Congratulations! You are graduating soon and heading out into the “real world.” This is an exciting, fun, challenging and sometimes overwhelming situation. But as with everything else in life, the journey can be made much easier and less stressful with planning. The same research, thought and strategizing you employed when deciding where to go to school, what subject to major in, and what classes to take needs to be applied when finding a job.
While the job market shows signs of improving, it is still an extremely competitive workplace. It is crucial that your first impression shows potential employers you are mature, organized and professional. This will help you stand out above the crowd.
One area that often gets overlooked is how to financially budget for a job search. In doing so, three areas need to be addressed: 1) Presentation, 2) Tools and 3) Appearance.
Carefully and honestly critique your materials. Does your résumé accurately reflect your skills, accomplishments and passions? Do you have a killer cover letter that communicates why you are well suited for a position?
Recent graduates who are used to conforming to rigorous academic standards tend to send out résumés that look exactly like everyone else’s. This is a mistake. Your résumé and cover letters need to stand out and clearly communicate why you should be the top candidate.
If you need help, there are professional career coaches and résumé writers. Fees for these services vary; some professionals charge by the hour, while others charge for a complete package. To find the best service that fits your budget, ask for referrals from other professionals then obtain references from those companies. Investing in professional services up front will ultimately save you time, money and aggravation and will help you land a job more quickly.
The tools you use will say much about you. To look professional and create a “branded” image, consider purchasing matching stationary, envelopes, note cards and business cards —yes, business cards. Not having a job is no excuse for not having a card to distribute that lists your name, email and phone number. You also can have a personalized email template created for online communication.
You will need your own computer. Make sure there is a capability to copy your information so that it can be printed. You need to have access to the Internet so that you can communicate as well as do research. Computers can be purchased for as little as $500.
Don’t forget a cell phone if you are out and about—hiring managers need to be able to easily contact you.
Invest in a professional portfolio or briefcase to carry your materials. Prices range from as little as $25 to $300 and up for designer brands. But remember, you want to communicate that you are smart, sophisticated, and hard working – think about this when purchasing business supplies.
Have you considered your interview clothing and what is appropriate? What if you have three or four rounds of interviews at one company? Will you wear the same outfit each time? It would be wise to invest in a few pieces of clothing that are interchangeable to make numerous professional outfits. For the best value, think classic, not trendy; definitely not sexy.
Candidates often think about the suit but forget about the shirts, shoes and accessories that also are needed. It is not the cost or the label that is important, but fit. Make sure your clothes are clean, pressed and tailored. (I know of at least one manager who sent a gentleman home before the interview began because he showed up in khakis that looked as it they’d spent a week wadded up on the floor.)
You most likely will be nervous when you interview, so the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable. If your clothes are new, try them on and wear them for a few hours prior to your interview. New shoes can be slippery on some surfaces, and literally falling on your face is not the impression you are looking for! Make sure your sleeves are not too long and that all buttons are in place.
Don’t forget a coat if you are interviewing in cool weather. Nothing looks worse than a suit with a ski jacket. There are some great resale shops that offer wonderful coats at reasonable prices.
Appearance includes more than what you wear. What about grooming? Does your hair need to be restyled? Both men and women should be aware of how their hands look and invest in a professional manicure (guys – no polish!) Girls – is your make up suitable for day or are you ready to hit the bars? Tattoos and body piercing may be cool among your peers, but we guarantee it will turn off every potential employer in a business environment.
This is the time for you to shine! Be prepared so you aren’t hit with unexpected costs. This is a great guide to share for ideas on graduation gifts!
Estimated Job Hunting Costs
- Résumé and cover letter rewrite: $300
- Career coach: $500
- Computer: $750
- Cell phone: $39/mo
- Stationery: $25
- Briefcase: $40
- Interview suits (2)
Women – $300
Men – $400
- Shoes: $100
- Shirt/blouse: $50
- Coat: $125
- Hair Cut: $20 to $80
Laurie Kahn is president of Media Staffing Network, a specialized staffing service that caters to the media sales industry, and co-founder of All About Careers, which provides innovative approaches to creating and building careers. It is also host of the AAC Dream Job Boot Camp™: Guerilla tips, tactics and strategies for the seriously motivated career-seeker. The intensive, two-day workshops are geared toward college age individuals who are beginning their career. For more information, visit AllAboutCareers.com or call 312.944.9194 x108.
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