New grads are hitting the job market this month, flush with the feeling of accomplishment their new degree bestows, but often terrified as well. Here are some get-started tips for new grads searching for that first, great opportunity.
A fresh-out-of-school job search is exhilarating and intimidating at the same time, because for many new grads, the possibilities for a first job are almost endless. In order to be successful at finding a job you like, it helps to focus on a couple of areas you're especially interested in. So, for instance, if you have a new English degree, maybe you're most interested in not-for-profit grant-writing positions, or perhaps an entry-level corporate Marketing position, or something in the arts. . . . it will be much harder if you cast your net in every direction at once.
2) MAKE A LIST
Now's the time to build a long list of contacts who might help you in your job search. I believe that any new grad can, with sufficient thought, create a list of 100 people that he or she can contact for help, advice and job leads. Your list will include professors, parents’ friends, folks you babysat or cut lawns for in high school; old bosses, relatives in other states, and so on. Keep thinking! There will never again in your life be as natural an opportunity to ask everyone you know for help in your job search.
3) WRITE A GREAT RESUME AND COVER LETTER
Books on resume-writing abound, but a quick internet search can give you plenty of free resources for writing a terrific cover letter and resume. Your cover letter should be conversational and friendly, while still professional. Your resume must be one page, as a new grad. Be sure to include awards and honors, part-time jobs and volunteer assignments, and all of your extra-curricular activities. (Well, all of the ones you'd want employers to know about, anyway. )
4) DO YOUR MASS MAILING
Remember that list of 100 friends-of-your-job-search? Go buy a box of envelopes and some stationery, and write to each and every one of those people, enclosing your resume in the envelope. Snail mail in this case is more professional than email, so take the time and get these folks on your team. Include in your letter a few highlights from college, and thank each recipient for his or her support and mentoring of you over the years. People love to hear from and support their young friends. Don't skip this step!
5) LOOK BEYOND THE JOB BOARDS
Monster.com and other mega-job sites are not always the best places for new graduates to find great assignments. Companies pay to list positions on these sites when they can't easily fill the jobs anywhere. So for a company to post a new-grad-appropriate job on a big online job board, they typically have a zillion openings, meaning a high-turnover or new-grad “churn" type assignment. Focus on smaller, local job sites like careerscolorado.com.
6) GET ON THE LIST-SERVS
Free email discussion groups, also known as list-servs, are great resources for job-hunting new grads. Two good ones are Craigslist.org and WorldWIT (www.worldwit.org). Both of them carry job listings, and you can also post your own message to let employers and fellow members know you're job-hunting.
7) GET OUT THERE
Now is a great time to jump into the networking scene! Check the daily business pages in the newspaper to find local networking events. Practice your Elevator Speech: “Hi, I'm Jenny Smith and I've just graduated from DU with a BA in Marketing Communications. I'm especially interested in copywriting or PR work. I would be so grateful if you had any advice or ideas for me. "
8) USE THE CAREER CENTER
Your alma mater's career center exists to connect new grads with jobs. Use their services, even if you didn't attend any on-campus interviews. There's a lot more to career placement than just talking to the employers who interview on campus. Most career centers offer training sessions, resume preparation advice, and lots more.
9) STAY POSITIVE
As a person who focuses on employment, I can tell you that the job market is getting better every week. Your dream, first job is out there - stay positive and keep looking! Waitressing or bartending over the short term are not bad ways to make some money while you job-hunting, and even better, jobs like that provide lots of face-to-face contact with potential advocates in your job search. It's a great idea to do lots of interviews, even for jobs you're not really interested in, to get better at the process.
10) SAY THANKS
Networking isn't a one-step process, but a continuous one - so when you've been helped along in your job search (by way of an introduction, a job lead or a tip for improving your resume) be sure and say thanks. Keep your contacts abreast of your progress. And when you land your perfect job, remember to thank your network again - including everyone who helped you along the way!
Liz Ryan is a workplace expert, former corporate VP of Human Resources, and CEO of the global online network WorldWIT. Liz speaks to groups around the world on careers, recruiting, HR leadership and work/life issues. Liz lives in Boulder, Colorado. (http://www.worldwit.org )