Congratulations on Graduating! Now What?
With college graduation season in full swing, now's the time when many young adults are tossing aside the cap and gown and lifting a briefcase as they face the reality of entering the workforce full-time.
While some graduate with a job lined up, those situations are unfortunately fewer and farther between. For many, the hunt for a job doesn't begin until after graduation -- and that can make any graduate's transition to the "real world" especially daunting.
In fact, if you ask recent graduates what they regret most, you'll likely hear that they didn't pay enough attention to their job search before graduation. According to a survey by Adecco Staffing U.S., 70 percent of recent graduates, ages 22 to 26, wish they had done more to prepare for the job market.
While the economy certainly has improved since the Great Recession, many employers still are cautiously optimistic about hiring full-time support. This creates a great deal of competition among current college graduates for full-time jobs. In fact, the survey also found that only 57 percent of recent graduates are working full-time and 43 percent of those employed are in a job that doesn't require a four-year degree.
Those numbers may sound discouraging to today's grads, but it's important to remember that however daunting looking for a job in today's environment may be, graduates have quite a bit of control over their destiny. The key is going after it in a big way. Even with an economic market that's slowly recovering, graduates can still improve their chances of landing their dream job -- even if they are beginning the search a bit late. Here are ways to boost the odds:
1. Pound the pavement (with your resume).
It goes without saying that the more jobs you apply for, the better your chances are of getting hired. Yet not all graduates are as aggressive in or passionate about their job search as they should be. Adecco's survey found that over half (69 percent) of recent graduates only applied for 10 jobs or less since graduation. Make finding a job, your new full-time job. Set a goal for yourself each day that you need to apply for seven jobs before 5 p.m.
2. Mix and mingle with the industry.
Networking is still one of the best ways to find real job leads. In-person meetings at social and networking events provide you with the opportunity to give a personality to your resume. It also multiplies your job search "net," because it's no longer just you looking for job openings. Instead, you have an entire network of friends, family members and colleagues informing you of different job opportunities and vouching for your experience and work ethic.
If you don't already have an online professional profile (such as on LinkedIn), create and populate one. You'd be surprised at the valuable connections that even your friends and family members might have. Get involved in industry-specific groups because these groups are often conduits for new job opportunities and leads. Lastly, join or actively volunteer with professional organizations (most have student or young professional chapters).
These groups hold a number of in-person networking events throughout the year, as well as professional development courses. Offer to lead a committee or help plan an event; it will keep you busy and actively engaged with people in your field, increasing your chances of exposure to opportunities.
3. Go back to school.
No, not literally. But nearly all universities have an alumni career services center which helps connect graduates, recent or otherwise, with potential employers -- and each other. Many colleges also offer online and in-person career fairs, resume workshops and mentoring programs to help graduates find their desired position.
4. Seek out experience.
One of the most important things that employers look for on resumes is actual on-the-job experience. You may think that internships are only for students, but plenty of recent graduates use them as a way to further develop their skills in a particular area, and develop a relationship with a potential employer. And while grads are often quick to dismiss low-paying opportunities, don't let dollar signs deter you from pursuing an opportunity that you're passionate about.
Line up a side job to supplement your income and help you stay afloat while you're gaining experience and increasing your "net worth" in the job market. You may also want to consider a temporary job, which provides an opportunity to gain valuable on-the-job experience as well as the potential to possibly lead to a full-time job offer.
If you've waited until now to start your job search, don't get hung up on what you should've or could've done; instead, focus on the future. Though it may be challenging, finding a job that excites you is one of the most rewarding experiences after graduation. You have your whole life and career ahead. Make no mistake: Finding a job takes a lot of hard work. But the end result can be well worth the effort.
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