First, let’s state the obvious: Current career prospects for recent college grads aren’t as good as they could be. The unemployment rate for graduates ages 21 to 24 averaged 9.4 percent for the year ended in March, while the underemployment rate—the jobless plus those working at part-time jobs when they want full-time positions—was a steep 19.1 percent, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.
But don't be too dismayed by these numbers. Instead, ruminate on these: 7.9, and 4.0. These are the current unemployment rates among people 25 and older for high school grads and for college graduates, respectively. College enrollment is at an all-time high because even with the hiked-up tuition, college grads have lower unemployment and they earn more than everyone else.
Getting that first post-grad job will be difficult, but not impossible—the key is to look outside the box, or more aptly, the computer screen. Technology has certainly lowered the barriers to entry for the job-seeking public, giving many a seductive sense of hope based on the sheer enormity of resources available to you online as you send resumes out into the binary void.
But guess what? You're not the only one shipping off a resume online to that company. Job postings are receiving so many hits that many companies have employed rather cruel filtering algorithms to automatically weed out resumes, and you'll never know where you stand in that process.
Instead of falling prey to the seductive world of online job postings, here are some creative ideas I've come across that will get you a post-grad job—or at the very least, open a door. And guess what? It's all about people!
- Leverage social media. Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat because it does involve you using a computer, but just because you aren't interacting with companies via the internet doesn't mean they won't be trying to find you online. See my post in March for some advice on using social media to reflect the professional you.
But let's take this one step further: use LinkedIn to make connections, get referrals from former managers at internships, or start a group from a club you sat on. All of these activities, coupled with a strong headline that is specific to your interests and desired position, will increase your visibility and help you get introduced to potential hiring managers. Which leads me to...
- Networking. Yes, a sticky word if I do say so myself. But review Veronica's post to get a great understanding of what we all mean when we throw out this term. Networking with appropriate people can be the difference that pushes you to the top of the pile at a company for which you are just dying to work. Some networking activities that will put you ahead of the job-seeking post-grad pack include:
• Conducting informational interviews. Not to be confused with formal job interviews, informational interviews are the setting for gathering information about a company, a specific job function, a new resource for your current job search, and/or a referral to hiring managers. Scour your college alumni network, contact friends or family, reach out to professors during office hours, and ask politely if they wouldn't mind taking some time to chat. Be polite, engaging, and brief when contacting them, letting them know who referred you. Tell them that you heard they would be a valuable resource for information and that you are learning more about the industry/company/job function and hope they can share some advice. If all goes well, you can send a copy of your resume ahead of time to familiarize them with your background. These are innately informal, so you can conduct them in any form you see fit: in person, over coffee, while strolling around town, over the phone, or via IM.
• Volunteering. Any extracurricular activities are great to meet new people, but volunteering also gives back to the community, and in the process you can bond with a group. Between the long hours of folding shirts for a clothing drive or weighing rice for a food bank, you have an open door to chat with people about their lives, their careers, and maybe even conduct an impromptu informational interview without the constructs!
- Career Fairs. Utilize the resources at your Career Development Center to get your resume in order. But more importantly, know what you want to get out of it. Are you interested in long-term prospects with the company and you would simply like to stay in touch (good for sophomores and juniors) or are you looking to get an interview (seniors)?
If it's the latter, be clear about your career objectives: what are you deliverable skills, what is your vision for your future, and how do these fit with the mission or values of the company? This requires both introspection and research—so take a trip over to the Career Center and talk these through with a career counselor.
- Be your own boss. If you see an unmet, substantial need, move to fill it! Having gone to school in the Silicon Valley trenches, this sentiment is particularly strong for me. But entrepreneurship is not about geography, it's about an unmet need.
If there are many small companies that you see need certain kinds of products or services, and you have the experience to do it, then productize it and offer it. If you are a frequent flyer and see that all airlines could benefit from a certain kind of online surveys, then come up with something and test it out. If you are often complimented on your ability to pull an outfit together or you were an exceptional party planner for your student club or fraternity, why not start with one or more clients and build from there through positive word of mouth.
The possibilities really are endless, but are bound by your passion, financial situation and the level of risk you're willing to take.
- Stay in touch with your summer internship crew. Were you impressed by your former managers, supervisors, or fellow interns? Reconnect with these individuals, expecting that they may have changed industries, companies, or are off to grad school.
But at a minimum, they can give you valuable insight into their new ventures and guide you to other companies that reflect the values and interests you displayed when you worked with them. As long as no bridges were burned, you can also call up the HR department at your former internship and ask about any openings; they know your track record and recognize your devotion to the company.
There you go! I hope some of these tips resonated with you. Please let me know what you think, and definitely share any of your own tips with us too!