While the economy might be slowly loosening its grip on our pockets, the job market is still intensely competitive. Graduating from university and stepping out from behind the comforting walls of higher education can be daunting. Many graduates assume they’ll have to settle in order to land their first job. They’ll need to sell their souls by accepting a job they hate, at a company they don’t believe in, working for people they don’t respect. If not, they’ll remain unemployed.
Believe it or not, you can get a job that you enjoy and find fulfilling. Here are five ways to sell yourself in the job market as a new graduate while still keeping a firm grasp on your values and career goals.
1. Tapping your alumni network
Networking is often the cornerstone of any career advice you receive. While your skills, personality and effectiveness will ultimately decide your career fate, building relationships with individuals who might already work in the industry you wish to enter or the company you want to work for, can be extremely helpful in getting your foot in the door.
Too often, graduates fail to leverage one of the most effective networking pools they have access to — graduates from their university. Alumni networking can be a gold mine for new graduates. These individuals were once in your place. Plus they are proud of their alma mater and are often eager to help their fellow graduates begin their careers.
Michael Hermens, president of financial advisory firm Finance Forward LLC, says, “It [alumni networking] may not mean a job right out of the box. In fact, those are quite rare. However, after a few months of attending alumni events, you should be able to know the players in the alumni network and leverage those connections to land a job.”
As you network, tell people who you are, where your talents and interests lie and what kind of career you wish to pursue. When a position opens up at their company, they’re more likely to remember whether you and set you up with an interview.
2. Visualizing your success
Have you ever heard the saying, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it?” Apply this mindset to your job search.
“Finding that job, and the right job for you, doesn’t require selling your soul, but it does help tremendously to have a soul full of the right combination of confidence and desire,” says Lauren Salamone, co-founder of CollegeGuidanceGuru.com and author of “5 Must-Know Secrets for Today’s College Girl.”
One recent graduate Salamone worked with founded her own successful design company post-university. When asked how she did it, recent graduate Cole shared, “I stopped treating myself like a college student seeking starter design work and started treating myself like a young professional, up-to-date on current design practices seeking design work. Big difference.”
University students and recent graduates should spend a little time each day picturing themselves excelling in their fields of choice, suggests Salamone. While getting a few “no’s” on the road to “yes” is inevitable, holding on to confidence and a successful vision of yourself will make a huge difference.
3. Matching your skills with the position
Looking for work and building a career is all about crafting your story and figuring out how you want to position yourself.
“The biggest mistake I see recent grads make is framing things the wrong way,” says Rich Enos, CEO and co-founder of academic tutoring preparation company StudyPoint Inc. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read on a résumé something like, ‘Looking to advance my career in a position that offers such and such.’”
Instead of positioning your résumé as, “What can you do for me?” job seekers should put themselves in the prospective employer’s shoes, Enos suggests. “I am more interested in what you are looking to do for the organization than what you are looking to do for yourself. Tell me how your strengths are going to help our organization grow, make our organization more profitable, etc.”
4. Selling yourself on your résumé
Whether you’re trying to sell a house, a car or your used textbook, you always talk about the product’s best qualities first and leave the “needs some work” areas for last. When crafting your résumé, think of yourself as a product you are trying to sell.
“Make a list of your measurable achievements and accomplishments, and plaster them in the most important spot on your résumé,” says Michael Mercer, author of “Job Hunting Made Easy.”
A job hunter’s résumé tends to stand out when it starts with a list of four to six measurable achievements, Mercer adds. Place these directly below your name, address and other contact information. List awards, campus leadership positions, measurable job achievements (part-time jobs or internships), campus volunteer activities and proven work skills.
Companies want to hire job hunters who are winners, those who have track records as highly productive employees or interns, workers who have proven leadership skills and those who have already learned and exhibited important job-related skills, Mercer says. By listing your accomplishments, you’ll heighten your chances of landing an interview.
5. Staying positive
Yes, it’s tough out there, and there are more applicants vying for the same job than there were five or six years ago. Don’t get discouraged — everyone has something unique to offer. You simply have to take the time to figure out what that is and start showing it off to employers.
You don’t have to sell your soul to get a job either. There is a hiring manager out there looking for exactly what you have to offer. Being yourself and going after positions and companies you are enthusiastic about is likely to get you much further than selling your soul for a pay check. And if you have to take a less than desirable job until the right opportunity comes along, there is nothing wrong with that. Chances are you’ll end up learning a lot from the experience. And in the meantime, keep searching, polishing, selling and interviewing, and know that you’ll get there.
By Sonia Acosta, CareerBuilder Writer