By: Evan Thomas
Without a post-graduation plan, graduating from college can feel like getting dropped out of a plane without a parachute. It’s scary.
Knowing that you’ll be joining the demographic with the highest rate of unemployment in the country – 16 to 24 year olds – isn’t comforting either. So you’re probably scouring job websites and classified ads to find a job.
However, leaving your chances to job websites and classified ads isn’t your best option. Although using this method is a great way to begin your search, it certainly won’t get you the position, and ultimately is a passive form of job hunting.
Passive job hunting means merely looking. Instead, job hunters should do.
Start from the beginning: research the job market with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the government organization that compiles employment data to predict the top future jobs. You can even search for salaries by city and job to see how your location stacks up against others for a particular career.
Once you’ve done some research to understand the job market it’s time to begin your active search. Remember, it’s a matter of doing, not looking. Active job hunters are constantly doing things that relate to their intended career, whether they are employed or not.
Here’s how you can be an active job hunter:
- Get Your Foot In The Door: Internships are the prefect way to get your foot in the door. Though an internship might not cover your entire cost of living – after all, the average apartment rent in cities across the country is constantly increasing – weighing the pros and cons shows it’s well worth your time. But be prepared to work: internships are not a place to relax. Companies want forward thinkers who can contribute from the start. Jump in and get yours hands dirty with that internship – volunteer for things, and don’t hold back. Since startups are looking to grow and expand, take the initiative as an intern. Show the company that you want a job. Arrive early in the morning, and leave late.
- Do What You Love: Employers want passionate people, so make it clear that you’re passionate about the job and the industry that you’re in. And if you’re not, switch it and pursue what interests you. Doing what you love is most important; eventually those high paying jobs will come.
- Cold Calling: Pick up the phone, send an email, or write a letter. Do whatever you have to do to get in touch with the people you need to and develop relationships with them. Expressing your interests and passions to someone else is key to networking and getting yourself out there. If you’re honest and professional, there can be no criticism of showing initiative.
- Social Media: Social media networks are a great way to get in touch with influential people quickly and effortlessly. Plus, you can keep in touch with them at all times. You can show your creative side with social media, or you can distribute industry news: find your niche and stick with it. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that 14 million people worldwide used social media to find jobs so far this year. Companies are constantly trying to keep up with current trends, and social media is one they are clamoring to take advantage of. Show an employer that you understand how social media can be an effective tool for marketing.
Evan Thomas is a UC Santa Barbara student studying architecture & the environment. He loves to hike, surf and play basketball. He also interns for FindTheData.org, a non-profit comparison engine that compares everything from Section 8 housing to the 2012 presidential candidates.
Finding a job has always been hard. Finding a good job is even harder. Finding a job you actually enjoy is borderline impossible. But if you search hard enough and long enough, you just might find the kind of dream opportunity you’ve been waiting for. And when that opportunity arises, you don’t want to screw up your chances by blowing your interview. If, on the other hand, you’re interviewing for a job you don’t want, go ahead and do all of these things:
- Keeping your cell phone on. Even leaving it on vibrate could be a distraction to both you and your interviewer. But if someone calls you in the middle of your interview and it rings? Yikes. Keep it off and keep it in your pocket.
- Dressing inappropriately. While office etiquette and dress vary–in this “modern age” it depends less on industry and more on the specifics of each company’s management–it always pays to err on the side of caution. Dress conservatively. You can never go wrong with a suit or an appropriate skirt.
- Not asking the right questions. Even worse: not asking questions at all. Don’t bring up money or ask about the hours you’ll be expected to work. Ask about the culture of the office, what a typical day is like, and what your biggest challenges will be.
- Not tailoring resumes and cover letters. While this is actually pre-interview, it’s an important step in getting out of the slush pile of endless resumes, which is how you get an interview in the first place. If your letter and resume read as generic (as in: you’ve just sent the same one to twenty companies), they’ll be able to tell. The first thing they’ll think about you: that you’re lazy.
- Arriving late or too early. Late because it shows you’re unreliable. Too early–which, for our purposes, is more than fifteen minutes–because you might be interrupting your interviewer. Even if it’s unintentional, that can put pressure on them to finish whatever they were doing earlier than they had planned.
- Not bringing anything. Nobody is going to tell you to bring your resume. Or your portfolio. Or a pen. Interviewers will expect that you’re an adult and will come prepared.
- Forgetting to do the research. You don’t have to know everything there is about the position for which you’re applying. That’s what the interview is for: you get to ask questions, too. But learn about the company. Check out their website. Know who the customer or the client is. Know how you can contribute to their model.
- Winging it. Unless you’re trained in the art of improvisation, we suggest you practice and prepare answers ahead of time. Sure, you won’t know exactly what they’re going to ask. But you can expect questions about your work history, how you succeeded there, what you want out of the future, how a new job will help you get there, and why you think you’re well-suited for the job.
- Rambling. This is especially true at the beginning of an interview. Don’t get sucked into the small talk. Interviewers use small talk as a way to break the ice, but they don’t want to have a ten-minute conversation about the weather. They have a job to do. Shakespeare said brevity is the soul of wit. We say it’s also the soul of clarity. Answer questions fully, but don’t go on unrelated tangents.
- Using clichés and stock answers. Or buzzwords. Saying you’re “organized” or “results-oriented” is what everyone else said, too. The only thing it proves is that you aren’t creative, so don’t use them. Think of new ways to say the same-old.