As part of the celebration of Quintessential Careers’s 15th anniversary, we’re presenting lists of 15 tips on some of the most essential topics in college, job search, and career.
Yes, college is stressful. And yes, you should also be able to enjoy your last year in college. But wouldn’t landing a job by the time you graduate validate all your hard work? As you’ll see with our 15 tips, the keys to success involve knowing who you are and what you want — and starting early enough to achieve your goal.
Here’s our list of the 15 best tips for finding a new job by graduation.
- Start early. Not only does the job-search take much longer than you can imagine, it just makes sense to gear up for finding a job by graduation as early as possible. It’s best to start this process at the beginning of your senior year, completing these first 10 tips during the first half of the year, and then putting your job-search into full gear in the second half. See our article, Your Senior Year in College: 15 Activities that are Pivotal to Your Job-Search Success.
- Use your college/university career services. If you’ve never been to your campus career services office, head there now. You’ll find trained professionals who can help you with everything from conducting self-assessment to identifying prospective employers to assisting with creating your resume to helping with interview preparation — and much more. Learn more in our article, It’s Never Too Early — or Too Late — to Visit Your College Career Office.
- Gain valuable experience. Employers expect college graduates to have work experience, ideally in their major/career field. Even if you have some previous work experience, use the first half of your senior year to gain experience — track down internships, part-time work, and/or volunteering opportunities. The more experience you have, the better you’ll understand what you want — and the more attractive you’ll be to employers.
- Conduct critical research. Information is the true secret of a successful job-search. Start with gathering information on yourself — your career and job wants, desires, goals, and dreams — then research jobs and prospective employers. Gathering information on prospective employers (and those employer’s hiring managers) not only provides critical information for tracking down real job leads, but helps you in tailoring your resume and preparing for the job interview.
- Write, edit, and revise your resume — and not just one resume. Your resume is still the most critical tool of a job-search, one that can easily derail an otherwise smart job-search. Start with creating/revising a resume that focuses on your key accomplishments, skills, experience, and education/training. Once you have a top-notch resume, the key is tailoring it to each job, each employer — using keywords and phrases specific to the opportunity you seek. For help with your resume, check out our Resume Resources and Tools fr Job-Seekers.
- Create your online career brand. The job market is slowly evolving from a paradigm of job-seekers and employers using job boards to find each other to one in which employers find job-seekers online — whether through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the job-seeker’s personal Website. Building your brand simply means showcasing your expertise and passion online where employers searching the Web could find it — and removing any unsavory — digital dirt — you can find. Buy your domain name — and if nothing else, publish your resume on it. Learn more by reading one or more of these Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools for Job-Seekers and Career Activists.
- Get organized. Before you start applying for jobs, going to job fairs, or interviewing with employers, take a moment to develop a system that works for you in organizing your job-search. A simple spreadsheet works best for many — and some online sites can even help keep your job-search organized. Here’s a really simple Sample Job Lead Follow-Up Log.
- Build, cultivate, and utilize your network of contacts. For the vast majority of job-seekers, a large and strong network of contacts — of people who know you and want to help you uncover job leads — results in more job opportunities. Networking — in person and online — is essential to your job-search success. Continually seek out new people to add to your network. Use your classmates and professors to help build your network. Contact your school’s alumni office, as many colleges and universities have dynamic opportunities for connecting current students with alumni desiring to help — and alumni make great members of your network. Learn more in our Key Career Networking Resources for Job-Seekers.
- Conduct informational interviews. A great tool for both researching and networking is the informational interview, which as its name implies, is an interview with someone in your career field who can offer you insights and advice. This tool is especially useful for current college students and new college grads. Contact your career service office to see if they have a list of folks willing to conduct informational interviews, but don’t stop there as you can easily identify and schedule interviews with just about anyone in your desired career field. Learn more in our free Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
- Develop anecdotes and stories that showcase your skills. People remember stories over bullet points, so your goal should be developing a set of anecdotes you can use in networking and interviewing situations that clearly demonstrate your skills, accomplishments, and passion for your work. Using stories may also help you feel more comfortable talking about yourself. See our Career Storytelling Tools for Job-Seekers.
- Prepare for all job interviews. Before you get called for your first interview, develop responses for common interview questions, and then practice them — ideally using the mock-interviewing technique with a friend, network contact, or career counselor. The more prepared you are for the interview, the more comfortable you’ll be — and the more likely you’ll succeed. You’ll find many ways to be prepare for your next job interview in our Guide to Job Interviewing Resources and Tools.
- Attend career fairs. Throughout your senior year, you should be able to identify and attend several local, regional, and virtual career fairs. Most colleges host a career fair — or share hosting with one or more nearby schools. Career fairs are a great opportunity to develop and enhance your interviewing skills, track down job leads, and build your network of contacts. For more information, see this section of our site: Job Expo and Career Fair Resources.
- Excel in the job interview. Research the employer and interviewers, know your route for getting to the interview, dress appropriately, arrive about 10 minutes early (to compose yourself, observe your settings, complete any paperwork), greet everyone warmly (from receptionist to hiring manager), use positive body language (firm handshake, strong eye contact, attentive posture, and friendly smile), confidently respond to interview questions, show enthusiasm, ask questions of the interviewer(s), and close the interview with appreciation and a request for information about next steps in the process. For more information, see our article 10 Best Job Interview Tips for Job-Seekers.
- Write thank-you notes after interviews to all interviewers. A quick note (by email and/or postal mail) of thanks that emphasizes your interest and fit with the job and employer will not get you the job offer, but it will help make you stand out from the majority of job-seekers who do not bother with this simple act of courtesy. Learn how to write a thank-you note in our article, 10 Tips for Writing a Job-Search Interview Thank-You Letter.
- Continue following up with hiring managers. Your work is not done once the interview is complete or the thank-you note sent. Following up with the hiring manager regularly shows your interest and enthusiasm for the job. The key is doing so in a way that is professional while not making you sound pesky or needy. Read our article, The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews.
Final Thoughts on Job-Search Success for New Grads
All these tips and advice can also be used post graduation. What we hope to have achieved with this article is provide you with a solid foundation for finding your first job as a college graduate — ideally before graduation.
Finally, please note that you’ll find no mention of posting your resume or responding to excessive numbers of job listings on job boards among the 15 tips for finding a new job. While you should include targeted job boards and job search-engines as a small part of your job-hunting strategy, many misguided job-seekers waste much too much valuable time that could be spent on more useful elements of job-hunting — searching for jobs online, responding to job "openings" that have already been filled or that never were openings. Job boards and job search-engines are good tools for conducting research for keywords and employers, but rarely for finding a new job. The one exception is your career center’s job board, which may have jobs specifically targeted to your school’s grads.
See also, our College Student, Recent Grad: Career and Job Resources
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
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