GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: Getting from College to Career in a Tough Economy by Lindsey Pollak author of "Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World."
Although the economy is slowly improving, this year’s college graduates face yet another difficult entry-level job market.
The silver lining for the Class of 2012, however, is that we now have a few years of data on the strategies that work for finding a post-college job in the Great Recession.
To write the revised edition of "Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World", I spoke to recent grads across the country to learn their tips.
Here are the five best strategies for finding a job in challenging times:
1. Stand out from the crowd. Most job seekers have a pretty good resume, they do a bit of networking and they apply for a few jobs a week. This generic strategy won’t cut it in a recession.
You’ve got to go the extra mile in everything you do:
- Have a professional resume writer (or a savvy friend) help you improve your resume until it’s the very best it can be and then customize this resume for every potential opportunity.
- Send three personal emails each day to networking contacts (friends of friends, alumni of your university, etc.), rather than sending three a week.
- Jump on any potential opportunity: follow up immediately after someone makes a referral, return, send thank you emails to anyone who helps you, send in a resume as soon as you learn of an opportunity.
2. Consider alternatives to a full-time job. Employers may not have the budget to make a full-time hire right now, but they still need work completed. You might be able to get a foot in the door by temping, working part-time, freelancing, consulting or even volunteering for project work. Check out elance.com, Craigslist, UrbanInterns.com and the “Jobs” section of any LinkedIn groups you belong to for a wide array of non-full-time options.
3. Experiment with entrepreneurship. “Alternative” work can also involve marketing your own products or services on one of the sites listed above or on a creative marketplace such as 99designs or Etsy. You may even find that your “on-the-side” gig turns into a new career.
"A lot of people ask me whether they should “settle” for less than perfect job they are offered because of the economy. My answer is to change your attitude."
That’s how I started my own business ten years ago.
It happened during the difficult economic period following 9/11. My dot-com job had disappeared and, while I was networking with former clients and colleagues, I started receiving offers to complete small projects for them. I said yes to anything and everything — I wrote marketing plans, nonfiction book proposals, resumes, bios and newsletter articles for an hourly rate. I spoke to high school students, Girl Scouts, Rotary clubs and chambers of commerce for small speaking fees. As the months went on, I eventually created business cards, a website, a portfolio and a one-pager about my writing and speaking services. I’ve been a passionate entrepreneur ever since.
4. Don’t settle -- start. A lot of people ask me whether they should “settle” for less than perfect job they are offered because of the economy. My answer is to change your attitude. Rather than thinking of a less-than-ideal job as settling, think of it as starting.
From ten years of experience studying the careers of young professionals, I know that a great career can begin anywhere. It’s what you make of any opportunity that matters. In a bad economy it’s wise to take almost any job that comes your way and turn it into a launching pad. You can use the position to build your experience, make professional connections and enhance your skillset.
5. Stay motivated. Job searches right now can take six months or longer and it can be tough to stay positive. The trick to staying motivated is trying new things all the time:
- If you have mostly been looking for small business employers, challenge yourself to apply for jobs at bigger companies.
- If you’ve been focused on one geographic location, venture 10 miles further or check out virtual opportunities.
- If you’ve never fully set up your LinkedIn profile, spend an hour on the site and build a stellar online presence.
- If you've never tweeted, set up a Twitter account and follow 20 job listing Twitter feeds.
Finally, now is the time to be extra generous in helping your fellow job seeking friends. When you see a job listing that’s perfect for a former classmate, forward it with an encouraging note. Call up a fellow job seeker and invite him over for a cup of coffee and a joint resume-sending session. Barter your strengths (editing, tweeting, outfit coordination) with a friend who has strengths that you don’t. “Paying it forward” makes you feel good and it’s bound to come back to you in kind.
Lindsey Pollak is an entry-level careers expert and the author of "Getting from College to Career, Revised Edition: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World" (HarperBusiness, 2012)