This post was contributed by New Grad Life, a website dedicated to providing free resources to recent college graduates or soon-to-be grads for job hunting, resume and interview help, networking tips, money management, and more.
Everyone knows the job market is very competitive today. Employers are flooded with resumes, and many college graduates aren't doing all they can to make themselves stand out. So, here are seven ways you, the college graduate, can stand out and get called in for an interview:
1. Brand yourself online
As a job seeker, you can create your own personal brand online by registering a web domain using your full name (.com works best). Of course, most common names are taken, so adding on an extra word or two will solve that problem. You can also use a title or abbreviation to create a unique URL. Use your site to blog about the industry you’d like to get into, show off your resume, discuss news and trends, and talk about your own work and academic achievements.
2. Practice your interviewing skills
Lights! Camera! Interview! A mock job interview is a fantastic way to learn how to interview because you can pick up on personal mistakes you make before you make them in the real interview. You can get started on this by:
- Gathering 10 commonly-asked interview questions, then preparing answers for them;
- Getting a friend or family member to play the role of the interviewer. The interview should be done in a quiet, clean room, with no distractions (this helps to re-create a typically tense interview environment);
- Recording the session on video, then watching the video and noting the mistakes (pay special attention to body language).
3. Showcase Your Experience
If you're networking with someone, and especially if you're in a job interview, simply talking about your skills or accomplishments isn’t enough to make you stand out. You must give them evidence of how good you are. Here are two examples:
- If your great communication and sales skills helped increase a retail store’s sales, bring some weekly or monthly sales reports and point out how you contributed to the numbers.
- If you held a position in a student organization, list some of the key successes of that organization and show how your work contributed to the success.
4. Print networking cards for yourself
Most professionals have business cards, but they’re not just for the employed. Networking can take place anywhere – from a special event to a local coffee shop, so you should always be prepared with a business card that summarizes your credentials and shows the recipient how to contact you or view your resume online. A recent graduate who has a business card shows employers they're serious, ambitious, and determined to find a job in their field.
5. Use unconventional resume strategies
If you sent your resume to companies online a few months ago, and haven’t received responses, try some unconventional resume strategies. Three examples:
- If you're applying to a company in the fashion industry, print your resume on a t-shirt and send it.
- If you're applying for an analyst or research position, put all your skills into a pie chart and list your employment achievements on a line graph. The pie chart, for example, can show the relative strengths of your skills.
- If you're applying for a job in the food industry, print your resume on a coffee mug and send it.
- These are just examples, but the point is that you have nothing to lose here. Creativity is a characteristic employers admire, so come up with your own ideas.
6. Act like a consultant—for a few minutes.
If you're a recent college graduate, one great way you can stand out is to act like you already work at the company by doing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and coming up with a new idea for the company. It’s not necessary to send the actual SWOT out to the company; it’s just a good way to brainstorm a new product or strategy. Your idea doesn’t have to be very long or complicated either; a simple page will do. Be sure to email or send it via snail mail to the head of a particular department rather than to the company’s “general inquiries” email.
7. Be a consistent contributor on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great way to make and leverage connections for your job search, but why not have a positive reputation first? Contribute to LinkedIn Discussions of specific industry groups you're interested in and participate regularly in LinkedIn Answers. Use the Discussions to post industry trends or contribute to topics, and use LinkedIn Answers to demonstrate your knowledge or ask questions.
As many LinkedIn users are often experienced professionals, you should be mindful of the discussions you participate in, and how you answer questions. It’s a good idea to express your views on industry trends, but don't make it seem like you're an industry expert. For LinkedIn Answers, you should answer questions in which you feel you have enough experience to say something relevant. But again, don't act like you're a guru on a subject.
Building a rapport with professionals online is a great way to start a relationship before you talk to them on the phone or meet them in person, so be sure to use LinkedIn to its fullest potential.
With many experienced workers looking for jobs, and companies still watching what they spend, it can be difficult to land that first job right after graduation. To improve your chances, find ways to stand out and demonstrate what you can do for a particular employer. That may require you to go above and beyond what you would normally do. The bottom line is that you need to market yourself effectively. Any or all of these seven steps can make up your own personal career marketing strategy.
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