Don Henley (of Eagles fame) had a solo song called “The Boys of Summer”. I always play it after Labor Day because it reminds me that summer is over and it’s time to move on to fall. My favorite lyric from the song is right at the beginning:
Nobody on the road,
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer's out of reach.
If you are a recent college graduate, Labor Day is a significant milestone for you in your search to secure your first professional job post-graduation. One of two things may be true for you:
You have been searching for a job since graduation in the spring and have not yet received an offer. Frustration may have set in and the pressure is increasing to settle for a position that does not require a college degree and may not match your degree and career aspirations.
You elected to take the summer off and start your job search in the fall. The time has arrived, and you are not certain exactly where to begin.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, time is of the essence for your job search. Student loan payments typically begin 6 months post-graduation or in about another 1-2 months. Also, this year’s class of rising seniors are now back in college and a measurable percentage of this class will wisely begin their job search this fall thereby increasing the competitive pool of applicants.
What can you do? Here are 5 actions that you can take to put the summer behind you and supercharge your job search for the coming fall season.
#1 Develop a Job Search Plan: Any job search without a plan is just wishful thinking. The fundamentals of an effective job search plan must include:
Establish a job search weekly work schedule (minimum 30 hours per week)
Select a target career, entry position and industry and identify potential company size(s) and geographic preference(s). Then you can develop a list of target organizations
Research the industry, organizations, and positions for potential contacts and relevant keywords for your branding materials
Draft your personal elevator pitch, baseline resume, and cover letter
Get established on LinkedIn with your own profile and join relevant groups
Create a list of all known and potential network contacts (minimum 300-450)
Establish a schedule and start exploratory meetings (minimum 3 per week)
Allocate your time each week across multiple job search strategies
#2 Tell Your Story: Your personal elevator pitch is the single most important element of your job search plan. The elevator pitch is the baseline for the professional summary on your resume and LinkedIn profile. It is the middle paragraph in your cover letter. It is your closing summary in any networking or exploratory meeting. And your elevator pitch is the answer to the most common interview question of “Tell me about yourself”. Start by developing an elevator pitch that tells the story of your value to an organization. Get comfortable delivering the pitch in a conversational but confident manner. With a solid elevator pitch, your job search is off to an excellent start. A great article on constructing elevator pitches used for a job search can be found on the Recruiter website.
#3 Network. Then Network. Then Network Some More: True confession? Not many people like reaching out to strangers. It would be far easier to just conduct your job search from behind your laptop or mobile phone screen applying for jobs online. The reality is that you do need to talk to strangers and do a lot of networking. If your job search plan consists exclusively of applying for jobs online, you need to expand the plan to improve your probability of success. Only 20% of all available jobs in the US are ever posted online and each posting receives 250 or more applications. To find the other 80% of the jobs in the market today, you need to build a robust professional network. That means talking to a few strangers (approximately 150 using my job search model). You will find that networking is very interesting and a skill you will use over your entire career. Earlier this year, I published a blog post referencing an article from the Harvard Business Review on exploratory interviews you may also want to reference.
#4 Practice. Practice. Then Practice Some More: Interview skills are earned not given. By that, I mean that interviewing is not a native skill. To excel in job interviews, you need to research, prepare and practice. Research and preparation are critical to understanding the target company, industry, and interviewers. Practice is required to gain confidence in your answers to typical interview questions. Interviews can be stress-inducing situations. The more you practice, record and video yourself, the greater your ability to control the actual interview and put the best foot forward. You may also want to review an article I published recently on how to turn the interview into a conversation which will improve your performance in any interview situation.
#5 Consider the Merits of a Career Coach: Einstein once said: “Education is not the learning of facts, it’s rather the training of the mind to think.” If you are several months into your job search, taking the same actions each day with no results, consider a new approach. A program with a career coach can train you to attack your job search with new skills, strategies, and energy. The results can be a quicker path to your first professional job. When you were younger, you turned to coaches for athletics, arts and even academics. Why should this critical first-time job search be any different?
So goodbye summer and hello fall. And as Don Henley told us: “A little voice inside my head said don't look back, you can never look back”. Let’s get that job search fired up now!
Dan Troup is the founder of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a certified career coach can assist you in your job search, please contact AdvantEdge Careers at: https://www.advantedgecareers.com/contact