Meagan and I were speaking about our new book, Generations Inc. – From Boomers To Linksters, Managing the Friction Between Generations At Work
at Gannon University in Erie, PA recently when a student asked us about the daunting job market she was facing when she graduates this year. It inspired Meagan to write an article for her blog and she asked me to post it on this one.
GET A JOB! Nine things every college graduate should know to find a job in 2010
By Meagan Johnson
“Your diploma isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.”
“Your degree and a dollar will get you a bus ride across town.”
“Don’t move out of mom & dad’s house too soon, there are no jobs
“ ‘Want fries with that?’ is the only job you will be lucky enough
Sound familiar? If you are a recent college grad, or thinking about postponing graduation because the job market seems so bleak, you may have heard some of these comments.
It’s nothing I didn’t hear when I graduated from college back in 1993! The country was in the middle of a recession and the media
was full of stories about college graduates swimming in student loan debt but nowhere to work. I couldn’t believe that I had just wasted four years going to college, only to be qualified for a job that included managing a drive thru window.
A month after graduation, I was complaining about my blighted future to my dad as I lay by my parent’s pool. (Yes, like many college graduates and Gen Yers, today, I stayed at home as long as I could.) I was whining about there being no jobs available, so he gave me some sage advice. “You will never find a job if you do not look for a job. (Duh)”
And he was right, so, chagrinned, I followed his advice and began searching. Within 30 days I had landed a position as a sales representative for Quaker Oats. The job included a company car and paid more than I had made up to that point in my entire life. (Gen Yers: I know many of you are more motivated by humanitarian efforts than money, but I am a Gen Xer who came of age in the decadent 80s, so for me, money was a motivator.)
I concede that it was a different time, and I was probably lucky. The statistics today are grim. According to a survey conducted by Monster.com, only 46% of organizations intend to hire any 2010 graduates at all. But, if you do decide to look, here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of joining the ranks of the employed.
1. Register on Jobsearch Websites
The number of websites available to the job searcher is mind-blowing. There are the obvious ones, like Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, Craigslist, LinkedIn, and Jobing.com – but there are also many sites designed
for the recent college graduate like CollegeRecruiter.com, CollegeGrad.com, AfterCollege.com, CampusCareerCenter.com and CoolWorks.com.
2. Use the Career Center on your college campus.
It’s staffed with people who want to help you. Be sure to sign up early. Most college students wait until the month of graduation before even finding out where the Career Center is located on campus. If you approach them early in your college career, the advisors can help you choose a major, and find part-time work in your area of interest, long before graduation. Having the right part-time college job can often line you up for a nice full time one after graduation. The Career Center can also aid in writing your resume and some will even conduct mock interviews with you to help you hone your interviewing skills. Ellie, a Gen Y college graduate, spent her senior year volunteering at her campus’ career center. She was able to meet all the recruiters and gained valuable insights just from listening to what the recruiters had to say about candidates and interviewees. She also bagged a job after graduation from one of the many contacts she made with recruiters.
3. Join Professional associations connected to your industry.
These organizations provide services like continuing education units, legal representation and career development, while at the same time, exposing you to potential employers. Additionally, this is a good time to do it. Many associations are struggling to attract young new members and would probably work with you to discount some of your membership fees.
More importantly, get involved with at least one professional association – and I mean, heavily involved. You’ll maximize the return on your membership by volunteering to help with projects, sitting on committees, and participating with chapter governance.
Most associations have both national and state chapters. You can start at the chapter level and then get involved in the national.
4. Clean up your online image.
The First Amendment may allow us to put what we want on our Facebook pages, but it’s what more and more employers are checking before hiring. Here is what a Senior Vice President of a large wholesale distribution company said about a recent hire. “Once I had read the candidate’s resume, I went to LinkedIn and checked out his profile. I noticed his interests aligned with most of our staff, so we brought him in for an interview and eventually hired him.”
Lesson: Put your best foot forward on line, and save the picture of you mooning the camera during spring break in Mexico for the scrapbook. Remember, what you publish is what potential employers may, and often will see.
5. Write a great resume.
Most of us would rather visit the dentist than write our own resume. In many cases, your resume will be what a potential employer uses to decide if they should even invite you in for an interview. It’s a vital marketing tool in your job search efforts. Put aside at least three hours to draft it and make the mental decision that writing an excellent resume is an exciting challenge rather than a dreaded task.
Cover letter: A sharp and clever cover letter can launch your resume to the top of the pile. A cover letter is not a repeat of your resume but a summary of what you want the potential employer to know right away. Cover letters can be more creative and fun than your resume. Don’t be afraid to include the company’s logo, a famous quote that ties into the company’s mission statement, and a
P.S. at the bottom that drives home the major contribution you can offer to their cause. The key is to demonstrate to the employer you know something about the company, what they are looking for and why you are a good match.
The Body of the Resume: The mission statement of your resume should not be a general Will Work For Food Type of statement. It should reflect the type of job you are applying for. Your mission statement can include the position’s title such as sales representative, the industry in which you are applying and even specific location such as city and state. Many organizations have information about the kind of personalities they are looking for on their company websites. Tweak your resume to reflect the language of the organization. Remember resumes are not a one size fits all; you will need to customize each resume that you send
What is your secret weapon?
What makes you unique or a little bit different than all your peers applying for the same job? It could be the volunteer work you do at the animal shelter or the fact you can complete the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in ink. Whatever it is, include a brief statement at the end of your resume or cover letter.
The Quality of the Resume:
Do more than spell check it. To catch mistakes, print and read it out-loud, word for word to someone else. Then have a friend who’s good at proof reading proof it, or have a professional proofreader check it. There are numerous on-line proof reading services that, for a nominal cost will review your document to catch errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax. Numerous employers complain that they often receive resumes and cover letters filled with typos, spelling errors and other egregious mistakes that usually disqualify the applicant immediately.
6. Dress for the interview
Find out what the norm of dress is for the organization and then dress in a similar, well-polished version of it. A recent college grad we know learned that the woman with whom she was interviewing always matched her skirt color with the color of her hose and shoes. The candidate showed up for the interview wearing blue hose, blue shoes and a blue skirt combined with a tasteful blue outfit. She got the job.
7. Do your homework.
Never go to an interview without first visiting the company’s website and understanding the nature of its business. Bring multiple copies of your resume, a list of your references and some prepared questions about the company and job. The questions should not be about salary, vacation time or the benefits you’ll get. They should reflect that you have done research on the company. If possible, speak to people who are already in the industry and ask them about their challenges, this will help you formulate good questions.
8. Mail a thank you letter.
This means write a letter, put it into an envelope, lick a stamp and snail mail it to the person that conducted the interview. It may seem old-fashion, but it conveys that you were willing to do more than whip out a text message or dash off an e-mail. Thank the person for their time and reiterate your interest in the job.
9. UGH! It is not my dream job.
Consider taking it anyway. It’s a job, not a marriage. Plain and simple jobs are not meant to last. You may discover you really like the job or it may not be as bad as you think.
Will I work with people who are different from me? This can be a great opportunity. Working with ethnically and generationally diverse people helps you to see the world in new ways. It’s like traveling abroad without leaving home.
Will the experience I have at this job build my credibility with other employers? Even if the job is not in the field to which you aspire, employers look favorably on applicants who can bring a depth of experience to a job. When I started college, I did not dream that all my hard work would gain me the prestigious title “Space Manager,” which was the official title given to all entry level sales people at Quaker Oats. But I took it because the offer was too good to refuse. And the truth is, I HATED it. Working a real job was an experience nobody can explain and no class can prepare you for. I was thrilled when after a year, Quaker Oats eliminated my position and laid-off all the entry-level sales reps. But I will never regret having worked there. It opened doors for me and laid the groundwork for what I do, and love to do today.