Lisa Quast, author and recipient of six awards for her new book, Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach, shares her top 10 tips for graduates to find success and survival during their job search:
This June, more than a million college students graduated*. The good news: surveys suggest employers will be hiring. In fact according to a new survey from Michigan State University, hiring for new graduates is expected to jump by 16%. The bad news: recruiters and employers suggest millennials are entering the labor market with “lackluster resumes and slipshod cover letters,” appearing unfocused, unmotivated and with unrealistic expectations about starting salaries (according to Monster.com).
1. Know where you want to go. It’s the only way you’ll get there. Grads must define their career aspirations before starting their job search.
2. Not sure where you want to go? Choose temp work. Temp agencies provide highly skilled workers with a wide selection of job categories. Try out different industries, companies and jobs to figure out what you like and don’t like to narrow your focus.
3. Evaluate yourself objectively against job postings. This is especially important for identifying skills you may be lacking, yet many job seekers don’t do it. Once you understand your deficits, create an action plan for improving them.
4. Write a thoughtful cover letter. A cover letter won’t be the reason you get hired, but it can be the reason you don’t get called for an interview. Take the time to fully customize each cover letter – beyond just updating the job title and company.
5. Make your lackluster resume shine. Don’t just list the activities you did in a previous job – quantify your accomplishments, map your skills back to the position you’re applying to and always update your resume for each job application.
6. Have references and recommendations. Be ahead of most job applicants by securing these before you start the job searching process. Having a reference list and recommendation letters on-hand means you won’t be scrambling to pull these together at the last minute.
7. Perfect your personal brand. Ask yourself, how can I position myself differently than other job applicants? Thinking of yourself like a product and your career like a business will help you stand out to recruiters and hiring managers.
8. Be armed with salary information before an interview. It’s inevitable that you’ll be asked “how much do you expect to make in this position?” Before even a phone screening, research average salary ranges for similar jobs in your area using sites like Glassdoor.com.
9. Answer the really tough interview questions. How do you answer the dreaded “what’s your biggest weakness” question without blowing it? I have 3 tactics – explain a weakness you’ve already improved, explain an attitude difference or briefly explain a personal development plan.
10. Follow it all the way through. The job interview isn’t over when you leave a hiring manager’s office. Always send a follow up note thanking him or her for their time and ensure you have a clear sense of next steps in the hiring process.
*According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers