During the academic year, I work in the career center at a local college. Especially for seniors, this time of year can be very stressful. People are constantly asking them what they’re doing after graduation, and sometimes they don’t have an answer. Every year there are some students who graduate without having secured a job. Some years, like during the recent recession, a large number of students find themselves in this position. Thankfully, hiring of recent college graduates has improved since then, but there are still plenty of students around the country graduating from college without having secured a job, yet. Here’s my advice for them:
- Maintain a positive attitude. I know this can be very challenging during a job search that has dragged on longer than anticipated, but it’s also critically important. Not only will negative thinking impact the way you approach your search, it will also come across during interviews and networking meetings. Meet regularly with others who are looking for jobs, volunteer, meditate, exercise; find what helps you stay positive, and do it.
- Keep a regular, “adult” schedule. Even if you don’t have anything you have to get up for every day, try to maintain a regular routine. There’s no need to get up at 5am, but do get up at a reasonable hour – say, before 8am – and start your day. Sleeping until noon and lounging in your pajamas all day will make it more difficult to maintain a positive attitude and to see yourself as a professional. Also, you don’t want to have morning voice at 10am when you answer a phone call from an employer seeking to schedule an interview with you.
- Stay active in your field. Read the newspaper and professional journals or articles to keep up on current events, especially those impacting your field. If possible, do volunteer work in the field, which will not only keep you active and making connections, but is also experience you can include on your resume. Join a relevant professional organization or two, and attend local meetings and read the newsletters. Many of these organizations offer discounted memberships for recent grads, and sometimes they publish member directories for networking purposes, and/or job postings.
- Network like crazy. Networking is a critical part of anyone’s job search. Talking with people who work in your field can give you inside knowledge on potential job openings, trends in the field, and ideas for how to make yourself more marketable. Use resources such as LinkedIn, alumni lists from your college, personal contacts, and former professors. Ask each person with whom you speak or meet, to refer you to other contacts who might be helpful. Set a weekly goal for the number of new contacts you’ll reach out to and networking meetings you’ll have, and follow-through on it.
- Use your college career center. Most college career centers provide assistance to alumni/ae, as well as current students. Take advantage of this excellent, free resource. They can help with resume and cover letter reviews, job search strategy, networking advice, interview preparation, and more. Some, like the college where I work, publish lists of job openings for alumni. No longer live near your college? It’s generally possible to “meet” over the phone or Skype, and to have your documents reviewed via email.
- Make the most of your time. Once you’ve secured a job and started working, your schedule is likely to become a lot less flexible. Use the time you have off to read, enjoy time with friends and family, indulge in a hobby, and anything else that you won’t be able to do as easily, once your time is more constrained.
Believe it or not, this period of unemployment will end, and what you do during this time can have a direct impact how long your search drags on. Be smart about how you use this time.
What advice do you have for recent college graduates who are still searching for a job?