The month of May usually means the coming of warmer weather, spring flowers and graduation ceremonies. The sheer exhilaration of graduating from college can, however, take a rapid downturn when the recent graduate has an instant reality check that he or she is now officially "unemployed."
No need to panic, though. There are a few things that can be done to dramatically increase one's chances of getting a job, even in today's job market. These tips can be used by anyone, but they are especially targeted to recent college graduates.
1) Assuming you haven't already done so, get a resume prepared. Now, not in a few weeks, after you've taken that cross-country road trip with your friends. Now. And don't think that the half-hour session you had with the counselor in the career center on campus is going to make you enough of an expert to whip one up yourself.
If you are even remotely serious about highlighting your skills, talents, education (and even some possible previous employment), you need to consider having a professional resume writer help you. They are trained in helping "special cases" prepare resumes. And yes, recent college grads are considered special cases since they often lack a serious background employment history. With a job-specific cover letter (must-have), resume and the questionnaire and background interview from the resume writer, consider the $200-500 an investment in your new career.
(Hint: Always have extra copies of your resume with you, at all times, whether it's at a job interview, or when you are running errands. You never know who you will run into.)
2) Get a special, new email account just for use on your resumes so that potential employers can contact you. Knowing what the majority of people are using today as email names, you want to avoid anything that's too cutesy, suggestive or downright offensive, especially one that will be printed on your resume itself as your contact information.
3) Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. This includes your friends, your relatives, and yes, even your parents' friends. The name of the game here is "networking" and whether you like it or not, it sometimes does come down to "who you know." Don't be too proud and think you are going to do this on your own. If someone who knows you knows someone who may have a position open, follow up. Even if it may not be exactly what you want, you still will meet a new person, make a new contact, and add to your new list of networking connections.
(Hint: Now is a good time to join new social networks, like a local group or club of your similar interests or hobbies, the local gym, civic clubs, or even volunteer groups. Not only will you make and meet new friends, but your community involvement will increase and that's another great thing for your new resume.)
4) Clean up your Facebook and/or MySpace pages. Potential employers today can and will google new possible employees to see what, if anything may turn up on the internet. If they see posts and photos of you from the aftermath of one of your "memorable-and-not-in-the-good-way" fraternity parties you attended, they very possibly will (and can) reject you for a position for which you are applying.
(Hint: If you want to post photos of your college days, show yourself off in a positive light. If you were involved in any philanthropy, volunteer events, or other charitable situations, brag about that on your site.)
5) Make sure you have a professional looking suit (both men and women) ready to wear at a moment's notice. If you don't have a new one that fits you TODAY, then go get one right away. It should be cleaned, tailored to fit, repaired, accessorized and ready to wear now. Don't forget to also have a new, polished pair of shoes ready as well.
Don't think the suit you wore to your cousin's wedding last fall will work, especially if you haven't looked at it or even tried it on since then. First impressions at a job interview can often make or break an employer's hiring decision, and how you present yourself will be noticed. Be the Boy Scout, "be prepared." You're entering the real world now. Dress for success.
(Hint: Shop at one of the upscale "discount" outlets for great deals on top quality suits. Don't skimp on this. Once you get hired, you are most likely going to need a good suit anyway.)
6) Do your homework about the company to which you are applying. Go online and find out as much information as you can about their history, their mission, their market and what their current situation is. Ask people who you know work there or are associated with them. The more you know about them, the better prepared you will be when you get your chance to be interviewed with the company.
I remember one of my college professors telling us the story of a college senior who landed a huge interview with IBM, beating out several hundred others of his peers. When he got into the interview, the first question he was asked was "What does IBM stand for?" He had no idea. And the interviewer promptly thanked him for his time, shook his hand and he was shown to the door.
7) Always write a thank you letter. Always. Thank your interviewer. Thank the person who referred you to this position. Thank the person who helped coach you through the interview process. Not only is this a lost art, but it is one of the most important things you can do to set yourself apart from the majority of everyone out there. Gratitude goes a long way, and many hiring professionals will tell you that, all things considered equal, the person who took the time to send a personal thank you note will always be considered over someone else who did not.
The process of job searching and enduring many weeks or months of looking at job listings, posting resumes and sending out cover letters can be daunting. It can get downright discouraging. Help yourself to stay positive throughout this entire process by first writing down your goals. Know what you are looking for and imagine yourself in the job of your dreams. Feel yourself doing what it is you want to do. See yourself succeeding at the position you most highly desire. Think about this every day and say to yourself "I am a successful (whatever you want) and I love the new position I was just hired for!" By staying focused and positive during your search, you will project a confident attitude and it will also help attract the position that you really want.