Can you see it? The light… at the end of the tunnel. What is it? OMG, it’s the real world and time for a real job! Now what are you going to do? For years I counseled soon-to-be graduates on how to find, apply, and negotiate the first step towards their career goals, and I think you all can benefit from these tips as well.

This blog is focused on those career-related opportunities. If you’re in high school and looking to secure a summer or after-school job you should check out my other blog.

Don’t Wait to do Your Resume

Every semester I would have new students who are graduating in 4-5 months and had not typed a single character into their resume. I bet if I tracked them down they would be well aware how much of a setback this was in their search. The fact is that the resume is easier and more accurate if you develop it over time.

Even though I love my job here at EducationQuest, I regularly update my resume. My format is to have one large document that has dozens of performance statements for each job I have had since I graduated college. I may not use each position on my resume and I certainly will not use each statement. It gives you a database to pull from, this way your resume is customizable to each application. I recommend that you make your applications direct, succinct, and tailored to what the employer wants.

I mentioned performance statements, these are not just what you did in a job. Performance statements encompass the activity and the achievement. You want to highlight, in the fewest possible characters, what you did and the outcome.

Expand Your Search

Another common error with past advisees was that they would focus too much on a single job source. I had one student who only used the local newspaper. I suggest that you take a three-prong approach.

Prong one is to use local sources, often the local newspaper but some areas have online job boards. This also includes connecting with the employment services at your college. You’ll appreciate their expertise. Be sure to ask about upcoming career fairs.

Second prong is national job sites like Career Builder, Monster.com and Indeed. These sites will give you a ton of results, but in my experience the majority are false leads. It’s not too bad though if you gather information on the types of companies that might hire someone like you. It’s also more useful if you are willing to move for work.

Last prong is networking. This is the hardest of the three. Start with a good profile on LinkedIn. Talk to professionals you know already, utilize your professors and go back to the career experts at your college to ask about networking events. I also reached out to our alumni department and was able to get contact information for some alumni who were great contacts for me as I grew in my career.

Prepare Yourself

You may have it in your head that this is going to be easy and you’ll get the first job you apply for. You will not be the first or the last person to be wrong about that. For most, this will be a long process that will be disheartening at times. Get ready for the grind and start early. You don’t have to wait for graduation.

Also, clean up your social media sites. I had a student who wanted to get a job at a national outdoor equipment retailer, and applied many times. He came to me to ask for help and I noticed that he posted a ton of articles on social media from their competitors. After weeks of deleting these posts he went back to them and got a job on the next interview. Think about what your latest tweet says about you from the perspective of the employer and act accordingly.

Learn From Each Interaction

“Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result.” I don’t know who said that, but #IAgree. Use every “no” and every failed interview as an opportunity to gain information. Don’t be afraid to ask why you didn’t get called for an interview or why you didn’t get that job. This was the hardest thing for me, I struggled to ask for information that was not given without prompt. If I can learn to do it, you can too.

Apply the information you obtain as you learn. If there is an error on your resume, correct it. If they say you didn’t have enough experience, ask if they have an open position that would provide you the chance to gain the necessary experience.

Reward Yourself

If you put in the time and effort it will pay off eventually. At times it may not seem like it, but trust me it will. Stay positive and when you finally see the fruits of your labor, take a minute to enjoy them. This will be different for everyone, but I had students who took a week off before starting their new job to travel, I had a student who bought himself new golf clubs with his first paycheck as a reward. I even had one student who proposed to his girlfriend at his new job on the first day. I always thought that one was taking this a bit too far, but good for them. I wonder if they are still married? Walter, if you read this, let me know how you and Christina are doing! 😉