Beth Hendler-Grunt, Founder, and CEO of Next Great Step was recently featured on Career Talk, a call-in career advice program hosted by Dr. Dawn Graham. Dr. Graham is the Director of Career Management for the Executive MBA Program at Wharton and her weekly program is featured on SiriusXM Business Radio.
The interview focused on industry trends and practical strategies recent graduates can use to land a position in a difficult job market. Below you’ll find highlights from this interview that could be indispensable in your job search.
Networking is Critical
If you only follow one piece of advice, let it be this. Network like crazy.
Beth Hendler-Grunt spoke with Dr. Dawn Graham to discuss the importance of networking. She discussed that recent graduates often assume the best way to find a job is to comb through online job boards and submit as many resumes as possible. This simply isn’t true. Beth shared, “Job board postings are extremely competitive and frequently lead to dead ends. Plus, they only represent 20% of the jobs that are out there. The other 80% are never posted online.”
To get these jobs you need to know someone or know someone who knows someone. You need to network, aggressively. You want to avail yourself of every opportunity to meet people in your industry and sell yourself. You need to make sure people remember you.
But this can be difficult. As Beth said, “A lot of students have so many things to offer, they’re just not confident in how they say it. So no matter how great your grades or your school, if you can’t communicate, it’s going to be really hard for someone to read your mind to then ultimately hire you.”
Let people know what you can do. Convince them that you would make a valuable employee. Networking is not the time to be modest or shy, and you don’t need to feel like you’re bragging. Hiding the true extent of your skills doesn’t do anyone any favors. Remember that employers want to hire the best people just as much as you want a job. So if you ARE the best person, you’re helping them out by letting them know.
Beth summed it up this way. She said, “What’s your pitch? How are you going to introduce yourself, your name, your major? What are some of the skills that you’re good at and what are you hoping to do? Get your pitch figured out. The more you can have that practiced and rehearsed the better.”
Internships are Still Important
There’s nothing groundbreaking about internships. People have been using them for years to get their foot in the door. However, the common wisdom concerning how to get them has changed.
Both Beth and Dr. Dawn strongly agreed, “You shouldn’t wait until your junior or senior year. It’s important to start building up experience and making connections as early as possible. Sophomores can and should look for internship opportunities.”
There are certainly employers that won’t be interested in younger interns, but many will welcome the extra help. If you have difficulty finding internships earlier in your college career, you can make your own! As an example, if you’re a journalism major, you can start a blog or offer to write free content for blogs you like. You’ll gain valuable experience and discover what it is you like about your chosen field.
Visit your college’s career center, and get there early. Don’t wait until the end of the year. Go at the beginning, when few people are availing themselves of the resources. Employers can hire interns up to a year in advance. Grab them before everyone else does.
Another good way to land an internship when opportunities are scarce is to ask people in your industry if you can shadow them. This is an informal relationship. Tell them you’re just interested in watching what they do. This is itself a learning opportunity, but it also establishes relationships that you can parlay into a legitimate internship.
Remember that internships can come from unexpected places. As Beth put it, “Sometimes it feels like it has to be this perfect internship, but it does not have to be perfect. You should think about the skills that you’re trying to acquire. Anything related to those is good. It doesn’t have to be only one thing, so be open to different experiences that build the skills that you have.”
What If You Never Did an Internship?
Internships are time-consuming, and they’re generally unpaid. There are a number of reasons why internships might not fit into your schedule. If you had to work to help pay for school, for example, you wouldn’t have much free time left for what amounts to a second job.
If you’re looking for work now and weren’t able to manage an internship, you might think this puts you at a disadvantage. But all it means is that you need to get creative.
Beth’s advises, “Take into account any extracurricular activities you engaged in. Did you participate in any large-scale group projects that demonstrate your ability to work well with others? Did you take a leadership position with that group or anywhere else in your life? If you wrote for a school newspaper or acted as a teacher’s assistant, you can sell those to potential employers as internship-like experiences.”
There’s no reason why you can’t list key school projects on your resume, particularly if they gave you unique insights into your field. You need to remember that employers that are considering recent graduates understand that most don’t have developed credentials yet, so don’t be afraid to aggressively sell the experience you do have.
Temporary Jobs Can Lead to Permanent Positions
If you’re looking for permanent work and not having luck, you should consider taking temporary positions in your field. Working with a temp agency is a good way to do this. Your postings won’t last long, which can be difficult, but remember that they represent a great networking opportunity! You’ll get to meet many different people, at different companies. Use temp jobs as a way to show off your skills. If you work hard and prove your worth, you can often land a permanent position.
Be Bold and Make Your Own Openings
What we can say with certainty is that the old ways of finding a job don’t work as well anymore. Now is the time to innovate! There are creative ways to show prospective employers your skills and land a job at the same time.
Imagine you’re a recent graduate looking for a PR job. Instead of treading the path lined with ignored and reject resumes, why not go a different route and use the skills you learned to help land a position? You could design a PR campaign to get your name out. Prospective employers will appreciate that you’re demonstrating your skills in a novel way. You’ll certainly stand out from the crowd.
Remember that you are your own best advocate. Being one of 100 resumes does little to distinguish you, and landing a position this way often amounts to luck. You don’t want to rely on luck. If you want a good position, you have to make it happen.
Start early, network frequently, get as much real-world experience as you can, and learn to sell yourself. This combination will land you a great job while the rest of your ex-classmates are moving back into their childhood bedrooms.
Listen to the complete podcast HERE.
Next Great Step can help. We’re a leading employment consulting firm that specializes in helping recent graduates maximize their opportunities. You’re a graduate or the parent of one, visit us at www.nextgreatstep.com or set up a discovery call to learn more. This is an opportunity you can’t afford to miss.