Okay. You have graduated but you don’t have a job yet. Welcome to the 55% of graduates who are in the still hunt for their first job post tassel turning. Does this mean that the remaining 45% have found a job? Heck no! They are working part time, have gone to grad school, enlisted in the military or have holed up in their parents basement playing Grand Theft Auto V. Feel alone? Don’t. Feel unprepared? Well, you don’t need to. While you are looking for a job, there are many things you can do with your time to prepare yourself for the first job you want to land. This is critical as many future interviewers will ask you “so, what would have you been doing with your time since you graduated?” Going to Burning Man, competing in Beer Pong tournaments and building yurts in New Mexico probably won’t impress many would be hiring managers…unless they have lived in a yurt.
You can take several approaches but this is what I would recommend that you focus on:
If your interest is in sales….take a course in sales skills. Marketing…learn as much as you can about social media marketing. Biology? Who knows but there are business classes specific to bio-med. Take an extension course. WHAT? You mean…go back to school? YES. Get a professional certificate in the field you want to pursue. Gaining knowledge through course work taught by working professionals verses professors will be extremely enlightening. There is a professional society or certification program for darn near every profession. Search on the internet for a professional certification program in the field you are interested in. Odds are with a little bit of money and additional time invested, you will be more qualified than the other candidates who are applying for the same job.
There is no shortage of a need for enthusiastic volunteers. Find a non-profit in your area, contact the Director and ask to meet with them about where you can contribute. In exchange, ask them to be a reference for you. Business organizations like Junior Achievement are always looking for people. If teaching is your goal, find out if you can volunteer 20 hours a week at a local school. Find an organization that supports a cause you believe in and volunteer.
Demonstrating superior verbal and written communication skills in business is essential. Sadly, college does not adequately prepare students to be effective communicators in a business environment. The ability to speak confidently, concisely and with relevance will distinguish you from other candidates. So, do you tremble at the thought of speaking in front of a group? Contact a Toastmasters group in your area. They provide a supportive professional environment where you can stand up and learn how to speak publicly. Dale Carnegie has been training business professionals for over 50 years in the craft of gaining confidence through communication. You think this is too old school? Get over it. Odds are your bosses's, bosses's, boss took the same course and will be impressed that you did too. The point is you won’t learn how to speak confidently in a business environment Skype-ing with your cousin in Cleveland who graduated 2 years ago and is working in shipping and receiving. There are many professional organizations who can assist you in improving your communications skills. Find one. Join. Improve.
Build your network
You have a LinkedIn profile, right? If not, click on a browser, go to www.linkedin.com and develop a profile. If you are not on LinkedIn, you are already invisible to the business world. If you are on LinkedIn start to expand your network by doing the following:
1) Join your college alumni LinkedIn Group.
2) Find groups that are associated with the fields you are interested in pursuing for a career and join them.
3) Invite others to connect on LinkedIn. Classmates, professors, former employers, friends. Work as fast as you can to build up a network of 200 1st level contacts, then 300, 400 and more.
The value of your professional network is more than invaluable. It will be your lifeline at some point in your career. Lay the foundation now.
Where you a member of a club, sorority or fraternity? Did you play a sport, participate on the debate team or sing in the choir? Search for former members of the club, team or singing group who have graduated and are working in a field you are interested in. Your common association will get you in the door. Ask them for input. Ask them what was the path they took that resulted in their current position. I will bet you a latte that more that 60% of the people you reach out to will respond and be willing to help. Give it a try.
Finding a job IS a full time job. It requires tenacity, patience and a strategy. It also demands that you spend your time wisely so you have meaningful evidence to show how you spent your time while you were spending your time looking for a job.
Keep at it. Don’t lose hope. Move forward. Great things will happen.