Saturday, June 4, 2011

18 Serious Things to Do If You Graduate College Without a Job

You spent four, maybe five, years in college, and when you graduated, you didn't have a job. This is not what you expected, right? You stayed up late, studied hard, followed directions, sacrificed and took out loans - lots of loans. Where is the pay off? Don't worry. It's coming soon.

Graduating without a job is tough. It's happens to a lot of people. Heck, it even happened to me. The worst thing to do is worry. The best thing to do is make getting a job your new job, and perhaps, follow my advice below:

1) Look Over Your Resume. I've had several students tell me no one is responding to their resumes, and after one glance, I can see several reasons. Whether you have grammatical or stylistic errors, a lack of details, poor design or another challenge, have a professional you trust offer you some constructive criticism.

2) Redo Your Cover Letter. The generic cover letter won't do anymore. Spend some time getting the proper name of the contact who will read your letter. Be sure to tailor it to the job, and please don't simply rehash your resume. Tell the reader something about you that's not obviously understood from your attached resume.

3) Reach Back to Old Contacts. You went to several networking events and had guest speakers in your classes, right? When was the last time you sent an email to catch up? Do it. You never know what you might learn or what job tips await you.

4) Go to New Networking Events. As a new graduate, it's time to get yourself out there and network as a real professional and not a student. Dress well, bring copies of your resume and be ready to impress everyone in the room from the people at the registration table to the hosts.

5) Connect with Your Mentor. If you have a mentor, this person is committed to seeing you succeed. Ask your mentor out for a cup of coffee and discuss ways to get a job, stay busy and distinguish yourself from the crowd.

6) Read the Trades. When you get an interview, you need to be able to speak the language of your industry. You need to know what's happening and be able to have an intelligent conversation about it. The best way to gain knowledge is by reading your industry's trade magazine.

7) Use Social Media and the Internet. What's the point in having a LinkedIn account if you don't use it to connect with employers and other job seekers? Why follow friends on Twitter when you can follow companies and experts who can give you some good information? Use social media to your advantage. Also, spend time looking directly on the "job" or "careers" sections of company websites, instead of relying on searches or other job websites.

8) Ask for an Informational Interview. If you like a company, don't hesitate to ask for an information interview. It's a good way to get in the door and make yourself known to the very people who can place you in a job. It also shows you are committed and want to work.

9) Contact other Recent Graduates. Most entry level jobs are ripe for professionals with one to two years experience. Your former classmates are in those jobs, and some of them may be ready to move to the next job. Contact them to see if they are planning a move or know of others who are doing it. You might learn about a job even before it's listed.

10) Reach Out to Recruiters and Headhunters. These professionals have the unique job of being employed to find people like you. Get to know them and make sure they have everything they need to get you in the running for an open job.

11) Email Your Career Counselors and Professors. Other than your parents, no one wants to see you employed more than your professors and career counselors. We've helped nurture you, and we want to see you land your first job. We also have lots of contacts and people who reach out to us about jobs. Be sure you are on our radar and our email lists.

12) Reconnect with Your Internship Coordinators. If you did well at an internship, chances are your boss remembers you. It's also a chance your former boss has a job opening. Send an email to reconnect. You might just have perfect timing.

13) Develop a Portfolio. What makes PR students from Howard University special is each has a portfolio with their best work, which they should show at job interviews. Develop one and be sure it has a cross section of your work. This will set you apart from everyone else who just comes in with their resumes. You will be able to show them what you can do, instead of simply telling them about it.

14) Volunteer. Don't let there be a big empty time frame on your resume. Get out there and put your skills to good use at a local nonprofit, community organization or even church that might be in desperate need of some help. You'll keep your skills sharp and add some more experience to your resume.

15) Intern. If you thought your interning days were over, well change your mind. You can get paid internships as college graduates, and many companies use this time as a probationary period to check out how you perform. If you are offered one, take it. It could be the precursor to your new job.

16) Hyperlink. We are in the digital age. Be sure to make your resume dynamic. If you worked on a new website, insert a hyperlink. If you developed a new video, insert a hyperlink to it on YouTube. If you developed a new brochure, insert a link on Google Docs. Make it easier for the people reviewing your resume to be impressed by you and your work.

17) Clean Up Your Online Persona. Someone is probably going to find you online before they even call you in for an interview. What will they find? Be sure what you present online passes my M.O.B. test. Negative content can cost you an interview now or even your job later.

18) Be Flexible. Many people will disagree with my last statement, but do not wait for your dream job. If it's your dream job, it's probably the same one thousands, if not millions, of others are waiting to get. So many have their hearts set on the media, entertainment or fashion industries. They are closed networks and tough to easily crack. It's possible, but tough. Set your sights on something more attainable, and work tirelessly to connect with those who can get you in the door of your dream company.

Good luck.

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