Five Job Search Tips for New Grads

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN
  • Updated: April 9, 2008 - 11:11 AM

Finding a job right after graduation can be challenging, especially in today's economy. Kevin Donlin gives expert advice on how to beat the competition.

Kevin Donlin

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It's almost that time of year again, when newly graduating seniors hit the job market in search of a paycheck.

I don't know about you, but everything I know about job hunting I learned after college – like how to network and write an effective resume, for example.

So, to give you graduating seniors a leg up, I interviewed two career experts to uncover 5 ways for new grads to find a job faster. This is the stuff I wish they taught in school ...

1) Cast a wide net

"In a declining economy such as we face now, you have to expand your options. If you've looked only at large corporations, start looking at small businesses, non-profits, universities, government jobs – a huge area of job growth – and other types of employers," advises Lindsey Pollak, Author of "Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World."

Often, jobs at smaller and non-profit organizations are harder to find, requiring more networking on your part. However, you'll face less competition from other job hunters who are not willing to put in the effort.

2) Persist without being a pest

Follow-up is one of the most important elements of any successful job search, especially for new grads lacking traditional experience. "'No' may really mean 'not right now,'" says Pollak. "Getting a job is often about timing, so stay on employers' radar screens. But instead of saying, 'Hi, I'm just calling to follow up,' try to add value in each communication, and only follow up once every two weeks or so."

One way to add value is to use Google Alerts (Google.com/alerts) to stay current on industry news and trends. The service is free and emails you daily updates of the latest Google results (blogs, news, etc.) based on the topics you choose. Then, presto! You have a valid excuse to email or call employers about the relevant articles you find online.

3) Get experience – any way you can

Employers today expect – and in many cases demand – that you have hands-on work experience when you graduate from college, according to Peter Vogt, author of "Career Wisdom for College Students: Insights You Won't Get in Class, on the Internet, or from Your Parents."

"If you don't have the right experience, you need to get some, be it through a post-graduation internship, working for a temporary staffing agency, or perhaps even volunteering," says Vogt.

While this may come as a nasty surprise, especially if you've spent four years and five or six figures getting a degree, it might be necessary. Especially if the economy continues to slow down. So you should have a Plan B that includes temping, interning or volunteer work. Some sites to check out are Net-Temps.com, Kellyservices.com, Manpower.com and Volunteermatch.org.

4) Your resume probably stinks – fix it

This unpleasant fact comes from my own experience reading hundreds of resumes from new grads over the years. To be specific, there are two things missing from most entry-level resumes: focus and results.

First, to give your resume focus, include an objective at the top, with a specific job title. If you can't focus on one job, tell readers the three skills you want to use (not 5 or 11). You must do the thinking for the reader and make it clear exactly what you want to do.

For free resume-writing help, send your resume to 5 people and ask them if they can figure out what job you want. If they can't, employers can't. Revise as necessary.

Second, to give your resume results, add up all the time or money you saved or made in every position you've held since high school – paid or unpaid. Then, include those totals in your resume and put them up front, where they can't be missed.

Wrong example: "Duties included, but were not limited to, filing, faxing, answering phones and greeting clients as receptionist."

Right example: "Saved 24 staff hours per month ($2,880 per year) by devising new filing system while handling receptionist's duties."

5) Get used to competition

Many new grads overlook or ignore this obvious fact, according to Vogt.

"As a student, you were graded on your efforts alone. If you scored 90 percent on a test, you got an A – no matter how anyone else did. As a job hunter, employers grade you against your peers. Suddenly, a performance that might otherwise have earned an A might earn you an F – failure to get hired – because another candidate else did just a little better," says Vogt.

To compete in today's job market, start with your mindset. Whether you're writing resumes and cover letters, preparing for interviews, or out there networking, keep reminding yourself that good enough is ... not. According to Vogt, "Your #1 job search thought at all times must be this: How can I outdo my peers?"


Kevin Donlin is creator of www.TheSimpleJobSearch.com. Since 1996, he has provided job search help to more than 11,000 people. Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, CBS Radio and others. His free report, The Simple Job Search Manifesto, is found at www.TheSimpleJobSearch.com
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