With graduation over, it’s time to commence life after college. For our seniors, this season is bittersweet. It is sad to be leaving friends and a place they have called home for four years, but the promise of a new future is exciting and energizing. While about half of the senior class already has plans in place for their future (which is consistent with past years), others are in the middle of their job searches or are just getting started. Not to worry, 95% of the class of 2012 who responded to our first destination survey were either employed or in graduate school by six months after graduation (which compares favorably to the national average of 59%. Source: NACE).
If your student is just beginning the job search process, share these tips so s/he can get a jump start on securing his or her first post-graduation opportunity:
- Don’t Compare. One big thing that can keep you from moving forward is worrying about how your situation compares to everyone else. Every person’s journey is unique and really cannot be compared to others. Focus on what you can do to keep moving forward at your own pace and time.
- Get Going. Just as no one wins the lottery without buying a ticket, you won’t get a job if you don’t start working on your search. The first mistake most make is to start applying for a multitude of jobs online (your odds of success are just like playing the lottery). The best first step is to develop real clarity about your work interests. Use the Job Search Strategies worksheet to organize your efforts.
- Clarify Your Interests. Do some research about the types of work (job functions & industries) that most interest you. Read Explore Careers on the OPCD website and other career sites. Write down what interests you and why, as well as what does not. Obtain feedback from adult fans who know you and a career counselor who knows these careers.
- Clean Up. Before you begin ‘selling yourself’ and applying for jobs, you have to get your act together. Clean up and tailor your resume, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media channel pages. Refine and practice your elevator pitch to quickly describe yourself, your background, strengths and interests so that you’re ready when you make connections.
- Make Connections. Start with your Adult Fans: family, friends, Wake Forest faculty and staff, Wake Forest alumni and fellow students (and their parents), and even alumni, friends, teachers from your high school and home town. Use LinkedIn every day. Set a goal to conduct at least 5 informational interviews each week. Ask each person about their experience, perspective on the sector and career paths, and their advice on the hiring process and how you can become a viable candidate. Always ask for introductions to others.
- 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time meeting people who work in your areas of interest (a.k.a. informational interviewing and networking). Only spend 20% of your time applying to jobs online. Use the Internet to research jobs, organizations and people – to understand what they are looking for and the skills and terminology that you need to demonstrate and/or acquire. Apply for jobs after hours, not during prime meeting times.
- Translate your experience. Employers will be interested in you when you have the knowledge and skills that they are looking for (as described in the job description). Many students have the necessary skills, but don’t define it accurately on the resume or communicate it well in an interview. Find great resumes online, on LinkedIn or the OPCD website for examples in your field of interest that you can mimic.
- Be realistic. You may be interested in jobs that require knowledge and skills that you don’t currently have. Be realistic that these jobs may be in your future with more experience and/or schooling. Focus on interesting jobs that fit your capabilities now. You can work towards that other job with good planning and professional development.
- 100% Effort. Your job search is your primary job. Now is the time to work on your career, especially if you need to earn income and the clock is ticking. Invest at least 6-8 hours each day on your job search: Meet contacts during the day. Perform research, apply for jobs, and reflect and follow up on your meetings after hours.
- Be patient. The average job search takes three months and will have its ups and downs. Employers consistently tell us that Wake Forest graduates have the work ethic, drive and skills to be successful in the workplace and you will be successful, too (95% of the class of 2012 was employed or in graduate school by November). You only need one person to say “Yes” for all of your efforts to pay off.
- Ask For Guidance. The biggest roadblock to success is our pride. Most don’t want to ask for help, but everyone enjoys helping others. So give it a try. Ask, “What questions should I be asking myself?”, “What would you do if you were in my situation?”, “What else do you think I should look into?” By asking, you will open the door to new ideas and options. And deeper relationships that may help you now or sometime in the future.