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College Grads Job Search 101

College Grads Job Search 101

It’s graduation season! And, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) nearly 1,855,000 students at the bachelor's degree level will have graduated as the Class of 2015. It’s an exciting time. Graduates should give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done and celebrate their achievements. But once the speeches have been made, caps have been thrown, and glasses have been raised, it’s time to enter the real world…that means looking for a job. It’s tough out there and today’s college grads have a challenge ahead of them.

However, as young people just out of school, you may have an advantage over other applicants. Employers like your high energy level, ‘go-get-em’ attitude, and fresh ideas. By capitalizing on your current youthful status, following a few smart tips, avoiding some common pitfalls, and putting a bit of quality time into your search, you’re sure to land your very first dream job (or at least find solid employment that will provide experience, pay the bills, and offer healthcare benefits). Read on to find out how to get started and stay on track with your job search.

5 Tips for Finding Your First “Real” Job

  1. Be Proactive

    Just because school is out, now is not the time to sit on your laurels and relax. No employer is going to come knocking on your door – you have to seek them out. Perhaps there are a few companies where you’d love to work. Do your research and uncover any connections you may have within your network.

  2. Use Career Services

    This free resource is very valuable and yet seemingly underused. Why not take advantage of its offerings? These include expert job training, research materials, a recruiter meeting place, local connections and networking help, resume critique, and more.

  3. Customize Your Cover Letter and Resume

    A prospective employer’s first impression of you will come from your cover letter and resume – these important documents could be the difference-maker in whether your name lands on the callback list or in the wastebasket. It will serve you well to learn how to create a well-written, quality, and customized cover letter and resume.

    Be sure to highlight your skills as they pertain to that specific company and position. You want the hiring manager to understand how, and be assured that, you will be an asset to the company. Identify keywords that relate to the position you’re applying for, and make an effort to include these important terms on your resume – you’ll increase the chances of your resume making it to the next level of the hiring process.

  4. Continue Your Education

    You may have your brand spankin’ new diploma but that doesn’t mean your learning experiences are over…far from it. In fact, post-college education may afford you the essential skills necessary for the workplace, and finally get you the job you want. Plus, most companies find candidates who are eager to learn and take on new challenges to be valuable and desirable. If you’re having trouble finding a job due to your current skill set or are just looking for a productive way to utilize the time while job searching, sign up for some courses that will round out your resume and make you more marketable.

  5. Be Prepared

So you’ve accomplished the first hurdle of the job search - your exceptional cover letter and resume have helped secure an interview. Now it’s time to get ready. While you may still feel like a student, you’ll have to learn how to act and look the part of a professional if you want to wow the interviewer. First, research the company, their needs, and the specific position – this will show that you care enough to learn about the place where you may be employed and how you’ll fit in there. Second, prepare yourself for common interview questions and be ready to answer those about your resume and experiences. Third, dress for success – make sure you have the proper attire (i.e. a business suit or comparable garb) to appear polished and well put-together.

5 Job Hunting Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Internet Follies
    Avoid relying solely on online job postings and job boards. Many of your peers are doing the same thing making for a rather congested forum. Help yourself stand out by using networking and establishing real-life connections. This will go a long way in finding a great job.

    Don’t misuse and abuse the Internet and social media. Everyone is on Facebook and your prospective employers are no exception. Not only are they on there, but they’re checking up on you! They want to know what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, and social media is an easy way for them to do this kind of a quick background check. Moral of the story – if your FB page is dirty, clean it up.

  2. Not Networking

    When it comes to building your network for the great job hunt, don’t be shy. Call on the help of all friends, relatives, and their friends and relatives. Your network can never be too large.

  3. Unrealistic Expectations

    Your first job may not be the perfect job, and certainly won’t be your last job. Keep in mind this inaugural position is all about learning and growing. And while it may not help you bolster your bank account, it will allow you to build your resume for the future.

  4. Appearing Unprofessional

    In addition to the interview prep and social media detox that we discussed above, there are a few other crucial areas that may need some TLC to meet professional standards. Things like your voicemail greetings and email profile pictures could be up for scrutiny.

    And, in addition to your attire, other physical aspects should perhaps be addressed including hairstyles, nails, tattoos, piercings, and the like. If you’re questioning something, it’s probably better to go the more conservative route.

    Finally, be polite and respectful toward each person you meet during the interview, from the receptionist in the lobby to the hiring manager to the CEO (should you have such an encounter). You never know who is watching, judging, and reporting back to the powers-that-be.

  5. Failing to Follow-up

    The interview is over. Now you can breathe easy and wait for a call-back, right? Actually, there’s one crucial step left. Very soon after your meeting, send a follow-up email expressing your gratitude to the interviewer for their time, and reiterating your interest in the position. Be sure your ‘signature’ includes all updated contact info as well.

Once you do find your first “real” job, you’ll have your first “real” income. Rely on your credit union as a resource for learning sound money management, and as a safe place for saving and borrowing. Congrats grads, and best of luck with the search!

By Cyndi Cohen
Published June 10, 2015
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