It’s always hard to land that first job but this is a particularly tough job marketto be graduating into, with 15 million people standing in the unemployment line ahead of graduates from the Class of 2010.
So, how do you stand out in a line longer than the tryouts for next season’s “American Idol”?
“Answering a few Craigslist openings a week does not constitute a job search!” said Karen McGee, director of student-support services at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications, who says there’s a direct correlation between the amount of time you spend on your job search and the time it takes to find a job.
So, we turned to the pros for some advice. Here are the 10 Best Job Tips for the Class of 2010.
1) Flash Your Credentials.
If you have an MBA or another degree that sets you apart, put it in every email and cover letter — not just as a line on your resume.
“You’ve got 15 seconds to get an employer’s attention,” says Robin Ryan, author of “60 Seconds and You’re Hired.” “Your degree is an impressive credential, so be sure to have it displayed next to your name,” she explains.
So, make it “Alex Keaton, MBA,” not just “Alex Keaton.”
Click here to take Robin Ryan’s resume assessment quiz.
2) Establish Your Brand.
Whether you realize it or not, from your first subject line, every bit of correspondence with a future employer is an advertisement for you. Do you know what your brand is? What message you’re sending?
Take some time to work on your “campaign” — how you’re pitching yourself, what your strengths are and how your past experience and skills make you perfect for the position for which you’re applying.
Write up a short set of bullet points with key verbs and messages that you want to convey — and use that same language across the board from your resume to your cover letter and in the interview.
Use one of the mantras of advertising: Driving a few points home multiple times is more effective at getting your message across than dumping the whole load on the table and asking the hiring manager to figure it out.
By the same token, don’t just dump your bullets on the table.
“A successful candidate is a good storyteller — and that starts with the resume,” said Stevie Toepke, director of recruiting for Harris Williams, a subsidiary of PNC Financial, which is one of the largest M&A-advisory firms in the country. “Your resume shouldn’t just tell me where you’ve been and where you’ve graduated from — it should tell me where you are, who you are and what you’ve accomplished.”
3) Network. Network. Network.
Networking, it’s no secret, is one of the best ways to get a job.
“For me, college wasn’t about the learning process but more about meeting great people I could connect with later in life,” said Jason Sadler, who started a company called “I Wear Your Shirt,” where companies pay him to wear their t-shirts — and then promote the company on social media. “Use the relationships you’ve built .. you never know who’s going to know who.”
So, work every college alumni or friend-of-a-friend angle to get yourself a no-pressure “informational interview” to speak with someone at the company, which will do two things: 1) Help you learn more about the company and how to get a job there and 2) Put you on the company’s radar.
“There are businesses out there (mine included) who don’t have time to do job searches,” explains Jeremy Redleaf, a filmmaker and creator of the site OddJobNation.com. “But, if they were presented with a great candidate right in front of their noses, they might just create a position on the spot!”
And, you want to get on it sooner rather than later. If you just graduated from college, start this summer.
“That way, you’re on a hiring manager’s or recruiter’s radar before the official fall-recruiting season begins,” Toepke explains. “The rush for good talent starts earlier and earlier each year, so it pays to be ahead of the curve!”
But, she cautions, you have to be cool about networking. If you come across a directory for a company you want to work for, don’t spam the whole company. Keep your networking focused and personable. Otherwise, you just come across as a lazy jerk.
4) Do Your Homework.
One of the biggest mistakes graduates make is talking too much about why they want the job, not why the job should want them.
So, do your homework. Google everything you can about the company and the person you’ll be interviewing with. Call or email someone who knows someone who works there.
Come up with a set of bullet points about what you like about the company, what your suggestions are for the company and how you see yourself fitting in there.
In your research, you might even find you have something in common with the interviewer — you graduated from the same school, grew up in the same town, etc., — that could be a conversational point to help them connect with and remember you. Plus, it shows you really did your homework — a skill companies value.
That’s what sets you apart from other candidates, McGee said.
“Without it, you’re just another person looking for a job — any job,” she said.
If you’re looking for a job on Wall Street, WallStreetOasis.com offers a fast read on the latest news affecting the industry.
Plugging in to what’s going on in your industry will not only increase your chances of getting the job — it will help you stay more relaxed and avoid any curveball questions that might’ve left you tongue-tied!
5) Google Yourself.
Hey, it’s not just vanity — it’s self-defense.
There is a 99.9% chance that your potential employer will Google you before the interview to learn as much about you as possible. So you’ve got to beat them to the punch and know what’s out there and what they might ask about, Toepke said.
That way, she says, if there’s anything disparaging about you out there on the Internet, you can either clean it up before the interview or, at the very least, prepare how you will respond when they ask you about it.
“You want to make sure that the brand image you are presenting digitally is consistent with the one you want to present in your interview or on your resume,” Toepke said.
6) Work for Free.
An unpaid internship is a great way to get your foot in the door of a company. The decision to hire you is a lot easier once they know what you’re capable of — and you’re already trained on the company’s system.
But you’ve got to know when to cut off the free labor. When you're offered the internship, accept with the caveat that, at the end of your three months, you'll be reviewed just like a full-time employee, advises Julie Jansen, a career coach and author of “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work.”
And, while you’re there, take advantage of the networking opportunity by having coffee or a quick chat with different co-workers, monitor internal job boards and inquire with your boss about how you would go about applying for a full-time job with the company. That way, when something becomes available, your name is at the top of their list.
7) Become an Expert.
Take the idea of personal branding to the next level — and establish yourself as an expert in one aspect of your industry.
“Identify a specific problem, need or issue in your field of interest and launch a full-blown branding campaign to distinguish yourself as an expert,” Jansen says.
A great way to do that is starting a blog or Web site about your newfound area of expertise. Once you’ve built up your expertise, you can even line up speaking engagements or media interviews to talk about the subject.
That’s not only a great way to establish yourself in an industry and increase your chances of getting a job, but it will also increase the chances of you getting a higher starting salary!
8) Get a Mentor.
You might think of mentoring programs as something you have to apply for, but why not be entrepreneurial and get a mentor to help you get the job you want.
“Speaking to someone who has gone through a similar process or you may consider a role model is helpful,” explains Richard Singer, CEO of RaiseCapital.com, a site that helps connect entrepreneurs and investors. “Being able to relate to someone who has gone through something similar and can offer advice on how to get your feet wet during the initial steps can prove a crucial asset to facing the initial hardships,” he explains.
Getting a mentor is a particularly good idea if you’re thinking of starting your own business for your first job but it can also help you climb the corporate ladder.
One friend I know, a real-estate developer in Denver, Colorado, set up what she called a “board of directors” — a team of seasoned pros in her business that she meets with regularly to help her achieve her goal of becoming a CEO.
Why not? If you were running a company, you’d recruit a board of directors. Your job search is just as important as running a company — you’re running your life!
9) Be Creative.
If it’s one thing this recession has taught us is the need to be creative in finding work — whether you’re searching for your first job or you’ve been laid off from your current job.
In a downturn, competition is even more fierce for each position, so you really have to stand out.
One guy, Joshua Persky, hit the streets of New York with a sandwich board over his suit that said, “Experienced MIT Grad for Hire.”Another, Alec Brownstein, played on the vanity of executives at Young & Rubicam, the New York advertising firm he wanted a job with, buying ads for the names of six executives so when they “Googled themselves,” his ad would come up! Both men landed jobs — and mid-recession, no less!
Redleaf relates a story about a woman who was applying to a sports magazine for a highly-coveted position. She sent them a running shoe with her contact information written on it and a note saying, “Now that I have one foot in the door, how about the other?” She not only got an interview — she got the job.
“If you allow creativity to inform your search, you’ll be surprised by the doors that creak open,” Redleaf said.
And you have to be willing to take risks, said Hardy Wallace, winner of a dream-job contest— to be a wine blogger for six months at the Murphy-Goode winery in Sonoma, Calif. He used buck teeth and a Viking helmet to create a memorable video application.
“I realized I didn’t have the skills to make the best video application. I am an OK video editor but thousands would be better,” Wallace said. “My thought was to make something memorable — something people would want to watch more than once … That’s the same advice I’d give to anyone applying for a job in any format,” he said.
Or, you could use your creativity to create your own job, like Sadler. After being laid off, the Jacksonville, Fla., entrepreneur created his own six-figure job — wearing T-shirts for a living! The business was so successful, he even hired a second full-time T-shirt weareron the west coast!
10) Brag Like a Lunatic.
Whether you’re shy or full of yourself in real life is irrelevant. In business, you have to know how to brag — because you can’t take your mom with you on a job interview. You have to be able to tell them what you’ve accomplished so they’ll know why they should hire you.
“For most people, being a self-advocate is about as comfortable as having a root canal!” said Peggy Klaus, author of the book “Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.”
At a recent “Brag Party” in New York designed to teach inner city girls from the Young Women’s Leadership Network how to promote themselves, Klaus offered an exercise to do before a presentation or interview: In private, do an over-the-top, crazy excited, bragging version of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Run around, jump on the furniture like Tom Cruise. It seems crazy but it’s an effective way of shaking off the jitters and warming up. Then, by the time you’re ready to say it in the interview, you’ll be a lot calmer and the words will flow better.
Plus, you’ll be a whole lot more confident walking in if you’ve just focused on your accomplishments, not your faults!
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