By Martin Yate, CPC
Spring Break is beckoning, but graduation and your first job search are sneaking up close behind. If you procrastinate your job search in today’s economy, or if you are lazy about how you go about it, you can’t expect to land the kind of job that will launch a successful career. Make a commitment to get a jump-start on your competition by getting your act in gear today. Here are six steps to get you started.
1. Use Career Services
Career Services staff are overworked, especially in this economy, so you must approach them and convince them that you’re committed to getting your act together. At your appointment, explain your major, the job and profession you want to pursue, and the area of the country you want to work in, then ask for research resources to identify employers in your target location relevant to your target job and profession.
If you don’t have a focus on these issues, Career Services can help you think them through and get you started on creating your resume.
2. Join Your Alumni Association
The big benefit at this point in your career is the alumni database that will list thousands of professionals working at all levels in your chosen profession with whom you can network for advice, leads, and introductions. Call or e-mail your fellow alumni connections to introduce yourself. Tell your fellow alumni that you’re following in their footsteps and that you need some advice. Ask what it takes to become successful in the profession. What did he or she do to get that first foot on the ladder of success? Who could you speak to about entry-level opportunities? What can you do in return? Then follow up on the advice and send a thank you note.
3. Build Strong, Relevant Professional Networks
You need strong professional networks to help you get a foot on the ladder of success, and then to help you navigate the twists and turns of a half-century work life. A strong first step is to establish the new “professional you” on the world’s premier professional networking site. Set up a LinkedIn.com account, fill out your profile to become visible, and join discussion groups relevant to your target profession. Ask questions that will help you understand: what it takes to become successful, which are good companies to work for, why people fail, and the biggest mistakes entry-level people make. Questions like these will help you gain visibility with recruiters and hiring managers who frequent the same groups looking for entry-level talent.
4. Clean Up Your Digital Dirt
Corporate recruiters constantly search social networking sites to identify likely candidates, and also to gain greater insight into candidates they have already identified. So it’s time to clean up all your social networking profiles and remove any once-funny photographs or posts. Nothing is private on the Internet, and many of those cherished Spring Break photos will be seen as inappropriate by recruiters and can cost you job offers. Besides, they have no place in creating the right image for the young professional you wish to become in the next phase of your life.
5. Connect to the Inner Circle of Your Profession
Join the local chapter of a professional association in your target job market and attend meetings whenever you can. You will get to know and be known by the best-connected and most committed people in your profession within your target geography. The research resource you need is the Encyclopedia of Associations, available at your library or online.
6. Execute Your Plan of Attack
From your research, identify 100 potential employers. Visit their websites, build dossiers on each, then use your LinkedIn groups, alumni, other social networks and professional association memberships to connect with professionals who work for, or have worked for, your target companies.
You especially want to find people who currently hold the job title you are seeking, and people who hold job titles one, two, and three levels above your own, because these are the people most likely to know of job openings and be in a position to hire you.
Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization.