“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” – Pearl S. Buck
February for college graduates usually brings the tsunami of graduation audits, internships and a terrible case of spring fever. The joy of the prospect of graduating is overshadowed by a fear of what lies ahead, and as your parents start to celebrate getting you off the payroll, it’s time to shift your focus to what’s next.
As is often the case in life, things get harder the longer we wait. It doesn’t pay to put off doing your laundry, servicing your car, or starting to look for a job. Not only do we know a thing or two about the job search, we ourselves have been where you are now and we’ve had children go through it too. If we know anything about the post-graduation search, it’s don’t wait until the post. The time to start is now!
This Top 10 is designed to give you a map of the journey you’re about to begin. Everyone’s map will look slightly different, as where we start and where we’re going is never the same for two. Our goal is to help you get your job search underway so that when you walk down the aisle and wave to your family, you will be confident in your what’s next.
Start Immediately: No time to lose! If you’re looking to skate through this semester, enjoy your last spring break in Miami followed by your last summer off, you will likely face an autumn of tears. Employers are looking now for the rising stars of this graduating class, and for every term that goes by you will be competing with those coming behind. Give yourself the gift of starting now so you have time to get all engines firing which includes writing good documents, identifying target employers, interviewing well, and ultimately deciding where you will work and which offer to take.
Treat Your Job Search Like a Job: Establish a schedule and hold yourself accountable for making daily progress. You have plenty of other things on your plate so don’t put it off, but don’t either try to do it all at once. How do you eat an elephant?
Visit Your Career Center: All colleges and universities have a career center, and while some are better than others, they all have resources that should be used. Local employers, alumni lists, there is any amount of information that can be useful to you. Make an appointment to visit with them today, zero in on what will be useful, and leave the rest alone.
Get Your Documents in Order: Resume, LinkedIn, cover letters, all documents that need to be written and reviewed. Your career center can help you with these, and you can find any number of templates online.
Identify References: Professors, employers, coaches or volunteer organizers. Start identifying people in your life who can attest to who you are as a person and a professional. Employers don’t want to call your best friend or roommate, they want to call people who can speak to your ability to get to work on time, complete a task, and treat your job and others with respect. Identify three or four, ask them if they’re willing, and then keep them informed as you proceed through the job search process.
Volunteer: Overcome a lack of experience in the field you want to enter by volunteering in the industry. This shows employers you’re serious about this field of work, and it gives you the experience needed to show you can do the job.
Attend Job Fairs: Whether locally or through your school, there will be job fairs that you can attend. Use this as an opportunity to practice your networking, make a few connections, and if nothing else, get dressed up. Find out which employers will be there and make a list of who you want to see. Put on a clean shirt, a big smile, and get your resume into the hands of every employer on your list. Get business cards and don’t forget to send a follow-up thank you.
Don’t Panic, Be Patient, But Don’t Be Overly Picky: First jobs don’t often come with a secretary and corner office. Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. Most positions are not strictly bound by their description, but rather become what you make of them.
Network: There’s no substitute for personal relationships when looking for career opportunities. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to introduce yourself or follow up. Emails are good, but the phone is oftentimes a better option when looking to build relationships. If your dad or your aunt or your friend suggests you reach out to someone they know, do it! It may seem like a waste of time, but you don’t know what you don’t know. Show your appreciation by following up and remember, networking is peeling away layers of the onion until you get to the core. So start peeling.
Make the Most of that First Job: You may have worked your way through these school years, but typically the first job out of college is your first “real job.” Make the most of it! Nearly every professional will tell you that first job was crucial to who they are today. While rarely the favorite and often the worst, that first job and how you perform it will set the course for how you live the rest of your life. Don’t end up like the poor guy who found himself in his 30’s seeking a career coach because he hadn’t had a good go of things in the workplace. He wasn’t a fan of working because it took up too much of his free time and life is too short for that kind of stress. He was hoping a career coach could help him find the job that would suit him. Last we checked, he was still looking for that coach and that career.