After walking across the stage and picking up a hard-earned college diploma, most recent graduates immediately set their sights on the next goal: finding a job. But with the effects of the recession still being felt across the country, and steep competition from their peers, many freshly-minted graduates are finding it more and more difficult to get their foot in the door. It’s a tough job market right now, but with a little ingenuity and preparation, young job seekers can get a leg up on the competition.
The first thing recent graduates should do is perfect their resume. Many college campuses offer resume writing services for free, where an experienced career advisor can help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the resume and help restructure and rewrite it in a way that’s more appealing to employers. Resumes that are unclear, unfocused, or simply cluttered may quickly end up in the trash can.
Another important tip is to only apply for jobs for which the job seeker is truly qualified for. It’s tempting to spam resumes out to any halfway relevant job opening—especially when frustration, or even worse, desperation kick in—but it’s important to keep the search narrow. By sticking to jobs directly in their career fields or that relate to their education, recent graduates have a much higher chance of landing that all important first interview.
Next, graduates should treat each relevant job opening they find as if it’s the only job they’re applying to. That means they should do their homework, research the company, and retool their resume to be as close of a fit to the job requirements as possible. Call attention to tasks in previous jobs and achievements during school that are line with what the company wants rather than what looks best on the resume. Many resumes are “read” by computers that are simply searching for keywords, and if those keywords aren’t detected, the resumes get deleted before they’re ever seen by human eyes.
Finally, job seekers should be persistent and consider interning for a low or even no wage. Many employers are risk averse and may be hesitant to hire someone without experience. Internships—even unpaid ones—are often the key to landing that all-important first job. By showing work ethic and building experience and a portfolio, internships are often the difference between who gets the job and who doesn’t.