1. Relax! There is nothing wrong with taking a few days to relax before beginning your job search. You deserve to celebrate the accomplishment of graduating college and enjoy time with family and friends before jumping into the “real world.” Searching for a job is a marathon, not a sprint – starting a few days later won’t derail your career, and will enable you to start your job hunt relaxed and refreshed.
2. Update your LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t joined LinkedIn yet, create a profile on day one of your job hunt. A LinkedIn profile is essential for job seekers and will help you keep track of your contacts, research companies, and locate people for networking meetings. Review this checklist for help updating your profile, and take a look at this sample profile for a college student.
3. Check in with your school’s Career Services. Many undergraduate career services offices provide services for alumni. Register for any job posting boards and find out what other services are available to you and for how long.
4. Set SMART goals. “I’m going to get a job” is a lot more overwhelming than “I’m going to send out 5 resumes and cover letters by Friday, and research and join 2 relevant networking associations by the end of the month.” Break down larger goals into smaller concrete tasks that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive. If you need accountability and can’t hire a career coach, try a free website like Stickk.com where you can make a “commitment contract” with yourself. For more information and a worksheet for setting SMART goals, look at this resource from Wake Forest University.
5. Check out some of my favorite resources. This page includes a list of books, blogs, and job search engines that I think are most useful for new graduates looking for jobs. You can also join my private Real World Ready Facebook group to stay up-to-date on news and advice relevant to your job search.
6. Post incriminating pictures from your graduation celebrations. Potential employers WILL Google you! Enough said.
7. Rely on online job listings. While of course you should apply to postings you see online, you should NOT rely on this as your sole method of searching for jobs. Depending on who you believe, most people agree that over 70% of jobs are never posted. That means that in addition to applying to job postings online, you should be actively networking to access that “hidden” market of jobs that are never posted.
8. Use a generic cover letter. Employers are not impressed by generic cover letters that talk about making an impact at “your organization” or resumes that arrive on their own. From an employer’s perspective, if you aren’t interested enough to take the time to customize your application – how interested could you really be in this job? Sending 10 targeted customized applications is a far better use of your time than sending 50 generic resumes.
9. Apply to every position from accountant to zookeeper. Many job seekers think they are better off if they are willing to do any job – after all, that multiplies your options, right? But narrowing down your options and working to improve your credentials for those targeted fields is likely to yield better results. Consider this – a graduate’s dad has a business contact who works at a large corporation. Which person is easier to help? “My son just graduated and is looking for a job” – or – “My son majored in Psychology and interned at a communications firm. He’s looking for an entry-level marketing or public relations position.”
10. Give up hope. Will you find a job next week? Doubtful. Will your first job be your dream job? Also doubtful. But this doesn’t mean you should give up and take a minimum wage job and resign yourself to living in your parents’ basement until you are 30! Hiring doesn’t happen overnight, so be prepared for the process to stretch several weeks to several months, depending on what you are looking for. And think of your first job as getting your foot in the door of the professional working world and putting you on the path towards your dream job. Having realistic expectations from the start makes the process much more bearable!