7 Job Search Tips for New Grads
Don’t panic, it’s not too late to land a great job
If you’re graduating within the next few weeks, you’ve probably been hunkered down, prepping for finals. So it’s annoying, isn’t it, when you hear classmates bragging about the “amazing” job offer they’ve already accepted. Annoying and nerve-wracking. Believe me, I’m familiar with the fourth-quarter internal monologue. “I’ve been applying. Why don’t I have a job yet?” or “Why didn’t I get serious about a job search months ago?!”
First piece of advice: Stop. Freaking. Out. And definitely stop beating yourself up. You didn’t do those things because, well, you were focused on other, equally important things (like being a college student). Also keep in mind, you’re entering the job market at an extremely you-favorable time.
You’re going to get your job. Here’s how to step back, refocus, and revitalize your search.
1. The New Grad Resume: Special Rules Do Apply
Most of the standard rules apply, too. Hiring managers and recruiters want to see a resume that looks professional. You’re fresh out of college and, in the absence of much full-time work experience, you may be under the impression that you should dress up your resume with fancy font work and graphics. Don’t do it. Unnecessary visuals serve to annoy – not dazzle – a prospective employer.
In lieu of work experience, rely on your school career and other relevant life achievements. Include internships, leadership experiences, volunteer activities and, of course, your school achievements. Note your degree, along with the school and date it will be granted. If your GPA is 3 or above, include it. If it’s below a 3, don’t include it (but don’t let anyone suggest it’s anything to be ashamed of, either).
2. Carefully Research Employers and Positions
You may not know what kind of work environment will best suit you. That’s something you’ll discover over time. But you do know your own core values. Look for employers whose values match yours or, at least, do not contradict them. Your first clues will come from the stated vision, values and mission statements on their own website. But validate all such claims by looking them up on sites like glassdoor.com and by talking to anyone you know who has worked there. You also know what kind of work excites and motivates you. If a job posting bears no resemblance to the kinds of skills you possess or responsibilities you desire, pass or proceed with extreme caution.
3. Customize Your Cover Letters
With every letter, you need to tie your strengths to the job’s requirements, and your values to those of the employer. This may be the first time you’ve had to write a letter like this. Be warned: it’s tricky at first. I strongly recommend starting with an outline in which you use strong phrasing to establish those strength-requirement and value-value connections. Then write a good, strong draft. But don’t send it until you’ve gotten feedback from trusted advisors and tweaked until it sings.
4. Prepare to Audition
It has become increasingly common for employers to test the skills of candidates at various stages in the application process. You may be asked to take a series of basic proficiency tests immediately after submitting your resume. These could include simple checks to be sure you know your way around Microsoft Xcel and Powerpoint, for example. Or there may be a workflow prioritization assessment. But as you progress through the interview process, expect more challenges. You may be asked to join a team for a day. Or, in some instances, finalists are hired for a probationary period. All of these are good things. Here’s why: they’re opportunities for you to test-drive the employer while they’re doing the same with you. So respond to each request positively. And be ready to showcase your skills and promote your best self.
5. Grow Your Network and Networking Skills
If the word “networking” makes you cringe, take a deep breath. And stop thinking about networking as an endless exercise in superficial glad-handing and professional small talk. It’s not. Networking means reaching out to the people connected to you, your field of work, or industry, and sharing your job hunting goals with them. It also means asking these individuals to connect you with more individuals. This becomes your professional network: a group of acquaintances from whom you will ask for career support. That support may consist of brief feedback. Or it may lead to someone introducing you with a ringing endorsement to a hiring employer. In return, you’ll commit to doing the same for others. That’s networking. How you network depends on your skills and preferences, balanced with those of everyone else in your network. You may prefer to communicate at networking events and other industry gatherings. Or maybe emailing, Inmailing and texting is best. Whatever channels you prefer, stay flexible. But as a general networking rule, go easy on the phone calls unless you’ve already established a relationship with someone who prefers calls.
6. Revamp Your Social Media Presence
With every application you submit, rest assured, the employer will be looking you up online, using broad-brush search terms. The fact that you only include your LinkedIn profile on your resume does not, in any way, prevent employers from doing this. And if they come across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other posts that depict you in any light other than the one you’d be proud to present during an interview, get rid of it. Immediately.
7. Keep an Open Mind
Everything I said above, about staying true to your core values remains true. But try to stay flexible on other factors. If you’ve been dreaming of joining a fast paced start-up, you should still look at larger organizations for roles that will help you refine the skills you’ll need for that start-up experience in the future. And vice versa. What matters most is that you land in a job where your enthusiasm can be unleashed, your current skills are used, and the skills you’ll need are given the opportunity to grow, along with your career. A workplace that offers you these things, along with coworkers with reputations for honesty, integrity, fairness and – I’ll say it – a clear sense of humanity, is what you need most fresh out of college. Find these, and trust that everything else you need will fall into place.