a single drop of blood in water over a quarter-mile away. Corporate recruiters can detect desperation from even farther.
What you can do instead: Will you really take anything? Then why did you go to college? While saying you do not mind what you do as long as you are hired might sound like a good idea, recruiters want to hear what you aim to accomplish (other than receiving a paycheck). They are looking for initiative, so think of a few things you want to do for the company. Come up with a list of skills and interests you have, as well as some career and personal goals to share during the interview – they will remember you as an individual rather than as a body.
Making your own luck:
While a college degree is not the golden ticket it used to be, having one is still a major boost for job seekers.
Daniel Latini is a summer intern for Indiana INTERNnet, an affiliate of the Indiana Chamber.