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5 Job-Search Tips Just for College Grads

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Graduating from college is an exciting time, full of both positive emotions and a lot of “Uh oh, now I have to find a job and make a living.” Not only have you been let out into the working world with a million of your peers, that same working world is already full of people who’ve been on the job hunt longer than you. These people have experience and networks. Getting a job is not going to be easy.

But that doesn’t mean you should panic. You will be able to get a job and move out of your parents’ basement. Companies like to hire young graduates for their energy and ability to really focus on the work. In a recent report, organizations polled said they would be hiring about 13 percent more graduates this year than last, so your chances of getting work are much better than they were not too long ago.

Here are five tips we have specifically for those of you who are fresh out of school:

1. Polish Your Résumé

When you’re just finishing up school, your résumé isn’t likely to have much bulk to it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t. A well-constructed résumé is the key to getting noticed by hiring managers. You shouldn’t make up experience for your résumé, but you can do a better job highlighting the experience you do have. List every job you’ve held, even if you think time at a fast-food restaurant or a work-study job doesn’t apply. Any proof that you know how to behave in the workforce is helpful.

Also, instead of just listing jobs or accomplishments, tailor your résumé to the jobs you’re applying for by detailing your skill sets and examples of how you’ve developed or used them. Finally, have a perfectionist review your résumé. A fresh pair of very sharp eyes will find spelling and structure errors. Better yet, find a mentor in your chosen field to help you create a résumé that speaks to the kind of job you want.

2. Work the Network

While the Internet can be a good tool for a job search, it shouldn’t be the only tool you use. You have to step away from the computer and shake some hands in the real world. To get a job, you need to have a network. It really will come down to whom you know. Make sure you build as broad a network as possible. You have more access than you think through your parents and their friends, former coaches or scout leaders, people you worked with at internships and volunteer jobs, teachers you were close to, the neighbor whose lawn you mowed every summer, etc. Don’t be shy about asking these people for help and introductions. They know you, they know your capabilities, and they’re a great way to start a network.

3. Become a Professional

You’re done with school now, so it’s time to be a grownup and become a professional. While companies do like to hire young workers, they don’t want irresponsible kids. Your age is already going to work against you in a lot of ways, so don’t worsen things by not behaving in a professional manner. This means buying the right clothes. Even if the workplace is business casual, the college-slacker look (baggy pants, flip-flops, et al) isn’t going to help you get anywhere. And if you don’t have professional clothes to wear at an interview, you can bet you won’t need them for the job.

You also need to make your communication style professional. That means changing your voicemail greeting from the one you recorded after you lost that bet, for example. Make sure you have a professional email address; use your actual name, not your sorority pledge nickname.

Finally, clean up your Internet persona. Google your name and see what comes up; untag yourself from photos of partying and acting like an idiot; delete any immature fights, drunk posts and general weirdness from your Twitter page. Employers will look for you online and you may miss out on jobs because of what they find there.

4. Adjust Your Expectations

You have to have realistic expectations about the kind of job you will start out in after you finish college. Hardly anyone begins his or her ideal job the minute the graduation celebration is over. It may sound obvious, but you will have to start your career with a “first job” kind of job. Be willing to apply for a job that will be a good place to learn and stay busy while being surrounded by people you can look up to and who are doing the kinds of things you eventually want to do.

Don’t focus your job search so tightly that you are only applying for a very specific job title in a very specific industry. Look for jobs that require the types of skills you have and the experience you gained in school, and keep an open mind about what you might be doing in your future.

5. Don’t Wait

The idea may be tempting, but now is not the time to take a few months off after a stressful senior year and kick back for the summer. You aren’t going to be able to hit the “go” button on your job search in the fall and end up in a position to make rent within a few weeks. A job hunt takes time, and the hiring process can add many weeks to that time. People who start their hunt in May often aren’t settled in a new job until September, or later, so taking time off isn’t really an option. You have to learn early that having a full schedule is par for the course in life. You may still be dealing with finals, packing up your dorm room and hanging out with your friends for the last time, but you have to make time to begin your job search while you’re doing all those other things. You will need all the time you can get.

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