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8 tips for December college graduates on how to land that first job

Jonathan Padilla
Source: Jonathan Padilla

Jonathan Padilla is on the hunt for a job.

Instead of graduating in the spring like the majority of American college students, he's among those who are getting their degrees in December.

"It's a bittersweet moment," said Padilla, a TV production major at New Jersey's Montclair State University. "I'm finally finishing school but at the same time I'm looking for a job.

"It's still something I'm kind of stressing over."

While there may be challenges, looking for a job this time of year isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"There is a unique environment that we have not seen in decades," said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management. "This particular December, [graduates] are walking into one of the hottest job markets ever."

The unemployment rate is the lowest in 50 years, with November's rate coming in at 3.5%, so job seekers may have more offers to choose from.

There is literally no shortage of jobs provided one is willing to relocate.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
president and CEO, Society of Human Resource Management

Plus, even though companies often push to recruit new grads around May, companies are still hiring all year, said career coach and recruiter Abby Kohut, also known as Absolutely Abby.

"Instead of thinking that you are late to the party, you could even think of it as you are early to the party — before all the May graduates," she said. "That's a huge advantage."

Here are eight tips to help you land your first post-college position.

Go where the jobs are

Too often, millennials and Generation Z want to go to large urban markets such as New York or Los Angeles, Taylor said. Yet in doing so, they are ruling themselves out of potential jobs in other parts of the country.

"The reality is that the state of Iowa has [one of the] lowest employment rates in the country right now," he said.

"There is literally no shortage of jobs, provided one is willing to relocate."

Iowa's unemployment rate was 2.6% in October. Vermont clocked in at the lowest for that month, at 2.2%.

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Expand your search

Don't just focus on jobs in the fields in which you've earned your degree, Taylor advises.

It's "very, very limiting," he said.

Now more than ever, employers are less focused on specific degrees — or whether you have one at all, he pointed out.

Also, be willing to take an executive assistant or administrative assistant job to get your foot in the door.

"Show them that you are smart," Taylor said. "Show them you are hard working.

"Show them you have what we call 'power skills' — the ability to get along with people," he added. "Then, the sky's the limit."

Network, network, network

Getty Images

Networking — reaching out to friends, colleagues, professors or their connections — is still the best way to land a job.

"Anywhere from 70% to 80% of all jobs are obtained through someone's personal or professional network," said Adam Mayer, director of career development at Montclair State University.

So, reach out to those you think may help you. You can also join your school's alumni network and connect with those who took the career path you are pursuing.

Use social media …

A big part of networking is using social media sites such as LinkedIn, where recruiters go to look for job candidates.

In fact, Kohut called LinkedIn "crucial."

"It's what we do all day long" as recruiters, she said.

The first thing you should do is build up your profile and your connections. Aim to get to 100 connections.

"When recruiters are searching for you, if you have a really teeny tiny network, they won't see you because you are too removed from them," Kohut said.

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Mayer suggests checking out the official LinkedIn page of your university or college. There, you can look up alumni in your chosen field.

It "helps to demystify what we can do with our degrees," he said. "We can see what they are doing for a living. We can see their job history."

…. but be careful

Employers are doing social media reviews beyond professional sites.

That means your Facebook or Instagram account shouldn't show anything that can undermine your professional aspirations. Think boozing, party photos or foul language.

"You really do have to harmonize your personal self and professional self on social media," Taylor said. "When there is a disconnect you're really limiting your opportunities."

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Always write a cover letter

Send a cover letter along with your resume when applying for a job.

"When we get a resume and it doesn't have a cover letter, it's just like any other," Kohut said.

"If you put a cover letter in there, you will stand out," she added. "You may even get a job because of that cover letter."

Be sure to include specific information for the job. That means researching the company and using what you gleaned in the cover letter — and during the interview, if you get one.

Volunteer

While waiting to land a job, use your time to help others.

Not only will you be of service, it will look good on your resume and you may meet some people who can help you out.

"It will make you feel good and you might make some good networking connections at the volunteer activity that could get you a job," Kohut said.

Use career services

Take advantage of your school's career services department, which can review your resume and can conduct mock interviews, Mayer said.

"There are always events and activities," he said. "Check in before or just after graduation — there is no bad time to connect with career services."

Padilla is hopeful he'll land a job.

For now, he is practicing patience, despite the fact that he had only one response to the dozen or so resumes he's sent out.

"I just have to keep a positive attitude and keep going forward."

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