Job hunting for the recent or soon-to-be college grad can seem formidable. Most students know about crafting superb resumes and cover letters and often take workshops at their colleges to make these even better. The problem is, however, many students don’t even know where to begin to look for that entry-level position they want.
The good news is that, even in this less-than-stellar economy, students are not left up-creek without a paddle. There are definitive ways to increase your chances of landing that job after graduation.
No, you don’t have to aspire to become the new Steve Jobs. You just need a vision for yourself before you set out on your journey. It’s also perfectly normal to not be sure what you want to do. There are many people in their 40s who change careers or still haven’t decided just yet what they want to be when they ‘grow up’.
An ambition can be that you want to find an entry-level position will leave you enough money to live on. If you want something directly related to your major, then set out on acquiring internships in those areas to increase your marketability. It’s also prudent to find a professional mentor who can give you sound career advice. The basic idea is to set a vision for yourself and go after it.
Humanities majors unite! If your major was anything other than basket-weaving, your major can help you to build a successful career. For example, if you were a theatre major, your oratory or performance skills could help you be an effective teacher. It could also help you to nail that interview or knock out an effective meeting that leaves everyone raving. People skills are always important. Or let’s say you were a history major. The ability to write effectively, to conduct meaningful research, and to give critical analysis is valuable in marketing, news organizations, and many other industries.
The bottom line is that whatever you learned in college can help you in your professional career. Don’t knock your French major to anyone, especially to the person who is interviewing you. Explain to your interviewer how the skills you learned in college can be applied to the job opening at hand.
Don’t underestimate the importance of college internships. They can often lead to job opportunities you didn’t even imagine. If you were a good intern before graduation and you come back for employment, they just might hire you for the job.
Even if you aren’t hired at the company you interned at, it still serves as valuable job experience. It is certainly more impressive on a resume than that gig you had in high school flipping burgers. Go to your college career development center and see what internships or alumnae connections they have.
As Chris Rock once said to his audience, “Eighty percent of people in here got a job because a friend recommended them.” That is still absolutely true today. I got my current job because a Polish friend from my graduate program in Budapest knew about a job opening at my company in Kyiv. That’s one crazy line of connections from Poland, to Hungary, to Ukraine. But it still stands as a testament to the fact that connections are what help you to get noticed.
Not sure if you have an adequate network? Build one! The way to do that is to always be kind and courteous to everyone, even if they aren’t your best buddies. Also, try to go to career fairs sponsored by your college to meet representatives from different companies. See if your college has an alumnae database of former students who are connected in certain companies or industries you are interested in.
Just telling a person you went to their college can sometimes make them want to help you. Why? College often makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. At this same graduate program in Budapest, I met Natalie Zemon Davis who is one of the preeminent historians of her generation. I went up to her and told her I went to her alma mater, Smith College. She immediately hugged me, which she certainly didn’t do with all the people who went up to her. The point is to use your college connections to build yourself up professionally.
Going to job interviews is very important, even if you’re not that interested in the open position. Show up looking crisp, clean, wide-eyed, and bushy-tailed. You never know who your interviewer knows. Prepare for each job interview or meeting with a professional by reading about them or their company and by having important and relevant questions to ask. This shows you have initiative and drive, which are both important traits for any career field.
Remember how your mom always made you write thank you cards after your birthday to the relatives who sent you presents? That is still good habit to keep up as an adult. Always send a hard-copy thank you note to your interviewer or any professional you hold a meeting with. It shows you have manners and are grateful for their time. Maybe, if they don’t hire you, they will keep you in mind for a later position or can refer you to someone else they know who is hiring.