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After the graduation pomp and circumstance and well-deserved celebrations start to wane, it’s time for 2013 graduates to get serious about finding work in the post-collegiate world. You have skills and experiences to share, so it’s time to up your career game and distinguish yourself from the pack.
Here are a few tips for doing just that:
1. Know your first job won’t be your last
Research shows that adults change careers (not just jobs) five to seven times throughout their working lives. Test drive jobs to see if they’re career-worthy, and don’t settle for roles that don’t play to your strengths. Your first job out of the gate is a single step on a lifelong career path. You have the right to change your mind as often as you like.
2. Follow the networking 90/10 rule
You know it’s important to build your professional community and connect with people to tap the hidden job market. Plan to spend 90 percent of your time being seen and heard so others can consider you for opportunities. Social media is a great way to network, but only spend 10 percent of your time behind your computer. Maximize in-person connections to distinguish yourself from the competition.
3. Be a solution provider
It’s easy to go into the job search focusing on what you want. While that is important, you must also be a solution provider. In our current economy, you may land contract or temporary work that leads to full-time permanent work. Be industrious and lead with “I believe I can help you…” and provide a solution to an issue or concern.
4. Empower your network
In addition to the graduation well-wishers, your friends and family are probably asking how they can help. Tell them what you do well so they know how to connect you with their circles of influence. If you have specific organizations you want to work for, ask your network to check their connections to see if they can make a personal referral.
Share your strengths in story form so your network has an easy-to-remember conversation to share with others that illustrates what makes you unique and employable.
5. Be your own PR agent
Keep your resume, personal business cards and professional portfolio with you everywhere you go. Become your best advocate, and always be ready to discuss how you bring value to an organization.
You’re responsible for marketing yourself. In this ultra-competitive market, there’s no such thing as top of the class entitlement. It doesn’t matter where you minted your degree or how high your GPA was; you must be able to showcase what you do well and demonstrate your emotional intelligence and strengths.
6. Minimize email
To get the ball rolling in your job search, you may be on a mission to email as many people as you can. Stop!
Busy professionals get hundreds of emails a day. Distinguish yourself by picking up the phone. If necessary, leave an articulate voice mail, and use a script until it becomes second-nature. The goal is to eventually meet in person, but a phone call is the best way to set yourself apart from the myriad of others in the job hunt.
7. Get LinkedIn
With over 200 million members, LinkedIn is the number one professional networking resource. Recruiters and headhunters troll this site regularly searching for new talent.
Fill out your profile fully, use a professional photo, compose a compelling summary statement and seek out recommendations to endorse you for specific skills and accomplishments. Join groups, participate in discussions. Use this tool often and to your advantage. A dormant LinkedIn account will do you no good.
8. Take a risk
If your dream job doesn’t materialize right off the bat, but another opportunity does, take a risk. Try something new and expand your comfort zone. You may just find something you love and an accidental career you would never have considered otherwise. The greatest risk is not taking one at all. You are also more employable when already employed.
9. Make eye contact
This may be the technology generation, but in all likelihood, you’ll be working with people from generations that value good old-fashioned eye contact. It builds trust and rapport, and if you’re interested in a career where you will interact with humans in any capacity, eye contact is imperative.
Observe the power of eye contact in a conversation and how uncomfortable it is when someone won’t look you in the eye. Eye contact will never go out of fashion, so use it well.
10. Own your self-confidence
Walk tall and learn to speak with confidence about what you do well. If you approach a networking conversation or an interview with confidence, it will enhance your marketability tenfold. You need not be perfect just out of the gate (or ever!), but believe in your abilities and others will as well.
11. Learn to bob and weave
One of the most sought-after competencies by employers is the ability to deal with adversity and change. It’s tough in the real world, and it doesn’t get any easier once you land a job. Showcase your resilience and be ready to discuss how you have overcome challenges, including how you’re dealing with a tough job market. Proving you’re resilient could land you an opportunity.
The class of 2013 is the succession plan for the future. You have the opportunity to identify your passion, carve out a niche for yourself and thrive in a career knowing that you can always change direction. The challenge and responsibility is yours. Bring your best career game and show the world what you can do!
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book and maintains the blog This Is Not the Career I Ordered®, which showcases her savvy professional development advice and women who are thriving after a career transition or reinvention. Visit her online at www.carolinedowdhiggins.com (and download her free app for iOS or Android).