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If there’s one thing I learned this week listening to the pros talk about college and the job market, it’s this: Nothing is going to come easy. The truth is, even though the unemployment rate for people aged 20 to 24 is well above the national average at 13 percent, good candidates are still finding jobs. Just this morning, I spoke with a college administrator who said her university had placed 60 percent of their graduates.
The question is this: How do you get to be one of the lucky ones? One answer to that is to attend one of the many institutions that place a priority on helping graduates get jobs. Some schools are just better than others. Penn State University’s job office starts meeting with students in their Freshman year to get them thinking about how they will apply their education in the real world.
“Some students think the only way to get a job is to simply find a job announcement and apply for it, or simply go to a career fair and approach an employer. It’s not as simple as that,” says Jeff Garis, the university’s Career Services Director. “It’s all about the student taking personal control with the help of their university in developing their goals, and developing a good, proactive job search. Most students get their jobs by going out after positions.”
Taking personal control can take many forms. One way is to get experience in your chosen field before you graduate. Even if that experience is unpaid, it’s valuable when it comes to finding a real job.
And, be sure to bring a little something extra to the table. Too many marketing majors, for example, pitch themselves as the perfect salesman for any product. Instead, they would be better off developing a niche or specialty that they can show off in an interview. By showing that you can narrow down and be specific in your approach to a problem or task, you give a potential employer evidence that you know how to problem solve and shape your talents to a specific client.
And, speaking of being specific, if you do use a print resume (not everybody does these days), be as concrete and detailed as you can in your description of your work history and experience. Leave out the high faulting language about your aspirations for your career. Human resource executives don’t have time for the boilerplate nonsense.
And finally, as everybody told me this week – it’s all about networking. Listings on the major job sites like www.monster.com can draw hundreds of thousands of resumes in seconds. Standing out in a crowd that big can be tough. Worse, a lot of human resource departments use computer programs to separate the wheat from the chaff. In an automated HR world, you’re better off developing relationships with people who get to know you over time.
Consider your job search an exercise in seven degrees of separation. If there is a particular company you want to work for, you need to develop a relationship with people who already work there. Social media is key to getting in the game and making contacts with people who can help. These days, companies maintain active Twitter feeds, follow your prospects to learn what they are interested in and talking about.
And, for anyone out there looking for a job: Good luck!