Monday, October 17, 2011

Started Yet?

We are in the middle of October already! How is the job search going? With all of the classes, midterm exams, and very important football games, who has time to be looking for a job anyway? I mean, you can deal with that over Thanksgiving break, or Winter break, or something right? Wrong. The truth is that if you haven't already had a few promising leads come your way, you may need to play catch up with some of your peers.

One event which you should really be thinking about, assuming you haven't already missed it, is any fall career fair near your college. This is a vital part of the job search in which you can learn not only what companies are out there in your field, but which companies are hiring. After all, you may be the perfect fit for a company, but if they are in a hiring freeze (not all that uncommon in this economy) you really shouldn't be wasting your time applying there. So put on that tie, polish off your resume, and get a shake some hands with recruiters. You may be surprised at who has an opportunity for you!

Another tool that you can leverage to boost your job search rather quickly is the network of friends that you have made while in college. As hard as it is to see, some of those buddies who graduated last semester are now working for the very companies that you have had your eye on. Shoot them an email to get the inside scoop on who is hiring, and whether they would be willing to recommend you, or to submit your resume. I can tell you that I have personally offered to submit the resumes of three different friends to the company that I work for, and all of them have been very excited for the opportunity, but still none of them have actually sent me their resume, so I have not been able to recommend them. The important take away is to use the resources you have.

So what happens if you haven't even started yet? Don't despair, there is still time to catch up. Start being proactive in your job search, setting aside as much time as you reasonably can during the week to apply to jobs, make calls, and arrange to meet with people who can help you with your job search. The most important thing is to start now!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Attracting Top Graduate Employers | What the Job?

When asked about their ideal job, the vast majority of college students will cite a specific company in their industry, even before commenting on a specific position or location. This is by design. The top graduate employers are very aware of the college student psyche, and they work very hard to establish themselves as the ideal employer. This works out well in the end, because they get what they want, recent college graduates willing to work hard for less money, and college students get all of the prestige, experience, and enjoyment of starting out with a top graduate employer. The problem with this, though, is that with great demand comes great competition. Even though top graduate employers hire many graduates, the amount of students applying per position is much higher than smaller, more local companies.

So how are you supposed to distinguish yourself among all of these candidates with similar qualifications. The answer is the biggest secret that everyone has always told you about but you have never bothered to believe: Networking. Networking alone will almost certainly cut the time you must invest in your college job search in half, if not more. Believe it or not, it is very likely that you already know several people with the authority and the desire to hire you into a position that you love, but they don't know you are looking. During your college job search, you need to talk with every single person that you can about how your college job search is going, why you would be a good candidate, and any other thing you can think of that might make your contacts want to pass on your information. This is especially true if you are seeking employment with a top graduate employer.  These companies get thousands of applications from students who all have similar education and experience. This is not to say that you can't wade your way through the process, but your chances are much more likely if you have someone on the inside pushing you along.

As an example, I will cite my own experience. My target employer was the number one top graduate employer at my school, and incurred heavy competition among my classmates. During the beginning of my college job search, I applied to more than 20 jobs through their system with no luck in securing even a phone interview, despite my stellar GPA, two internships, glowing letters of recommendation, and highly relevant extra-curricular activities. Then one day, I attended a networking event where a representative of the company was speaking with students. Note that this was not a company executive, nor was it the person who hired me. It was a twenty-something cubicle worker who I struck up a conversation with. Within around 15 minutes of pitching myself and letting him know about my interest, I had a business card and instructions to send in my resume. This turned out to be my golden ticket. Within a month I was flown to an interview, where I was told that I was hired before even conducting the interview, and soon after I had accepted the offer. This is the power of networking, especially when dealing with top graduate employers.

This is a step you can start right now. Talk to anyone and everyone you can about your upcoming job search. You would be surprised at who has a friend, uncle, sister, or sister-in-law's cousin who could help you out. Let me know all about your networking efforts in the comments.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Understanding the Resume Objective | What the Job?

Before you begin writing a resume, you should take some time to understand exactly what a resume is and what it is supposed to accomplish. The resume objective is to put you and your skills in the best light possible, and in this way to make someone interested in hiring you. The resume will probably not get you a job directly. Instead, the resume objective is to get your potential employer to pick up the phone and call you in for an interview. In order to get them to do this, you need to have several traits:
  • Make it easy to contact you - Get your name, phone number, email address, address, and anything else you can think of on that resume so that you are easy to contact. Remember the resume objective is to get a call, but if it is too much of a hassle your potential employers won't bother.
  • Show how you meet a need - Make it very apparent why you are different than other applicants, and how this difference is useful to the employer. Don't get caught up in listing all of your accomplishments when only one is really relevant to the employer. This doesn't just apply to content, though. You should try to not use too generic of a resume style as well, to prevent the reader from falling asleep before even reading. Your resume objective is to get them to pick you for the interview as opposed to your competition, so you need to distinguish yourself.
  • Have a professional appearance - This is one of the most important traits that your resume can have. Avoid any spelling and grammatical errors, or your resume is immediately in the trash. In addition, you want to have a consistent formatting style that is appealing to the eye, and looks clean and organized. Furthermore, you need to consider how you are submitting the resume and determine the best way. For instance, when submitting a resume electronically, I would typically save it as a pdf file before sending, because it prevents any unwanted effects of microsoft word. This also helps to distinguish your resume from others, which is good, because the resume objective is to distinguish yourself.
  • Match the job description - In this tough economy, there will almost certainly be multiple options for entry-level employers, so you need to exactly match or even exceed the job requirements. Think about these requirements before you even begin writing, and plan the overall resume structure around them. Make it blatantly obvious that you meet the requirements. Employers won't be looking at your resume for more than a few seconds initially, and you don't want to get overlooked.
One trend you should note in all of these traits is that they apply both to the content and to the structure and presentation. The resume is a ticket to the interview, and is a vital part of the process. Really, the problem with resumes is that they are just a sheet of paper, as opposed to a person, which makes it very difficult to determine the good candidates from the great ones. Paying attention to the details will allow you to meet the resume objective of getting an interview.

Later posts will go over how to put a resume together, but for now think about the resume objective, and how you can go about presenting yourself in the best light. Let me know of your favorite tips and tricks in the comments.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Planning for Life After College | What the Job?

Life after college can be a scary prospect for many people. The reason is that college begins to feel comfortable, so putting off planning for life after college is easy, especially when homework, exams, and other obligations begin piling up. For this reason, I must stress the importance of starting your college job search as soon as possible.

Of course, this is assuming that your plans after college include working. There are other options, such as traveling after college, moving back home after college, volunteering after college, joining the military after college or getting into grad school if you aren't ready for your college job search. These are also valid options, but I will focus on the college job search due to the scope of this blog. In any case, the key to being able to utilize your time to its fullest will be to plan early, and plan thoroughly. Regardless of the path you choose to take, you need to be on top of your future plans.

For a college job search, I suggest laying out a schedule for yourself as much as a year before you plan to start at your new job. That means that you should probably be starting now. This schedule should be as detailed as possible, working through when you will have decided what path you want to take, when your resume should be finished, when you will apply for jobs, and a goal for when you will secure an offer. The key here is to be as realistic is possible. Consider things like what time of year companies hire college grads, how heavy your workload is going to be, and what other students in your shoes have experienced. Give yourself hard deadlines, so that you stay on track. Obviously you will likely deviate from the schedule due to factors beyond your control, but at least you will be able to determine whether you are ahead or behind. I would encourage you to leave several months before graduation empty in case your college job search is not successful and you can't find a job after college. Here is an example of what your schedule should probably look like:

College job search schedule
This shows an example of how to schedule your college job search strategy for life after college. It should include specific dates to have tasks done, but should leave substantial flexibility for factors that are beyond your control. For this reason, it is important that your college job search start as early as possible.

Friday, July 8, 2011

College Job Search Resources | What the Job?

It is very important to clarify that not all resources are created equal. If you are looking to find a job after college, you need a multi-tiered approach. This should not only include collecting as much information as you can, but also understanding how your competition behaves. The truth of the matter is that no matter how qualified you are, entering yourself into highly competitive venues will likely result in your becoming buried in a pile of resumes. For this reason, it is important to choose the resources you use wisely.

So what does this all mean? It means that resources that are easy to use and even easier to find will not benefit you. If, for instance, you decide to only use the major online job sites to apply for your positions of choice, you will almost certainly be in major competition with tens, if not hundreds or thousands of other applicants. The following chart shows the percent of internet users who visit three of the largest job sites:

College job search resources

This chart shows that Indeed, CareerBuilder, and Monster are all attracting around one in three hundred internet users every day. That is millions of people to compete with every day by using these sites. Consider further that the typical recent college graduate is highly motivated to find a job after college, tech savvy, and likely has similar qualifications to you, and you will see where these numbers are problematic.

So what are your options for finding a job instead of using these sites? Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed are certainly the easiest resources to find. My first suggestion is to visit your career resource center if your college offers one. Oftentimes, your college will have a dedicated place where you can go for jobs posted specifically for students like you. Additionally, they may be able to give you information on how to contact recruiters, or what other students have found helpful. Additionally, I would suggest talking to anyone and everyone you can face to face about your job search. You would be surprised how many people have "an uncle in the biz" and may be able to forward your resume. Finally, if all else fails, apply to your favorite companies sites directly. This at least eliminates the middle man and often will reveal openings that are not as well advertised.

Essentially, finding a job after college will require you to choose your resources wisely. Don't be so sure of your qualifications that you forget to consider your competition. It is very important to your college job search that you find jobs online that you can apply for and be assured that your resume will actually be viewed.

Let me know about your favorite resources and strategies in the comments.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Starting Point | What the Job?

 The hardest part of the entire college job search process is how to get started. Luckily for you, you have already begun just by visiting this website. That is because the first step in your job search needs to be information gathering.

Throughout my own college job search, I read countless half-baked ideas about how to get a job in a bad economy. These ranged from faxing a resume to every fax machine in a ten mile radius, to cold calling random companies, or even just showing up and asking for an interview. I'm on good authority from a manager who works for a large engineering company that more than half of the resumes submitted to their system are from foreigners, with no relevant experience or education, spamming the system. These brute force techniques, however, are similar to trying to find your way home by simply picking random streets and driving really fast. The better strategy is a targeted job search, where you know exactly what you want to do, and how you can get there.

This stage really needs to begin well before any formal college job search starts. For instance, you really should have researched what opportunities your college major would give you before spending four years of your life committed to it. Fortunately, there will always be opportunities available. Some people will just need to look harder to find them. Below is a structure that you can use to guide your research:

  •  Determine your goals: This is really the most important step. It has been my experience that many college students still haven't decided what they want to do with their lives. Think of your ideal life, and then try to break it down into its components. How much money do you need to live that life? Do you need to be in a specific location? How much do you want to work, and in what setting? Do you need your achievements recognized? These are all questions that you should ask before searching for a job, to make sure that you aren't wasting your time applying for something that you wont be happy doing.
  • Find a job that helps you achieve those goals: This step is pretty self explanatory. There are many jobs out there. Try brainstorming jobs that can allow you to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself. This may require some concessions, especially when you begin to consider what your own credentials are. Make sure to be creative, though. Do not restrict yourself to a single path at this point.
  • Figure out who is hiring: Well before you begin applying to companies, make sure you know what the major players in your field of choice are. Try to understand exactly what those companies do, what you need in order to apply there, and what opportunities exist. Furthermore, make sure that these companies can really help you to achieve the goals that you set for yourself.
  • Gather the resources available to you: Utilizing your resources is an extremely important part of your college job search. Make sure that you know them inside and out. If you are in college, talk to the career resource office. This can give you insight into how students typically get jobs, what companies typically hire students, and any events that you can attend to optimize your job search. Find any job fairs and networking opportunities that interest you, and get them on your calendar. Use the internet to find out what jobs are out there, and what typical requirements look like. The more you understand the resources available to you, the easier your job search will be.
The research phase should start as early as possible. Seriously, start now. It will also continue throughout the college job search process. Even once you have secured an offer, you should be constantly scanning to make sure that the job matches your interests, and nothing better is out there.

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Your College Job Search | What the Job?

It all seems so easy. From day one, your parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and virtually every adult in your life has told you "Go to college so you can get a good job". Unfortunately, they all lied. In this economy, hoards of college graduates are moving back in with Mom and Dad after being unable to find a job, despite their best attempts.

This blog is meant to make sure that you don't have to be one of those people. In future posts, I will be detailing everything that you need to know for your college job search. From resume writing, to where you should be in the process, I will be taking you step by step.

But you are probably wondering why I know what I am talking about. Here are my credentials. I am a recent graduate of a large public university, who secured a job with my first choice company, in my first choice location, and for a salary that has made me completely financially independent. In other words, my college job search was a complete success. Did I mention that I had accomplished all of this more than a semester before I graduated? The reason I began writing is because I saw too many of my closest friends with all the right credentials strike out despite their best attempts. At the same time, during my college job search, I frequently took to the web searching for someone to give me a hint as to whether I was ahead or behind, whether my attempts were in vain, and how everything was going to come together. I hope that I can provide some of this information to you, as someone who has been through the process.

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