If the only thing you have planned for after graduation is panicking, you’re not alone. But you’ll be far better off if you transform your fear into the kind of action that will boost your chances of landing the job you really want. Start with these key activities:
Expand Your Industry-Specific Skills
"If you’re keeping a part-time job to make ends meet while you search for something more permanent, volunteer for new projects, or ask for more responsibility," says Kristen Lindsay, associate director of career services at the University of Toledo.
For example, if you’re looking for a full-time job in human resources, try to get involved in the next round of hiring at your part-time company, Lindsay advises. Similarly, if you’d like to get into marketing, "volunteer to research cutting-edge marketing strategies in the industry, and propose a marketing campaign based on your research," she says.
"Continue to build your skills and your resume instead of passively waiting for the phone to ring," Lindsay says.
Identify and Market Your Transferable Skills
"It doesn’t matter if your degree is in psychology, anthropology or liberal studies," says Jerry Houser, director of the Career Development Center at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. "What does matter is knowing the skills you learned in college: critical thinking, writing, communicating and the like."
It’s very easy, especially when you’re already feeling down, to buy into the myth that you didn’t learn anything in college that matters to a real-world employer. But when you start thinking about all of those group projects (teamwork) and presentations (verbal communication), or even your busy schedule (organization), you can’t help but conclude that you picked up some important transferable skills that will look great on your resume.
"Any career counselor that breathes can help you identify those transferable skills that employers most want to see," Houser says. "It’s actually an important thing for you to do."
You can have the best grades, resume, experience and references, but if you can’t present it all effectively in an interview, you won’t get the job.
San Francisco State University career counselor Jim Wong once worked with a job seeker who’d had 80 interviews but no offers. "Was the applicant applying for the right types of positions suitable for their career goals and level of experience?" Wong asks. More importantly, he says, were the job seeker’s interviewing skills subpar?
If you’ve gone zero for 80 in your interviews — or even zero for five — you probably could use some help. Take advantage of the resources your school’s career center offers, such as mock interviewing, before you leave campus for good.
Watch for Special Postgraduation Opportunities
According to the "MonsterTRAK Annual Entry-Level Job Outlook," 72 percent of companies surveyed plan to hire 2006 graduates this spring and summer. So it’s not surprising that employers are often eager participants in job fairs that cater to recent grads. Events like this are great opportunities to make contact with potential employers.
Tell Everyone You’re Looking
"I encourage individuals to let everyone know they’re job searching," says Lindsay. "Networking is critical, and that means networking with family, friends, former bosses and colleagues — everyone. You never know who has a job lead to share."
Likewise, you never know which of these activities will turn Sunday’s panic into the first Monday of your professional career. So try them all for best results.
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