Today my clients include five college seniors I’m helping to secure a post-graduate job. While they have been doing all the right things since January, it is taking time to get responses. For all you college seniors out there, here’s the advice I’m sharing with my clients in real time:
Know that mid-March marks the time when companies you’ve been contacting start to respond to your internship and entry-level job applications. Do not panic if you’ve been reaching out and making contacts and haven’t yet received a request for an interview. And if in fact you haven’t yet begun your search, there’s still time! Here’s what to do to get a jump on the process:
Create or update your LinkedIn profile.
I’m surprised at how many college seniors lack a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is square one for job search and it is not about friends, like Facebook. Join groups and get recommendations from former employers. Make sure you have a good photo. Connect with everyone you know and everyone your parents, relatives and family friends know. Write a summary in the first person. LinkedIn is an amazing research tool but to get the most out of it you have to have a lot of connections. Sign up for a Premium account ($30 per month)—it gives you a lot more of the features you will need, such as the ability to directly contact those you don’t know without a referral.
Know your narrative.
To convince someone to meet with you and, ultimately, to hire you, you need to be able to answer the question “Tell me about yourself.” This question should not stump you, but so often candidates don’t prepare for this! You should prepare a brief, engaging summary of your experience to date and what your goals are for your post-grad job. This should be practiced aloud until it sounds and feels natural. You should also prepare a written version of this narrative to use in emails for informational interviews.
Contact alumni from your school for informational interviews.
You are in a great position since you’re still a student; who doesn’t want to help a student? Use LinkedIn to search for alumni in your field (s) of interest. This is especially relevant if you see a job posting and you can find an alumnus who currently works at that organization.
Write an impactful cover letter.
Good news! Your peers are writing terrible cover letters: self-focused, wordy, too long and boring. They fail to get the reader’s attention. You know you can do better! Try using a quick, relevant opening focused on the employer and then share three succinct, targeted skills you offer. Do not start with “My name is”, a common first sentence and waste of the reader’s precious attention. If you can’t find the name of the hiring manager, exclude the salutation and simply begin with the first paragraph. Be confident in your skills but also realistic. For example, avoid saying things like, “I feel confident I can make a valuable contribution to your organization” when you don’t actually have any idea whether that’s the case and chances are, since you’re just starting out, you can’t. Instead, you can comment that “My supervisors have frequently commended me on my attention to detail and quantitative skills.”
Take a one-day course in Advanced Excel or PowerPoint.
You probably know the basics of these programs, but you could learn to create fancy tables and charts, earning you the right to tout your advanced skills on your resume. You want to claim as many tech skills as possible since every entry-level job requires them. With a LinkedIn Premium account you get free access to all of their training courses, including the highly-rated Lynda ones.
Looking for more tips on career and job search at every level? Read my blog posts or send me a note if you have a specific question, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Allison Cheston, Jan 2018