Career Advice, Interviews, Jobs, Resumes

College Seniors, Now’s The Time To Start Your Job Search

While snow is still on the ground and graduation seems like it’s still a ways away, the truth is that your great adventure into the world of work is fast approaching.

You’re likely being fed an eclectic menu of best strategies for job search. Anything from: “Be sure to dress the part,” to, “you must have a concise resume ready,” to, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” The compounded effects of all this friendly and good-intentioned advice often leads to confusion, frustration, and anxiety.

Following are some best-practice guidelines which collectively may serve as a beacon when you feel a bit lost, some which have stood the test of time over the past 25+ years; others, which serve to bring old-school strategies to modern, 2017 speed.

1. Be confidently hopeful

You have something to offer, even if your experience well may not be as deep as a 5, 10 or 15-year career veteran. You offer newly gained knowledge, a fresh perspective and a positive attitude.

Enter the job search process with confidence and optimism, because if you start out with a discouraged and insecure demeanor, you’re already several steps behind in the process. If you are struggling with either of these areas, then reach out for help. Find someone or a group of people or an organization where the vibe is supportive and hopeful. Gain traction in this area before you dive into the heavier aspects of job search.

[Related: The Only Job Search Strategy You’ll Ever Need]

2. Determine what you want

While you likely will not know the exact job or career path you seek right out of school, you do have preferences for certain tasks and a natural talent for certain types of work. Start there. Make a list. Head to your favorite job board using those keywords to begin identifying position descriptions that have the look and feel for types of roles you might want to interview for and for which you may be a fit, based on your preferences and talent.

3. Talk to people

Whether it’s your neighbor, your aunt, your friend’s father or someone you meet at the dentist’s office, weave in the topic of jobs and see what happens. Ask them their favorite part of their job, and what they hate. Inquire about their passion and their career path.

Unearth gems and pack them in the back of your mind for future reference. Many career coaches advise you ask for informational interviews, and that’s fine, too. The point is, talk about the world of work with people in an informal, “it’s-all-about-them” and their company way versus your wanting them to help you get a job.

[Related: Why Networking In Unusual Places Is Critical For College Grads]

4. Research online

Google whatever Boolean combination of words that makes sense and keep an online or hard-copy notebook of key results; i.e., company names, corporate culture, position descriptions, etc. Research company news through various media sites to cull due diligence; read Yahoo! Finance; read Glassdoor company profiles and reviews; browse bizjournals.com. Dig in and feed your job-search process with information.

5. Build a meaty resume story

Quiet your mind from social media freneticism for a few hours and really dive into your career story. It is likely you will be weaving in more than dates you attended college, and may also be including internship work, on-campus jobs, sorority or fraternity activities, clubs, volunteer initiatives and other affiliations on your resume.

[Related: Adulting 101: How To Create A Grown-Up Personal Brand]

Don’t shortchange the value of your story: context, detail of the ‘who, what, where, when, why and how’ and the impact of your roles matters. As well, ensure you understand your audience’s needs, as your resume is about solving your future boss’ problems more than it is about fulfilling your heart’s desire.

That said, you can do both—focus on the target company’s needs while tending to your own. You just have to be strategic and thoughtful in your approach. Read a book on building a meaningful resume, or hire someone to write it for you. Bottom line: take your time and respect the process. Think, quality versus speed.

6. Be found online

While a pithy resume is essential, social media and website profiles complement the resume. As more employers, company owners and recruiters navigate the internet for quality candidates, the opportunity to land your next gig from an online connection increases.

LinkedIn is one of the most popular hubs for careerists to present themselves; as well, you want to ensure other profiles are up to speed. Take an inventory of your profiles on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social sites where you engage, and ensure they send a consistent, professional message, with a touch of your unique personality.

[Related: 4 New Resume Trends That Will Change Your Job Search Forever]

7. Reach out directly to decision makers

While it’s true that job gatekeepers abound, and in many instances, you will be funneling your well-honed resume into a database or into an already bulging email box of a hiring manager or HR assistant, this doesn’t negate other options.

Kindle conversations directly with potential hiring decision makers with a focused, brief cover note with content that signals you ‘get them’ and understand at least some of their basic needs and goals (because you have done your research, outlined earlier in #4). Include a couple of bullet achievements and soft skills from your resume (versus blasting your entire career story to them). Be savvy and centered on their needs. Rinse and repeat and be diligent and patient in your efforts.

8. Prepare for conversations

You may feel that once you get an interview lined up, you’ve got the job nailed. If you have a gregarious, conversational personality, that’s great. You may indeed have a leg up. However, being too talkative also can have its downsides. The rule of thumb is to answer questions as succinctly as possible, while also providing context and genuine enthusiasm.

Prepare for the possibility of Skype or recorded telephone or group interviews. Practice your answers, and then practice some more. Ensure you have prepared replies to a plethora of behavioral interview and other styles of interview questions. Be so prepared that recalling the right answer for a specific question isn’t a struggle.

[Related: The 45 Questions You Should Ask In Every Job Interview]

Because of the unique nature of the job interview – it’s truly a sales process – you must polish your communication, marketing and negotiation skills.

Job search 2017 style is different than it was a few years ago. Modernizing your search with contemporary tools and strategies will empower your results. As a new graduate, you are equipped with new knowledge and experiences as well as a determined personality that, if packaged well, and confidently, will open up the door to a bright future!

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