Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Job-Search Tips for New College Graduates

The labor market may be tough for new college grads – but it’s not hopeless. Here are some of the popular tips university career experts offered for those who are still searching.

Don’t quit before you’ve started. Some students are so frustrated by the state of the economy they haven’t bothered to look for a job. “I tell them, ‘Look that’s a self-fulfilling prophesy,’” said Kitty McGrath, executive director of career services at Arizona State University. “If you don’t look then you know you won’t have a job.”

Prioritize. “Is it likely that you’re going to get your A, No. 1, first job and see lots of those? No,” said ASU’s McGrath. Decide in advance how much time you’ll spend pursuing your first choice — a month for example — and then expand the search to include other positions, McGrath said.

Search across industries. “The major doesn’t necessarily equal their career,” said Katharine Brooks, director of the career center for the Liberal Arts college at the University of Texas at Austin. “They really need to focus on the value of what they’ve learned and be able to articulate that to an employer.”

Rely on networking. “More and more of our employers are providing full-time job offers to their interns as a first choice,” Wayne Wallace, director of the career resources center at the University of Florida in Gainesville. So stay in touch with former internship employers and devote more time to expanding your professional network than searching online job sites.

Only opt for graduate school if you have a plan. “There are students who are, what I would say, punting and saying ‘Why don’t I get the graduate degree?’” said Matthew Berndt, director of career services for the Communications school at the University of Texas at Austin. But that only makes sense if students know what they’re going to study and how it will help them get a better position once they’re finished. If that’s not clear, then “you’re still not any more capable of telling an employer what you want to do and why you want to work for them,” Berndt said.

Be willing to relocate. “Those students who are willing to migrate and to take a chance on a new part of the country and take a chance on a brand new job have more options,” said Florida’s Wallace.

Do your research. If you’re meeting with an employer, be knowledgeable about the business and be able to articulate why you’re a good fit for the position and the company.

Remember: A new job is only the first step. “The first job they get out of college in almost every single case is just one step on the path to their eventual career,” said Rebecca Sparrow, director of career services at Cornell University. So don’t “try to think too much about this needing to be the perfect thing. Most people are not going to stay in that first job for 10 years,” Sparrow said.

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