There is reason for optimism, as employers and recruiters across the U.S. are citing 2017 as one of the best in years for recent graduates. According to research conducted by American Student Assistance, there are nearly 1.9 million college graduates this spring of 2017; that’s hefty competition.
I’d like to share four approaches I see new college graduates take that sabotage their search; and different approaches that will help you land smarter and faster!
1. No career or job focus.
Recent graduates who can’t express a clear focus aligned with the position for which they’re applying will turn off employers.
Know where you want to go. Many college students don’t know exactly what they want, but by the time you graduate, you should have an idea. Create personal road maps for the next one, five and ten years. It will likely evolve and change as you go, but it will set a course for your career journey. Define what’s important to you, and pitch your plan to folks. Make sure you have researched your target field and can clearly convey to employers how it fits your background.
Conversely, having too narrow a focus on a field where opportunities are slim can impede your search. Investigate alternate paths to your ultimate job, and develop a Plan B and Plan C for career options.
This is important. Even if your first job isn’t your dream job or one you pictured yourself doing, it can have immense value. Regardless of where you end up, your first job often becomes a bridge to every job down your career path.
2. Delay the job search.
Graduates – whether recent or soon-to-be – who haven’t started the job search, are already lagging behind.
Get on it early. As early as your freshman year, begin building your networks by attending extracurricular and organizational events, networking with your professors or other staff members, taking leadership roles within campus organizations, and lining up internships.
Tap into your career/guidance office. I’m sometimes amazed at how few students use the resources at their schools. Trained career service professionals can guide you and share job / networking leads. Engage with these offices. Get as much experience as you can with mock interviewing; writing your resume, LinkedIn profile or other communications; and networking. Take advantage of career fairs and events where employers come to scout new talent. And even if you’ve already graduated, these services will continue to help alums. And that’s another association to connect with: your school’s alumni association.
3. Stuck on money, status or places.
Students should absolutely prioritize where they want to work, how much they want to earn, and the type of role they want to have. But being too rigid with these factors can impede your search.
For geography, consider opportunities in second or third choice locations, as well as your top area if too few openings exist in that location.
For role, carefully research actual starting jobs in your field for folks with your credentials. Meet with alumni for informational interviews. The key is to get inside an organization of interest, meet the right people and prove your value. Look for patterns that exist where grads have advanced from entry roles. Consider an internship while in school or even after graduation.
For salary, keep your salary expectations realistic for entry-level jobs and internships. Use online resources, talk with professionals in your target field, and ask your guidance or career services counselor for help in identifying appropriate salary ranges. And keep in mind that aspects like the growth potential of your prospective job and the skills you will develop in that role are most often more important than starting salary.
4. Not enough networking.
Even though the advice has been and still is to network, network, network, few students are fully engaged in it.
Use a varied approach to networking. Reach out to family, friends, alumni, local professionals, and members of professional associations or groups in your field. Ask for information, advice and assistance with your search.
Use online and offline networking. Build a strong digital presence to make yourself findable online. Social networking sites can showcase your professional skills and expand your network. They also offer you the chance to connect with, and interact with, companies to get noticed. Keep updated resumes and business cards ready for offline networking. You never know when that opportunity will present itself. I’ve heard many stories of leads that led to jobs in the most surprising way!
So you’re going to – or have just graduated. Congratulations! Now go land that first career role! What experiences have you had with entry-level job search? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.