Graduating from university soon? As the “real world” looms, keep in mind these words of wisdom from Thomas Edison: “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”
While a lucky few from the Class of 2012 will secure employment opportunities with minimal effort, the majority of graduates will need to work hard to launch their careers. Use your remaining time in school to your advantage by following these 10 job-search steps:
1. Keep it clear and concise. Some recent graduates try to compensate for a lack of experience by filling their résumés with overly verbose language. Others bump up the font size or triple-space the document to make it appear more impressive. Skip the typographical tricks and put away the thesaurus. A short and sweet résumé written in plain English is better than one brimming with extraneous phrases and fancy five-dollar words.
2. Fine-tune your résumé. The résumé remains the go-to document for employers, so make sure it’s clearly organized and error free. While professors might have overlooked a typo in research papers, hiring managers may not be as forgiving. Proofread diligently and ask detail-oriented classmates, mentors and counsellors in the career-services department to check your work for both content and clarity.
3. Adapt your pitch. Once you have a rock-solid résumé to work from, customize it for each company you contact. It may sound like a pain, but this step is critical. Research the company, pay close attention to the words the company uses in the job posting, and incorporate these terms as appropriate. Tweak your pitch by highlighting strengths most relevant to that specific opportunity. For one role, you might play up the niche software skills you honed during an internship, while for another open position you might emphasize your communication and collaboration skills.
4. Cover your bases. Think writing cover letters is old school? Think again. In a Robert Half survey, 91 per cent of employers interviewed said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job applicants. Your cover letter should demonstrate your knowledge of the company and expand upon your most pertinent selling points. Think of it like an introduction to your résumé. And, at just two to three paragraphs in length, a cover letter can be fairly quick to craft. There’s no reason to skip it.
5. Polish your online image. Operate under the assumption that employers will search the Web for additional information about you. Clean up any digital debris floating around Facebook, Twitter or blogs. That means deleting questionable content and checking your privacy settings.
6. Spread the word. There’s certainly some truth to the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But people can’t help you if they’re unaware of your career goals. Don’t wait until you’re holding your diploma to get the word out. Be bold and tell everyone — extended family members, friends, neighbours, academic advisers, even the friendly businessperson sitting next to you at Starbucks — about your employment search. You never know who might provide an invaluable job lead, connection or referral.
7. Reach out to a staffing company. Staffing professionals often know about unadvertised job openings you wouldn’t hear about otherwise. They can help you target your search efforts to the most promising entry-level opportunities, enhance your marketability and prepare for interviews. Moreover, they may recommend temporary assignments that can help you gain professional experience and establish key contacts as you search for a full-time role.
8. Make time for face time. While the Internet provides an easy way to reach out to others, traditional in-person networking is still critical. Get involved with professional associations in your field, general business organizations in your city and university alumni groups. Attend meetings, training workshops and networking events whenever possible. Develop and rehearse an elevator pitch that conveys your background, accomplishments and professional interests.
9. Seek the right endorsements. Interested employers will probably request references. Rather than scrambling at the last minute, line them up now. Select three to five people who’ll speak knowledgably — and enthusiastically — about the positive traits you bring to the table. Consider asking former managers from part-time or campus jobs you’ve held, an internship coordinator, a university administrator or a well-connected professor. If they oblige, provide a fresh copy of your résumé and mention the type of positions and companies you’re targeting. Keep them apprised of your job search after graduation.
10. Say thank you. Finally, invest in a big box of thank-you cards and send them liberally. Promptly offering your sincere gratitude to those who assist you in your career endeavours is good etiquette. Plus, in an era of email and text messages, a thoughtful handwritten card will make a lasting positive impression. And the more someone feels appreciated, the more apt they’ll be to continue helping you.
By Robert Half International