The Summer After Graduation Is the Beginning of Your Life, Use It Well

job interview With graduation, every student crosses that last bridge into adulthood and comes face-to-face with an uncaring world. All the support figures of youth are gone. You are on your own. From now on it's just you and what you manage to make of your life.

Today's graduates, besides entering one of the toughest job markets in history, also face a dauntingly complex professional future: a 50-year work-life stretches into the distance, marked by job changes about every four years and, even more disruptive, quite possibly three to five complete career changes during this time. Economic recessions will swing by every seven to 10 years, and age discrimination will kick in around age 50. In the professional world that graduates are entering, the only constant will be change.

In response to these unsettling realities there is a groundswell of awareness and alarm that the skills needed for entry into and survival in this daunting new world of work have never been taught. In fact, state colleges typically have only one career services professional for every three thousand students; the ratio is about half that at private institutions, but still completely out of touch with needs. This means that many graduates have never been exposed to even the most fundamental job search and career management training that would help them to find work. The fact that 80 percent of this year's graduates heading home without jobs is proof positive of this.

To use your summer productively, absorb and apply these four essential secrets and strategies to accelerate your entry into the professional world:

Your resume is the most financially important document you will ever own.

When it works, you work, and when it doesn't, you don't. Karen McGrath, Talent Acquisition Manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car (the country's leading employer of fresh graduates) says, "The biggest mistake is thinking your resume isn't that big a deal and assuming you've written a masterpiece when in fact it's typically total garbage."

A resume isn't about what you want, or what you think the customer wants; it is about reflecting your ability to satisfy the customers' stated needs. Your resume must focus on one job and describe someone capable of handling the challenges of that job. The only way you can achieve this is to collect and deconstruct a selection of job postings featuring your target job title. This will give you a template for your resume that reflects a composite of employers' priorities and the language they use to describe your target job. With this insight you can build a resume that works.

Professional connectivity is critical.

The goal of every job search in your life is to get into conversation as quickly and as frequently as possible with the people who can hire you. Typically they hold the job titles one to three levels above yours. Thanks to LinkedIn and other professionally oriented social networking sites, it is increasingly easy to connect with people who hold exactly these high-value job titles. When your social networking activities follow a sensible network-building plan, you can quadruple your chances of landing an interview; and simultaneously contribute to your career positioning (visibility) for the future.

Problem resolution is the key to success.

At its core, every job in the world is about problem identification, prevention and solution. It doesn't matter what your job title is, you are always hired to be a problem-solver with a specific area of expertise. Because you understand the target job's priorities, you can reach out to social networking contacts this summer and ask them about the specifics of problem identification, prevention and solution within a job's responsibilities.

Interviewers hate interviews.

They just want to hire a problem-solver and get back to work. As a graduate, you might not have much experience, but your awareness of the problems in each area of the job and the tools of identification, prevention and solution, will turn a one-sided examination of skills into a two-way conversation between committed professionals. When it's clear you "get" the real essence of the job, offers flow.

You are at the start of a half-century work-life, and control of professional destiny is within your grasp. The change will be constant, so invest this last summer of freedom in getting up-to-speed with the tools of self-determination and professional success.

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