Tips for New Graduates From The Pros

July 09, 2015 : Dona DeZube – Guest Contributor

Editor’s Note: Getting a job is important since, you know, it allows you to financially support yourself. But getting that job isn’t always easy. As a new college grad, listen to these tips for new graduates.

If you’re a recent college graduate without a job, don’t despair. You’re entering one of the best job markets in recent history. Hiring for graduates with bachelor’s degrees is up 16%, according to Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institute (CERI).

If that makes you feel badly about being unemployed, this checklist may help:

1. You’re applying for jobs you’re not qualified for.

Don’t waste time applying for jobs if the skills and experience on your resume don’t match the job posting. Unless you have personal connections or have networked into the company, you’re not getting the job when there’s a mismatch.

If you apply for a job where you meet some, but not all qualifications, make sure to highlight soft skills. For example, at New York Life Insurance Company, Janet Wang, Head of Talent Acquisition, looks for a willingness to adapt:

“We look for smart, high-potential individuals… who are agile and resourceful and can adjust to change both at the firm and within the industry, and who are honest and courageous and will help make a difference to the overall success and longevity of New York Life,” she said.

2. Your resume or cover letter are kind of “meh.”

Rewrite your resume and cover letter to match each position. Study the way the company describes itself in job postings and online. Identify keywords to use when describing yourself.

For example, Enterprise Holdings, which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car and hires more than 8,500 college graduate annually, values customer service and coaching skills. So an applicant who highlights experience as a soccer coach might catch the recruiter’s eye.

Marie Artim, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Enterprise said, “The candidates we consider… are self-motivated, highly social and looking to advance rapidly into management positions. We look for people with a customer-service aptitude and the ability to think on their feet who want to coach and lead while receiving ongoing training and development.”

3. You lack paid internship experience.

Not doing paid internships puts you at a disadvantage. Only 39.5% of students with unpaid internships had job offers by graduation, and 38.6% of those with no internships had job offers by graduation, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) study. By contrast, 65.4% of students who completed paid internships had a job offer by graduation.

No matter what type of experience you have, your resume and cover letter should specifically explain how you acquired relevant skills from your classes, volunteer positions and extracurricular activities. If you need help doing this, call your school’s career services office.

4. You’re only looking for work online.

After you’ve updated your LinkedIn status to “Graduated!” and loaded your resume on trade association websites, it’s time to network in the real world. Talk about your job search to friends, family and acquaintances. Make it public knowledge that you’re looking for a job. Do informational interviews. Offer to buy coffee for older alumni who work in your field of interest. Making real-world connections is much more impactful than sending emails.

5. You’re targeting only large companies and the jobs are at small companies.

“Small businesses can be great employers and offer jobs where you’ll do a broader variety of tasks than you would at a large corporation,” said Debbie Young, Director of the Office of Student Development at Fresno State’s Craig School of Business. “They’re looking for students who can cross over functions,” she says.

6. Seek Help from Professionals

When you can honestly say none of those five issues is to blame, try to figure out where your job search is derailing by reaching out for specific help. Here are a few common stumbling blocks:

  • Getting no response to resumes? Ask the professionals in your school’s career center for help polishing your resume.
  • Getting phone or Skype interviews, but no offers? Read up on phone and video interview skills and practice them.
  • Getting in-person interviews but no offers? Video yourself doing a practice interview. Ask others to watch it and tell you what you’re doing that is putting people off.

Keep at It

Until you find a job looking for a job is you job. To stay on track, make a to-do list for the month, week and each day. Create some accountability for yourself by asking a family member or friend to help you track your progress in meeting those goals.

And any time you start feeling down about not having a job, remind yourself that the numbers are on your side. Just keep plugging away and eventually, you’ll get that first job.

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Dona DeZube – Guest Contributor

Dona is a contributor to the Monster Resource Center where she writes about employment topics for human resources professionals.