If you don’t have a job lined up yet for after graduation, don’t panic. There’s plenty of time to get one! Read on to learn how to make the transition from student to employee.
Monitor your social media – before your potential boss does.
When someone Googles you, your LinkedIn profile will likely show up in the first or second spot. It has become an essential branding tool for job applicants and an obvious place for employers to learn more about candidates. It’s also a great way to maintain and build your network. If you haven’t already, it’s time to create a LinkedIn page of your own and keep your information up-to-date throughout your job search. Be sure to include your work history, skills, projects you’ve done and, of course, a professional looking picture.
Meanwhile, it’s also a good time to clean up your other social media pages. (Juuust in case you weren’t sure, potential employers are definitely looking!) Keep your posts professional and never bad-mouth your previous company or coworkers. Your potential employers will evaluate your communication skills, the way you represent yourself and also if you post too much. In short, if it won’t help you land the job, delete it.
Perfect your packaging.
When you apply for a job, you’re essentially advertising yourself. Market your benefits and competitive advantage, just like you would any other product. Similar to a sales campaign, you’ve got to “package” yourself well to make the sale especially as a newbie in the job market.
- Update your resume. Hopefully, you’ve been doing this periodically throughout college. If not, you’ll need to think back and list your achievements, extracurriculars and work experience. For students with little job experience, it can help to include your key skills, volunteer experience and a statement of your career goals. Feel free to include your GPA if it’s above a 3.0 and you’re proud of it. Don’t forget, some employers ask for copies of your transcript so it’s important to be honest. We recommend tailoring your resume to each position you apply for and highlighting the most relevant strengths.
- Ask for letters of recommendation. Most professors, internship supervisors and employers are happy to write a glowing report if you’ve applied yourself. It’s best to ask for letters of recommendation in person and plan for about a month before you’ll get them back.
- Write your cover letter. This should explain your work ethic, strengths and why you’d be suited for a specific position. You’ll need to tailor it to each position, but it’s a good idea to have a generic version to use as a template when applying.
- Business cards. While they aren’t mandatory, many students go a step further and use business cards for interviewing or networking. It’s a simple way to distribute your contact information, while looking professional and above your age.
- Create a portfolio. Listing “strong writing skills” is less effective than demonstrating those strong writing skills. If you’re preparing for a position where it’s applicable, showcasing your work is more important than talking about it.
Don’t forget to tap your school’s free resources! The Career Services Office can look over these documents and provide guidance on improving them. Less than 30% of students utilize their free services, yet they exist specifically to help students find employment after college. When it’s time to interview, be sure to bring a few copies of each document, in case you interview with multiple people.
Check job postings frequently.
The next step is finding open positions. Websites like Monster, Indeed and SimplyHired can be great resources. You can also look the old-fashioned way by keeping an eye out for newspaper ads and sleuthing companies you’re interested in for open positions.
Even though you don’t yet have a job, you should be keeping a pulse on the latest trends and developments in your field. Stay current by joining social media professional groups and following social media feeds of companies and industry influencers. They can clue you in to companies hiring and current events in the industry. Also look to your network to learn about unadvertised job openings.
Jobs may require 3-5 years of experience and it’s often hard to get that preliminary experience. In that case, don’t be afraid to “apply high.” If you’re capable of performing the job well, you should apply, even if you don’t meet the specific requirements.
Prepare to dress the part.
For many people, the most stressful part of the interview process is the question, “What do I wear?!” You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do need to look put together. Instead of waiting until you get the interview, give yourself time to find the right outfit at a reasonable price. You’ll have more time to shop for sales and research the your options. Another incentive, second-hand stores will be wiped out come graduation time so make it a priority to start looking now.
- Interview suit. First, know the dress code at the companies you’ll be applying for and then dress 1 to 2 levels above it. In most cases, an interview suit is a great option for men and women. It’s fine to borrow, but only if it’s a good fit or can be tailored to your measurements. Neutral colors (black, tan, white, dark blue) are best, but you can accent with a pop of color depending on how formal the dress code is. Choose a color that suits you and keep in mind that solids are usually more appealing than prints. Lastly, only wear heels you’re comfortable walking in. You never know when you’ll get a tour of the office!
- Organizer. Not sure where to stash your resume? A tidy-looking binder or leather bound portfolio is the way to go. They store all the critical documents, a notepad and even a pen so you look polished and put-together.
- Accessories. A quality watch makes a good impression, but be careful not to overdo it on jewelry. When it comes to accessories, less is more. You want the interviewer to remember you, not your outfit.
At this point, you should be ready to ace the interview! While the application process may be time consuming, it does get easier with practice. Remember to be realistic – not everyone gets their dream job out of college – and remain optimistic about climbing the corporate ladder.