Personal Finance

For 2012 Grads: 10 Best Job Tips From Around the Web

Richard Satran, Editor
Key Points

Basic Tools for Grads

Custom Resume

Whilte Shirt

Appointment Calendar

'Hotel Smile'

Everyone knows the job market is tough for graduates this year.

Frozen woman
Nemanja Pesic | Vetta | Getty Images

You've already heard how the handicap of starting out in a bleak economy can stay with you virtually for life, in the form of lower salaries and job satisfaction, a National Bureau of Economic Research study reports.

But the same data says that each class gets a fresh chance: each class leaving college gets to press the 'restart' button on the economy. A grad's first goal is to re-set expectations based on today's reality.

The question is, how? Each year, experts compile lists of job tips for grads with advice that often sounds the same. But job tips can change with hiring trends and graduates' skills, so we culled the lists to create a 'best of the best for job tips" that apply specifically to this year's class. We found some key changes from two years ago, when the downturn seemed bottomless. Now they are telling grads to be prepared for improvement.

There are some signs of improved hiring in the job market. But hiring eperts still aren't offering much hope that this year’s graduates will do much better than recent classes. In a gloomy survey released earlier this year, Rutgers said only 51 percent of graduates from 2006 to 2011 have fulltime jobs. These young people are "facing historic obstacles."

Hiring of grads hit a low for the downturn in 2010 and "improved only modestly" afterward, said the Economic Policy Institute in a study released earlier this year.  More worrisome, it found, "Graduating in a bad economy has long-lasting economic consequence."

Hiring experts have amended their 'best job tips" to reflect the hard realities of this job market. The advice dispensed a few years back about cultivating your "personal brand" seems a little high-concept. With gloom thickening over the landscape like a glacier, grads are being told to focus simply on how to survive in a chilly environment. Here are our updated tips for today:

Stockbyte | Getty Images

1. Don’t get discouraged.

“The key is to maintain realistic expectations from day one, but do not get put off when your dream job doesn’t arise overnight” said BuildCareerInfo.comin its Ten Best Tips for Graduates. “Something will eventually come from all those letters.”

2. Go Forth and Apply. Gap year is so last year.

“The biggest mistake students can make is thinking they have plenty of time, or that the jobs will come to them,” says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting From College to Career in a list of “In this economy in particular, you have to be extremely proactive and the earlier you start, the better your chances.”

3. Location. Location. Location. Jobs are this year’s real estate.

Graduates are learning to read the landscape of America to take advantage as regional markets re-emerge from the recession at different speeds. As a result, this year’s top job tips list  is heavily focused on helping grads find job-friendliest places to locate.  Best place to find a job?  Look beyond destination sites like San Francisco, New York and Boston. Find towns or regions with promise not yet discovered and easier on the budget. The good news is that some communities are actually competing for America’s best and brightest. Once a destination for newlyweds, the city by the falls, Niagara, N.Y., plans to lure grads by paying off their student loans. You can’t get much friendlier than that. They have experience making newcomers feel welcome. They always offered umbrellas for people visiting the falls.

Do Liberal Arts Majors Need to Apply?

Studies and surveys show that many students wished they’d taken something more fertile l than liberal arts field.  So what advice does a corporate recruiter who worked in the oil patch have to say to your favorite English major? You don’t need to have training as a seismologist or an oil rig roustabout. Use your communication skills wisely. Ex-Exxoner Andrea Wilbur is publishing a new book “101 Things They Don’t Teach You About the Corporate Word.” Her site The Hired Graduate has been issuing tips that are more about going back to the basics than striking out for West Texas. USA Today adapted this to make their own Top 10 Tips for Job-seeking Grads. (Tips No. 4 through No. 7 come from this site)

4. Don’t Be Shy About Using Your College Network

You relied upon Frat Brothers and Sisters for wakeup calls, to play ‘wing’ for you at parties and to read your papers and poetry. It is not gauche to keep in touch about jobs. Wilbur says be "fearless and gracious" in requests for help. Mock interviews anyone?

5. Focus.

Don’t forget the most important lesson you learned about learning. Keep your focus . “Hone your elevator pitch,” do research (History majors take note) so you can customize your resume to suit specific your job targets. Filter out the time sucks, jobs that are clearly not for you, and manage opportunities that arise.

Business cards matter
Fotosearch | Getty Images

6. Business cards matter.

Talk about back to the basics! Don Draper and 007 knew how to palm a calling card into the right hand at the right time. You need to master the art. Nothing can replace the simple elegance of the card. “Include your name, phone number, e-mail address and type of job you're seeking.”

7. All jobs are local.

Even as companies become more global, it’s still true in most jobs and especially when you are starting out. Even airline pilots are grouped into hubs, sales teams by regions. It’s time to start thinking about your own micro-economy, and not the macro-economy. You can’t handle that anyway.

Diamonds in the Rough; Negative Thinking That Works

There are some key lessons that the recession has taught us. The Rutgers study found a gem  in the midst of its aforementioned report on the unemployment trap that many fall into. No jobs for grads? Try indentured servitude.

8- Take an Internship. Any Internship.

They matter. It makes as much sense almost no sense but it's similar to much derided, way too expensive college costs.  Studies show that a person one tiny credit short of attaining their BA will received hundreds of thousands less in pay than their friends with the diploma. Similarly.  Rutgers showed a startling difference among those who did interships. Even in the midst of the depression they did measureably better than those who rejected the internships, by double digits. The lesson of the depression: Just show up. Of course you are there for a learning experience. Even if it just teaches you to suck it up in a bad workplace, or to perfect a really convincing ‘hotel smile,’ it is still higher learning. Think of it as something you learned from your philosophy professor. Everything is relative.

9-It’s a big mistake not to take a job interview seriously.

This is a key point on a Monster job tips list that goes deeper into the dark side to tell you the 10 biggest mistakes you can make.

Inti St Clair | Blend Images | Getty Images

The Monster mashup of bad job search behavior covers some of the previous points, though in a more negative format. The thread running through its Monster's list is to not rely too much on social media and technology. When going on an interview in the ultra-connected era, some people let their guard down. But don’t take that casual email casually whether its from someone high powered on LinkedIn, a friend of friends, parents friends or Facebook friends. Be professional. White shirt. Hotel Smile. Updated resume. Business card.

1o- Relax. Breathe.

In an era of rapid change, you get a break. Everyone is confused. It helps to be relaxed. If you can manage the anxiety it can become a creative force. AOL Jobs Brazen Life blogger says,  "It's OK not to know what's next When I graduated college in 2006, I had no clue what I wanted to do next. The result? Constant anxiety. “Confusion or no confusion you will continue breathing and you're gonna be just fine."

Now get the hell out there and find a job.