Posted by Brian McCullough
It’s a tough world out there. The economy’s struggling, the job market’s fluctuating and unemployment keeps hovering at recession levels. People who have worked for 20 years are suddenly unemployed and struggling to find new work. That’s hardly the environment that a recent college grad wants to be thrust into, yet that’s just what’s happening. Still, all is not lost, college grad. Relinquish your death grip on your diploma and heed the advice of those who have gone before you. Whether you got your degree from a traditional brick-and-mortar university or an online school, you’ll find that by maintaining your dignity and determination, you’ll be able to find a job and keep the independence you’ve come to treasure, and avoid moving back in with mom and dad.
Boost Your Resume’s Power
You fretted away nights studying for finals and worked yourself into a tizzy with unpaid internships, only to hear, upon graduation, that GPA’s aren’t nearly as important as you were led to believe and you and five-hundred other applicants gotnearly the same experience at your respective internships. That doesn’t mean that you can’t distinguish yourself from the pack. In fact, there are a number of steps you can take to turn a ho-hum resume into your ticket to a great career.
First off, remember that, in some circumstances, bragging is perfectly acceptable. True, bragging to make yourself look good at the expense of someone else isn’texactly attractive, but bragging on a resume is a good thing. As an article in The Daily Mail points out, if you were given responsibilities such as managing a project or supervising others when you were either employed or interning, lead with those skills—and don’t just include them under your job experience. Put them front and center in your statement of purpose. Emphasize how your skills and experience will translate into making you a reliable investment. After all, that’s what you’re asking the employerto do, invest in you.
Also, be aware that tailoring your resume to individual job postings and companies will get you far more miles than simply sending out the resume equivalent of a formletter. By utilizing key words from the job posting and including words that are key to the company’s mission statement in your statement, you’ll turn yourself into the ideal candidate. True, this sort of customization might be a bit time consuming, but it pays dividends in the long run.
Change How You Look at the World
Most college grads have very specific dreams. If they graduated from law school, they see themselves arguing a case before the Supreme Court. If they hold degrees in public relations, they imagine themselves as image consultants to the stars or press secretaries to congressmen. The truth of the matter is it’s not likely that life will play out that way for most students, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful, or happy. In fact, you may be stunned at where you wind up twenty years down the road, but what’s even more stunning is the fact that, twenty years from now, most of you wouldn’t change the path you walked.
One way to start accepting the inevitability of the real world, as New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks views it, is to change your expectations. Don’t seek happiness to the exclusion of success, but don’t sacrifice your ethics either. Look at companies that have never held you interest before, and examine individual job postings without worrying about things such as location or company prestige. For instance, if you have ethical issues with tobacco, don’t submit your resume to Phillip Morris, but don’t discount companies simply because you don’t know the technical aspects of their business. The individuals who write product descriptions for pharmaceuticals more often have English degrees than biology ones, and the community relations director for Microsoft probably doesn’t speak binary code. It doesn’t matter. They’re great at what they do because they played to their strengths and never focused on their supposed weaknesses.
The Chicago Sun-Times recently published an article indicating that employers were planning on hiring 19 percent more recent college graduates this year than they did just a year ago. That’s good news. Even better news is that hiring is up even higher than that in some regions. For instance, while Davide Bauerlein at the Florida Union Times claims hiringis only up 7.9 percent in the Southeast, it’s up by 25.6 percent in the Northeast and, 20.2 percent in the Midwest and 19.6 percent in the West. The jobs are out there; so don’t limit yourself to just one city or even one state. Instead, apply to jobs that might require you to move. Just indicate your willingness to do so when you submit your application. This will open up all sorts of new pathways for you to follow and give you the chance to start your life somewhere new.
Learn to Write
In the Sun-Times article mentioned above, another important point is made. Students must demonstrate their ability to communicate through the written word. Grammatical errors and typos on a resume are a death knell. If you don’t care enough to proofread a resume, why would you care enough to proofread an e-mail to an important company client? With that being said, this is the time to invest in your writing skills. Don’t just hire someone to look over your resume or ask a friend to proofread it—though those are good ideas. Instead, give yourself a crash coursein the basics. Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab) offers everything you need to brush up on your sentence construction, citation structures and business writing formats. You can even enroll in an online workshop. For instance, Writer’s Digest offers a variety of workshops, including one that covers form and composition at a moderate price. This investment in your grammatical prowess could add up to improved job outlooks, as one of the primary complaints of employers is that new graduates don’t know how to write.
You know how social networking is a big part of your life? It turns out you can use it to your advantage. According to the article “For Recent Grads, Social Media Sites Play Key Role in Job Hunt” by Tim Post, social networking can accomplish many ofthe same results as traditional networking. While the face-to-face networking of career fairs, alumni gatherings and professional organizations is still of paramount importance, social networking offers a new frontier in which to expand your professional persona. Using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, it is possible to post information that will get you noticed professionally and leverage the connections of your friends and family to get your name out to those who might be looking to hire.
The Bottom Line
It’s true that we like to focus on the negatives when thinking about job outlooks and economic projections. Instead of this defeatist attitude, focus on the improvements that are being made and what you can bring to a company that is truly unique. You don’t have to settle for a job waiting tables after college, nor do you have to pack upand head off to grad school or mom and dad’s. If you play your cards right and focuson your experience, you can find a job that will be the beginning of a career. It might not pay what you’d hoped it would, but if the position will keep your bills paid, take it. The salary increase will come with time.
Note: This is a guest post.