College students around the country are approaching graduation with anxious anticipation. This time of year is a busy time supporting not only recent college grads, but also those who may hear news about graduation and reflect on where they wish they were professionally.Whether you are embarking on your first job search post-graduation or in step with the season and eager to branch out at explore new horizons, this nice recent article, “9 Tips for College Seniors Looking for That First Job,” from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development inspired my own list of tips for the job search season.
1. Make a plan.
I typically tell clients it can take 6-9 months to find a job. Sticking with it and being focused in your search is key to success. It can be challenging to find energy for the sometimes tedious aspects of the job search process, especially for college students who are just coming off of stressful finals and commencement activities. My advice: Make a plan for yourself with clear goals.
- How many jobs per week do you plan to apply for? It is better to set a smaller goal, but put in application materials that are tailored to each position to which you plan to apply.
- What steps must you take to be ready to apply for jobs? For example, do you need to revamp your resume or have a career consultant review your materials and offer feedback?
- What time-frame is reasonable for each of these small tasks? Plotting out your goals and milestones on a calendar can really help you feel confident in knowing which tasks to handle first, and it can give you an idea of whether you are on track with the timeline that feels comfortable to you.
- You can also take time to document your goals or vision for a happy work life now. You can look back on this if times get stressful or if you seem to lose track of your center in the stress of the job hunt.
Finally, you may also want to set up a job search spreadsheet where you can keep track of all the positions you have applied for and the dates so you know when it would be appropriate to follow-up. Having your goals and timeline determined, and having your organization systems in place will help you start your search on a strong foot.
2. Use all the resources available to you.
Many college graduates assume that because they have graduated they no longer are eligible to utilize the career services offices on their campus. This is true in some cases, but not all. Be sure you are taking full advantage of your resources as an alum in addition to seeking out private career consulting support, if appropriate.
Also consider the resources and career support available to you through groups you are a member of, such as professional associations or faith communities, for example. Stay in touch with faculty members who know you well – they hear about many openings. Also attend to your network and be sure you are leveraging your relationships to help put your network to work for you.
3. Balance your search across the visible and invisible job markets.
Speaking of networks – balance the amount of time spent on applying for posted jobs vs. investing energy in cultivating your own network. I teach a networking class at the University of Minnesota and it is always surprising to me how few students realize the full power of networking. Up to 70-80% of jobs may never be posted, so be sure you aren’t just competing with all the other job seekers for that visible job market.
To network effectively, you should be prepared to let people in your life know:
- A bit about who you are
- What you are interested in
- The skills and strengths you bring
- And where you see yourself headed
Through formal and informal connections, seek out opportunities to tell people that you are a recent grad or that you are job searching, and offer them enough detail about you so they can ascertain how they can help you in your search. This allows you to tap into the invisible job market. In your job search plan, be sure you set goals related to how many networking meetings you hope to have each week or month in addition to focusing on applying for open positions.
4. Pay attention to your online life.
When job searching we typically spend a lot of time and energy on our resume and cover letter. It is great to tailor these to specific positions, but it is also becoming increasingly important to attend to your online presence:
- Linked In is becoming more of a norm across industries, which is a great thing because you can oftentimes highlight your strengths and skills in more interactive and interesting ways online as compared to in a formal resume. Spend time getting acquainted with Linked In, not only as a tool to collect contacts but also as a tool you can use to mine for potential networking contacts who may know about positions that are “invisible” to the general job search scene.
- Depending on your industry or field, you may also want to develop your own personal website you can link to from Linked In or your resume where you are able to showcase more about who you are and what you are seeking in your next position.
- Finally, “Google yourself” to see what prospective employers may discover about you online when they do a quick search. Clean up any privacy settings on social media and make adjustments as needed. Again, a career coach or career consultant can help you think through all of these aspects of your job search and candidate profile.
5. Be present to the process.
Job searching is stressful one day and exhilarating the next. There are a lot of ups and downs in this process and it can start to feel pretty disorienting after even a short time in the thick of it. My last tip is to be present to the process.
Try to take a step back and keep that big picture in mind:
- What is your ultimate goal?
- What are your values?
- Are the kinds of positions you are applying for still in alignment with who you are and what you desire next from your work?
If you get to feeling low about your prospects it can be tempting to just begin applying for any open position. Stay focused on your goals and interests, and review that purpose statement or vision you crafted for yourself at the start of your search so you ensure you are staying true to yourself through the process.
Always listen to your gut. If you notice you do not have energy or enthusiasm for a specific position or industry, for example, maybe you should really listen in to what might be going on. Be present and reflect on what you are learning through the process. Sometimes we discover that the job search reveals our goals or priorities are a little different than we first anticipated they would be.
If you are looking to make a job change, reflect on whether you are running towards something or running away from something that isn’t working – and if the thing that isn’t working in your life is really your work at all?
Being this mindful in your job search process can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but staying in touch with yourself during your search is key to finding longer-term happiness and meaningful work that satisfies.
I wish all the recent grads and spring job searchers out there good luck in the search!