As recent graduates hit the pavement, armed with degrees but little or no experience, they often find the job market harsher than they expected it would be. This is not a new story. The past decade has seen elevated joblessness, depressed wages, and Federal spending cuts, all of which have contributed to a hostile job market, with graduates feeling the most hostility.
Degrees no longer hold the power they once did. It’s no longer just about “What has been learned” so much as “How has that education been put to use so far?” In other words, what sort of experience does the job hunter have? But most graduates don’t yet have work experience, so what are they to do?
Gaining Experience While Not Employed
The old cliché “You must have experience to get the job but must have a job to get experience” is a bit of a conundrum, but graduates can overcome this seemingly paradoxical challenge.
Interning or Volunteering
If the only thing keeping a graduate from landing that dream job is a lack of experience, then it makes sense to get that experience any way they can. Job hunters should spend at least a few hours a week either interning or volunteering within their industry of choice. Not only will this time provide critical experience, but it will also fill in the “gap” that naturally happens during a job search. For instance, a person graduates in June and is still looking for work the following spring. What have they been doing to fill that time constructively?
Volunteering and interning also helps to build a network of contacts that can someday offer recommendations and possibly connect the graduate to someone currently recruiting.
Joining Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities are another endeavor employers look for when hiring. Although on-the-job experience is preferred, any activity that demonstrates skills such as leadership and teamwork will be considered an asset.
For instance, graduates who were involved in a society may have learned skills such as planning, project management and marketing. It’s important that the extracurricular curricular activities reflect skills required by the job position.
Making a List of Accomplishments and Using them as Selling Points
Accomplishments can be gained in many facets of life, and recent grads should take a good look at everything they’ve done so far and make a list. Perhaps it was while traveling or studying abroad, or interning at a well-known company or winning specific awards in school; making a list, then choosing the top three accomplishments will help job candidates focus on specific selling points to highlight on resumes, cover letters and in-person interviews.
There’s no doubt about it, resumes are still vital tools in any job search. It’s no longer enough to simply have a resume, candidates must make certain their resume stands out among a very large and hungry crowd.
When revamping a resume, graduates should realize first and foremost that it is an advertisement – nothing more, nothing less. And like all effective advertisements, a resume should be tailored for a target audience. In this case, each company is a unique audience and before resumes are sent out, they must be tailored to that specific organization and the specific role within it.
Today’s resumes need to quickly grab the reader’s attention and a job candidate can do that by including an engaging and succinct headline and skills summary. This allows the employer or recruiter to know right up front what a candidate will bring to the table.
Everybody has a network of people whether they realize it or not. By tapping into this network already in place, candidates have a chance of creating a job opening instead of filling one that hundreds of other candidates are going for. Identifying the most influential individuals within that network and brainstorming ways to strengthen those existing relationships is an ideal way to find those potential jobs.
Landing that first job after graduation is not easy. Following these tips, as well as staying positive and proactive is the best way to get hired, even when real-world experience is lacking.