September may prove to be a bit strange for our newest college graduates, the Class of 2008. In most cases, they have spent every previous September becoming mentally prepared for yet another year of school after a summer filled with activities, earning money, and/or sleep.
This year, there's none of that (exception: those starting grad school). They've joined the ranks of the employed, some in their chosen careers or something close enough for now. Most likely wrote resumes and cover letters that got them hired into entry-level roles.
But if you're newly degreed and still looking for that first job, and you've been actively looking since spring, why is it not happening for you?
It could be any one (or more) of these five things that you can fix:
Do you know what you want and what value you can bring to an employer? Can you marry what you have to offer with what the employer needs? More importantly, can you communicate that clearly in your cover letter and in the Objective section of your resume? Even more importantly, can you articulate it clearly in a job interview? If you're still not sure, maybe you can get some insight into your personality by doing career assessment tests or working with a career coach.
Your resume (and maybe by extension, your cover letter)
Does your resume highlight your best skills, job-related accomplishments and experience, and academic credentials? Is it attractively designed and limited to one page (which is all you need if you're a recent college graduate)? Make your resume and cover letter support your focus by emphasizing what you've done and how it aligns with what the employer is looking for in the job description that has drawn your interest. Finally, make sure your resume and cover letter are error-free: no misspellings or grammatical errors.
Your presentation skills
If most of your college life was spent on campus, things are a bit different in this "new world" of job interviews and make-you-or-break-you first impressions. Ditch the jeans, t-shirt, and flip-flops for more professional, business-like attire. Make sure your hair is well groomed and be ready to greet each interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake. And, practicing your interviewing skills can go a long way to helping you be your most articulate self in the interview.
Your online persona
As for how you appear on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, make sure you remove any references to those wild on- and off-campus parties - especially embarrassing pictures. A potential employer can - and probably will - hunt down your name on the web for flashes of irresponsible behavior that might take you out of the running.
Are you looking at the wrong companies or industries? Have you researched the industries that can benefit from having someone with your skills and potential? Do your homework! If you're interested in a particular company, search the web for information about them, their competitors, and the industries in which they operate. Get a good idea of what would make a good mutual fit. Further, if you come across a company that invests in personal career development, consider it a potential target. More companies are doing that today to help reduce employee turnover.
Take a hard look at any of these five areas in which you think you could do better. Then, start tweaking your job-search plans so you can land the type of role that will help you launch a fulfilling career.
If you're a recent college grad - or can remember back that far - did you have to make adjustments in your job search strategy to get hired? Please share them with us.