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If you’re a recent grad who hasn’t yet landed a post-graduation job, now is not the time to panic. Yes, graduating unemployed sucks, but keep it in perspective. There are still a number of things you can do to advance your career and get started down your own path to success.
The biggest one? Be proactive! That will significantly improve your chances of getting a job.
Here are five ways to be proactive in your job search:
1. Volunteer in a smart way
Yes, it seems a bit cliché, but volunteer work is so widely recommended (read: pounded into our brains) by college career advisors for good reason. It’s actually useful, and not just to those on the receiving end of your efforts.
Volunteering helps to expand your own character, skill sets and aids in career advancement. Imagine that!
Here’s the trick. Even though you may love cats, volunteering to hand-feed kittens at the local kitten shelter may not be that helpful to you if you’re looking for an accounting job. Try to volunteer in a position that will help you build your resume with skills and experience useful to your job search.
2. Network… with your parents
While you might have spent much of your teenage years avoiding them, your parents’ friends can be an asset. They’ve probably been in the working world a long time, and they have established networks of their own. These people actually want to help you, AND they have the means to do so, so ask your parents to spread the word about your job quest.
If you’re comfortable doing so, you can even reach out directly to people in your parents’ networks who work in areas that particularly spark your interest. Chances are high that they will genuinely appreciate your enthusiasm.
3. Don’t wait for job postings
Where do you want to work? Okay, now apply there—even if that employer hasn’t advertised openings.
Companies are always happy to find applicants who are eager to work for them. If they like you and think you’re a good fit, they’ll do what they can to make room for you. Even if they only offer you an internship, at least you’ve got your foot in the door.
4. Customize your resume
Writing a resume is probably not your favorite pastime, so it’s no surprise you’re probably not psyched to write several resumes.
But creating a unique resume for each job you apply to will show exactly how you’re valuable to each and every company you want to work for. Show them you’re invested in the company and a perfect fit for the specific job.
5. Travel the world
If not now, then when? You may feel pressure to join the “real world,” to start making money and to get on with your life. That’s understandable, but here’s the thing: you’re young, and you have decades of work ahead of you.
Starting your career at 23 instead of 24 or 25 will not matter when you’re 65. Take advantage of this special time in your life and maybe try something new like couch surfing, which is a fun, easy and inexpensive way to travel.
Plus, you can always use your travel experience to build your resume. Look for opportunities to volunteer, network or try out a career you think you might be interested in.
Ultimately, remember that you’re young, and this is your chance to experiment. Try new things and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Worst case scenario, you graduate unemployed… oh wait, you already have.
What do you have to lose?
Claire Forszt is a recent Cornell University graduate who works for www.livecareer.com, America’s #1 Resume Builder. Check out www.facebook.com/Livecareer or follow @LiveCareer for advice and tips on all things career- and resume-related.