Dear Matt: I'm about to graduate from college and am looking into applying for jobs. As a new college grad, what tips do you have or what advice can you give me?
Matt: One of the biggest mistakes college graduates make is making it about them. I see so many college graduates write cover letters, résumés or present their elevator speech with these words. "I'm a recent college graduate looking for a job where I can learn and grow in my career."
The reality is, it's never about you - at any level in your career. It's always about what you can do for the employer. What does that mean? It means, in everything you do, every cover letter and résumé you write, every networking e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter post, make sure you talk about how you can help a company - not how a company can help you. Use examples from your education, internship and any related work to prove you have the skills they are looking for. Show how by hiring you, the company you applied to can fill their needs. That's what it's all about - showing you can fill a company's needs.
It's a competitive market. Not only are you competing with a crowded field of recent college graduates, you're also competing with unemployed or unhappy entry-level workers - many who are fighting for the same jobs you are. The first tip is this: Don't sit at your computer and expect to get a job. Yes, I do recommend searching for jobs through the various online resources, and making contacts through resources such as LinkedIn, but don't make it the focus of your job search.
"Set up informational interviews where you take someone who is further ahead in your career path out for coffee, preferably near their office, so you can learn how they got their job," said Steven Rothberg, president of Minneapolis-based CollegeRecruiter.com. "Ask them for 15 minutes and don't talk to them about your goals unless they ask. Just listen."
Ask your friends, family, instructors, former co-workers and former managers for the names of two people you should network with, said Rothberg. Then contact those people and learn from them. Then, ask them for the names of two people. Keep repeating the process and you'll quickly build a huge network.
"At some point, someone will refuse to give you the names because they have a position for you," said Rothberg.
— Matt Krumrie
Twin Cities freelance writer specializing in career advice