Job search advice for graduates

Begin the process early- the job search process doesn’t start the day you graduate but in the months even year leading up to it. Start doing internships to explore interests and to learn more about career options for your major. Start building a network of contacts that you will utilize in your job search.

Treat the job search as a full time job. The more you put into it the more you will get out of it.

Realize that you may not get your “ideal job” to start. Use your current employer as a way to build your skill set that will help land your next position. Always have an eye for the future.

Don’t overlook small companies or non profits as places to start your career. These places will allow you to do more things and learn skills that wouldn’t be afforded you in a larger company where you would likely specialize. In the long run, smaller companies may serve you better.

Don’t forget that career development is a life long process- self assessment, explore options gain experience and skills, make decisions and implement, reflect.

  1. Start early; Don’t put this off until AFTER you have graduated
  2. Learn about yourself- know who you are in terms of strengths and skills (what you can offer an employer) and what you are looking for. This will also be advantageous when you are networking.
  3. Have a clear goal in mind; Develop a strategy. Set daily and weekly objectives and evaluate your progress. Refocus if necessary. Schedule time each week to target organizations, research industries, network and make contacts, and follow up as needed.
  4. Make sure you have prepared a well written resume and cover letter that is short and succinct highlighting your skills
  5. Sharpen your interviewing skills by conducting a mock interview
  6. Create a job portfolio with samples of your work that will help you distinguish yourself from others
  7. Develop a short 30 second elevator pitch about yourself and what you can offer an employer. Your elevator pitch can be used at job interviews, at career fairs, or any other place you might find yourself networking.
  8. Become very familiar with LinkedIn and develop a strong profile. Use LinkedIn not only as a mechanism for networking but also searching for job opportunities.
  9. Set yourself apart from the crowd by making business cards that contain your contact information, major, career focus, and important skills/accomplishments.
  • Take a moment to research yourself on the Internet and social media. What are they saying about you to a potential employer? Remember you want to portray a good positive first impression.
  1. Develop a personal brand that will attract employers to you
  2. Don’t get discouraged. Expect to hear “No” or be rejected. It is part of the process. Don’t take it personal. Better yet reflect and try and learn from it to help you in the process.
  3. Remember to follow up with employers after networking. In addition, it is always a good idea to send thank you notes after every interview.
  4. Don’t forget that temporary or part time work not only helps you build skills but may also lead to permanent full time employment.
  5. There’s no place like home. Don’t forget to speak with faculty, career services office, or alumni association. They all may be good leads in identifying job opportunities.
  6. You may not get your dream job to start nor may you be making 6 figures to start. Consider these options: growth opportunities, tuition assistance or reimbursement, benefits, and having access to a mentor.

Successful Networking

Networking is the process of establishing, building, and maintaining relationships (contacts) as a source of gathering information. Networking is not merely handing out resumes or business cards, asking for jobs or leads, being pushy or overbearing. In contrast, to be effective at networking an individual must:

  • Show a genuine interest in the other individual
  • Build a strong rapport by being friendly and enthusiastic
  • Recognize the importance of the two-way nature of networking and thus mutually sharing information and advice with the other individual to assist them in achieving their goals
  • Explore career fields
  • Identify leads in your job search
  • Build and manage your career over time
  • Earlier chance at opportunity for employment (i.e. less competition)
  • Greater satisfaction in job as you may have influenced job description or roles
  • Avoided the advertised market where positions are normally non-existent or close to being filled

Your initial networking list can come from a variety of sources:

  • Personal Contacts: family, friends, neighbors, classmates, acquaintances, organizations, church groups
  • Work contacts: co-workers, supervisors, colleagues
  • Educational contacts: teachers & professors, academic advisors, athletic coaches, alumni networks
  • Professional Group Contacts: Chamber of Commerce, professional trade association, career centers
  • Professional contacts: Doctor, dentist, optometrist, lawyer, accountant, banker, insurance agents, realtor

 Brainstorm as many potential contacts as possible. It is also important not to overlook or underestimate the magnitude of “chance encounters,” i.e. waiting in line at the supermarket, sitting next to someone on the bus, or the individual standing alone at a cocktail party.

 There are also ways in which you can naturally build or increase your network of contacts. Some of the best ways is through volunteering, job shadowing, joining a club, organization, or professional association, informational interviewing.

 The preferred method to network is face-to-face on the individuals’ own turf. The contact will be more apt to be relaxed in a familiar environment and generate better ideas for you. Also, when you are at their office, the contact may have business sources readily available not to mention giving you the possibility of meeting other key individuals.

 Networking for some can be an intimidating or daunting process. You may want to practice on your “A” group before moving on to your “B” group. The following are some tips on how to network.

  • Create a sound bite or personal pitch. This may include information on your education, skills or developed areas of expertise, along with characteristics of the job or workplace in which you would like to work.
  • Explain the nature of your call. Ask to meet with them preferably at their office for an interview lasting 20 minutes. If you were referred by another person, it is a good idea to mention this fact as it helps to establish a frame of reference for the individual
  • When meeting with the contact, establish rapport with the individual. When you establish a relationship with a contact, he/she will be more willing to refer you to others or pass your resume along.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for names of other professionals whom you might want to interview that could help you in your job search. These contacts may either be inside or outside of the organization. Also, ask for advice about breaking into the profession.
  • If you were given another individual’s name as a potential contact, follow-up with them in a timely fashion. Make sure to check back with your original contact from time to time to advise them of your status or progress. Be professional and send a thank you note to express your appreciation for their help
  1. Share Your Passion, Authenticity, And Story
    People really connect with your real side and everyone has a story. It’s the new “elevator pitch.”
  2. Target Your Audience
    Learn about the community where you are meeting. Research and find out about them on websites, blogs and through others that may know about them, or are members of the group.
  3. Know The Guest List 

    When you know some specific people that will be there, that you will want to meet, do your homework and find out about them. Company, awards, community activity, accomplishments. This is great fodder for conversation. How would you feel when someone you didn’t know yet, approaches you and says, “I loved the blog post you wrote on how to be a Mom and grow a business”? It certainly says something to me about them.

  1. Work The Room
    Mix and mingle, and try to have several warm interactions. Don’t monopolize or be monopolized. Engage and encourage mutual conversation and include others into it.
  2. Pair Up With A Mentor
    Find someone who knows the crowd and group and rely on them to introduce you around. Coming with someone others know and respect says something about you. “You are judged by the company you keep,” is the quote isn’t it?
  3. Set Goals
    Have goals for what you want to accomplish and come out of the experience with: five warm connections, new friends, someone you can refer business to.
  4. Be Inclusive
    Be inclusive and see how making connections for others make sense both at the event and after. I have been amazed at how encouraging commonality and synergy can work with complimentary businesses.
  5. Ask HCIHY (How Can I Help You?)
    This is the new benchmark for networking. Not what can I sell you, but how can I serve you. “Serving is the new Selling.” When people know you are in it for the right reasons and motives, the relationship naturally grows. Building trust, by freely sharing knowledge and being who you say you are takes time. Invest and commit to it with people you feel good potential with and demonstrate a mutuality with you.
  6. Follow Up
    Follow up promptly and with purpose with those warm connections you made. Lunch, coffee, guest blog, mentor, referral, Skype, phone call, collaboration, link swap are only a few reasons to reach out and continue.
    Relationships take time, effort and commitment. Some grow, some go, but you won’t know which until you take the actions.

crafting your elevator pitches

If you’ve ever been on an elevator and between floors someone asked you the question, “What do you do?” even if your response was “I’m a student,” you delivered an elevator speech. The elevator speech is really important to a job search and should be developed, practiced and perfected, but not to the point of seeming rehearsed or canned. It should be second nature. Conversational yet concise is best but most importantly, short. Less than 30 seconds is all it takes. Not rushed, just short.

Think of it as a door opener or advertisement that draws in the listener by getting their attention and wanting to hear more. Communicate the value you could provide in a sentence or two and then try to open up the conversation. In the simplest sense, it may be just to communicate your availability and tell your story. You may need several variations depending on the situation such as for networking, interviewing, career fairs, or even casual social encounters.

  1. Set the stage by introducing yourself. What is your career interest? Be a little creative and think about it from the listener’s perspective. What might the audience want to hear about? Employers most likely want to hear about motivated people with relevant talents that can help them.
  1. What is your key message? What special strength do you offer? How are you different? Tell your special story in a few words to set yourself apart and communicate your value. Give quantifiable information if possible, such as, “achieved a double major and graduated cum laude in three years.” Facts make an impact.
  1. Use emotion and make it energetic or even passionate. What makes you excited about your career? Action words can be helpful but use jargon or terminology sparingly if at all. Smiling when you speak can work wonders at helping to continue the conversation. Practice makes perfect.
  1. Talk about how you could benefit an employer. If you are in Marketing, you may benefit an employer by helping to develop and sell innovative services. Culinary arts? Deliver delicious dishes that keep customers coming back. Teaching? How about you positively impact students and prepare them for academic success. The benefit statement is persuasive and powerful when well crafted.
  1. Use a hook to make it memorable and extend the relationship. Good advice is to “Stroke the corporate ego” or in some way compliment the employer or interviewer. Genuine compliments are always well received as long as they are factual and not pandering. Handing out a business card or resume works wonders too. Try to exchange email addresses, phone numbers, links or offer up your social media profile if appropriate. Keep the door open. Be prepared to explain, support or defend any part of your elevator speech. Think through questions or challenges that could arise and try to keep it open

Additional research resources

College Grad

Visit and make use of the library of podcasts about job search after graduation. These podcasts will help dispel rumors and set your mind at ease about entering this process.

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