You're completing your degree and contemplating what your next steps will be. With all the knowledge and skills you've developed through your studies and internships or work experiences, you're full of enthusiasm and ready to take on the world. So how will you locate the opportunity that will enable you to put all that you've learned to work?
In my experience, both as a counselor in a university career planning office and as an independent career consultant, I've found that many recent grads look too narrowly at the job search or career-building resources at their disposal. To broaden your perspective, I'd like to share my "top 10" resources.
10. Follow news and developments in your career field
As you prepare to enter (or re-enter) the full-time workforce and engage in an intensive job search, it's still critical that you keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date. Attend meetings of professional associations, read professional publications, follow online blogs, and join online professional groups. You'll maintain a good overview of what's going on in your field and be better prepared to discuss new trends during an interview.
9. Use the resources at your alma mater
The career services office at your alma mater will most likely not deliver you a job on a silver platter - that's an unrealistic expectation. The counselors there are, however, a great resource to assist you with building your resume, guiding you through a mock interview, and providing advice on job search strategies. In addition, the alumni office may be able to provide contact information for friendly alumni working in a geographic area where you want to relocate. Be sure that you are using the resources of both the career services and alumni offices.
8. Promote your internships and volunteer experiences
Your newly minted degree is a wonderful thing, but also pretty much expected by a potential employer. Your internships and related professional experience (even volunteer) will really help sell you to a prospective employer. Look at the position descriptions for any position you apply for, and make sure that you are fully incorporating the skills you've developed, even if your experience wasn't full-time or paid.
7. Network in person
Business networking online is a wonderful and powerful tool to assist in your job search and with building your career. Nothing, however, is as powerful as face-to-face interaction. You must seek out opportunities to network in person with other professionals in your field. Don't just randomly attend professional meetings or networking events, but volunteer to help coordinate. Volunteering will make it easier to network and meet people because you'll have a purpose at the meeting or event.
6. Arrange informational meetings
Another way to build an in-person network is to arrange informational meetings with people working in your field. The overt purpose is not to find a job, but to gather information about what is going on within the individual's profession or inside their organization. You need to approach the informational meeting with a list of well-planned questions and a goal for exactly what kinds of information you want to gather. You're likely to build a network of advocates who will support you and look out for opportunities for you.
5. Be persistent: follow-up
The difference between following-up and becoming a "nag" is a fine line. You should regularly follow-up with the people in your network with whom you've developed a professional relationship, but be aware of stepping over the line and becoming a nuisance. Same thing with following-up after an interview - following-up a couple of weeks later is appropriate and expected, but calling every day to see if a decision has been reached is too much.
4. Use online business networking
Along with in-person networking, online business networking is absolutely essential in the 21st century. Do consider the tools you are using and for what reasons. A site specifically designed for business networking is preferable. You will be able to participate in online groups of people with similar professional interests and build a supportive online network. Social networking sites are less useful: The interaction tends to be much more informal and less useful for your professional purposes. Keep social networking sites separate for use in your personal life.
3. Manage your online presence
Be sure that you are aware of all aspects of your online presence. If you are using business networking sites, are your profiles doing a good job of accurately representing you to the electronic world? Beyond that, are you aware of what others are saying about you electronically? You may want to set up regular searches for yourself using multiple search engines. This will help ensure that a prospective employer performing a search for you won't find information that might be construed as negative.
2. Customize your resume
Your resume is never complete or "done." You should customize your resume for every opportunity for which you apply. If a job description is available, carefully review it for key words or phrases that reflect skills or competencies that are important to the job. Your resume must use those exact words or phrases.
If you're not using the resume for a specific job, constantly be researching those skills and competencies that are important in your field. Regularly revise your resume to reflect those up-to-date skills and competencies.
1. Get support
Whether you are looking for a full-time opportunity or assessing possible directions to explore with your newly minted degree, make sure that you have support for your endeavors. Yes, your spouse, significant other, or family member may provide great support. I would also encourage you, however, to enlist a trustworthy friend to be your "buddy."
Your buddy will be a person willing to be totally blunt with you. You'll meet with that person on a weekly basis and share with them what you've accomplished in the previous week and what you plan for the coming week. Your buddy will provide additional accountability to ensure that you accomplish what you say you will. They'll also serve as your cheerleader along the way.
These resources are just a start at considering all the options available to help you. Think creatively, and be sure that you are leaving no stone unturned.