It wasn’t so long ago when high school and college graduates could be reasonably confident they would land a job not too long after the echoes of “Pomp and Circumstance” had faded. In fact, not getting some type of professional job a year after obtaining that diploma was the exception, rather than the rule.
In today’s stagnant economy – especially with unemployment among 20- to 24-year-olds above 24 percent – securing a real job shortly after commencement is anything but assured.
So, what can someone do to increase their chances of employment in the near term?
Pat Whelan, associate director of career services at Southern, and Gerri Prince, the university’s coordinator of employer recruitment programs, offer some advice:
• Network! Hey, it might sound like a cliché, but this is a valuable piece of advice from Gerri and Pat. Let’s face it, the hunt for a job is somewhat of a numbers game. The people you are in contact with have contacts, who, in turn, have contacts, etc.
• Be sure to develop a refined, tailored version of your resume for each position to which you apply. A resume that is too generic can lead employers to think you lack motivation because you didn’t take the time to make it distinctive.
• Practice your interview skills. You can even request an “informational interview” from someone employed in an occupation in which you are trying to land a job. In those situations, it’s probably best to request no more than 20-30 minutes of their time since they might be very busy. And asking for a long period of time will make it less likely they’ll accept your request.
• Practice your pitch. No, not your fastball or curveball, but your commercial pitch. Be ready to talk about who you are and what you have to offer, even in unexpected settings, such as in the grocery store or at a social event. Politicians do this all the time and call it their “stump speech.”
• Professional dress for an interview is generally assumed by the employer. This should be a given, but you would be amazed at how many people think nothing of wearing jeans, T-shirts, tank tops, sneakers and even rather immodest clothing. The interviewer might mentally disqualify you from contention before you even utter a word if are attired in less than professional wear. Consider using graduation gift money toward the purchase of a career wardrobe.
• Join professional organizations in your field and try to build relationships with people. Individuals belonging to these groups often are well connected, and therefore it can help to meet them. If an opening occurs in their office and they know you, you might have an edge.
• Don’t under play your “soft skills” to potential employers, such as motivation, integrity, adaptability, organization, self-confidence and communication skills. These can be difficult to quantify or measure, but employers like team players, self-starters and those with a good work ethic.
• Remember to thank those individuals you encounter during your career search. Handwritten thank you notes, especially, are much appreciated. Even if you did not get a particular job after an interview, a thank you note leaves a good impression. And you never know if another job opening at the same organization is around the corner.
• Keep in mind that finding a job is a full-time job in itself, or at least it should be. Dedicate yourself to the search. The hard work you do now may not pay off immediately in terms of a paycheck, but it will increase your chances for finding a job you want.