Monday, October 5th, 2015

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College Students’ Top 10 Job Search Mistakes

It’s easy to make job search mistakes when you’re a college student. After all, you’ve never really learned how — or how not — to look for a job.

In my six years as a career counselor working with college students, I’ve found there are at least 10 job search mistakes students commonly make. So here’s a crash course on what not to do or think while searching for a job:

1. Don’t Think You’re Entitled to a Job.

Maybe you’ve fallen into the trap of believing the world owes you a job, because you’ve done all the right things like earning your degree and gaining relevant experience while in school. But employers don’t share this perspective. They want you to prove yourself and demonstrate you’re the right person for the job. Employers don’t respond well to a give-me-a-chance type of thinking. They want to know what you can do for them.

2. Don’t Assume You Have No Valid Work Experience.

If you don’t believe you have any skills, experience or education that employers want, how will you convince employers to interview you, let alone hire you? You do have skills and experience to offer, perhaps through your academic background, internship or part-time job.

3. Don’t Fail to Explore All Career Possibilities.

College students never learn about careers that might really interest them, because they don’t explore career paths beyond the few they already know. Give yourself the opportunity to truly explore all your career options.

4. Don’t Use Passive Job Search Methods.

In this difficult entry-level job market, you must diversify your job hunt. The more search methods you use — particularly networking activities — the more likely you’ll find the job you want.

5. Don’t Worry About he Rest of Your Life Before It Unfolds.

Very few people work in the same organization, or within the same career field, for 30 or 40 years. Don’t stress yourself out unnecessarily by trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life. A much better question to ask yourself is, "What will I do first?"

6. Don’t Ignore Your Campus Career Center.

Almost all colleges and universities have a career center staffed by counselors and filled with career-exploration materials. Are you tapping into your career center? If not, consider the fact that your tuition dollars are going towards a resource you’re not using.

7. Don’t Treat Less-Than-Knowledgeable People as Career Experts.

College students take career advice from incredibly uninformed people — roommates, friends, family members and other relatives. Make sure you critically evaluate each source of career information you use so you make your career decisions based on verifiable facts, not ignorant opinions.

8. Don’t Let Opportunities to Gain Experience Pass You By.

If you graduate without getting some field-specific experience, you’ll have difficulty competing with candidates who do have some. Remember: By itself, your degree is only a basic credential for an entry-level position. In most cases, employers demand more.

9. Don’t Neglect to Talk to People in Your Chosen Field.

It’s one thing to read about a specific career on the Internet or in a book. But you won’t get a true feel for what a career is all about unless you talk to someone who’s working in that field or at the company in which you’re interested.

10. Don’t Believe Your Major Limits Your Career Options.

With only a few exceptions, your major doesn’t box you into career options. Sure, you probably need to be an accounting major to go into accounting or a law degree to practice law, but in most cases, the major you choose can be applied to many career paths.

Have you fallen into any of these traps? If so, do something about it, either on your own or with the help of a career counselor at your school or in your community. While there’s no need to dwell on job search mistakes, there’s no need to keep making them, especially when your future job is at stake.

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