A couple of weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from an old colleague of mine asking if we are hiring. He was recommending his former intern for a junior-level position. I immediately messaged him back that we are hiring and said I wanted to review her resume right away.
Yes, it’s that time again – college graduation and the flood of new graduates entering the workforce. And lucky for them! According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), this is a great time to be graduating. The job outlook for the college Class of 2015 seems to be the brightest in years.
This doesn’t mean your dream job will fall into your lap easily, however. The competition will be fierce, and you need to do everything you can to look and perform your best in front of prospective employers to secure a job that could launch your lifelong career. So where should you start? Here are three must-dos you should keep in mind to help you land a job before the ink on your degree has a chance to dry:
1. Make Sure Your LinkedIn Profile is Top-notch
I’m sure you update Facebook, Twitter and Instagram daily, but have you paid much attention to your LinkedIn profile? Consider LinkedIn your online resume and networking tool and update your profile often.
First and foremost, make sure you upload a high-quality, professional-looking photo. LinkedIn says the profiles with photos get 14 times more views than profiles without! Also your “Summary” statement should express clearly who you are and what you are looking for, including your goals, qualifications, skills, and motivations. For the “Experience” section, be sure to include all of your internships, volunteer experience, part-time jobs, and pro-bono projects. Don’t forget to provide a statement for each experience that describes your contributions and achievements. Take advantage of the “Add Media” function and upload videos, presentations, and hyperlinks to examples of your best work to make your digital profile unique and memorable.
2. Network Online and Off
A study by job matching site, The Ladders, shows about half of all available jobs are never advertised publicly. What does this mean? You need to network to uncover job opportunities you might not find otherwise.
I can attest to this based on my own experience. I got my first job by networking with alumni from my university’s PR program, the same colleague who called me regarding a position for his former intern at GMG. The position had not yet been advertised–see how that works?
Don’t be shy, get out and tell the world you’re looking for a job! Attend professional organizations’ local chapter meetings (such as PRSA and the American Marketing Association), and get to know some industry movers and shakers in your area. You’ll be surprised by how generous many are about introducing you to the right people.
LinkedIn also offers a great online networking tool, called the “Alumni Tool,” that will help you connect and engage with alums from your university. More job seekers are using the alumni feature to find potential employers in their field. Once you get a job interview, use LinkedIn as a research tool to learn more about the company and people within the company with special expertise and background.
3. Always Personalize and Show Appreciation
This sounds basic, but I receive generic resumes and cover letters every time we post a new position on our website, and blanket messages are not only recognizable, they’re boring. Always personalize your cover letter and customize your resume for each job opportunity. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking time to learn as much as you can about the position and the organization before submitting an application. Also, proofread your cover letter and resume very carefully and ask at least three other people to look them over. One set of eyes is definitely not enough, and typos and grammatical errors can unfortunately be the deciding factor in who gets called for interviews.
After the interview, don’t forget to email a personalized thank you note to everyone you met and talked with during the interview process. Better yet–if appropriate, send a thank you card through good-old-fashioned snail mail if it fits well with the hiring company’s culture. For example, you might not want to mail a thank you card if you are interviewing for a high-paced tech job, at the risk of appearing irrelevant. But if you are applying for a job at a non-profit organization, it could give you that extra push to make a great impression.
To the class of 2015, congratulations on achieving such an important milestone! While the job market continues to improve, the competition remains fierce, and differentiating yourself from other graduates is key. Remember to take every hiring step seriously, and let your enthusiasm and thoughtfulness show. That’s a winning combination.