February 19, 2008

College Job Search-How to Plan for Success

Recent college grads learn very quickly that the job search process can be long, drawn out, confusing, and uncertain. Students often graduate from college without a clear understanding of what their future plans are or how their college degree will play into their professional future. I speak from personal experience. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Anthropology and a minor in Business. I will admit I had no idea of the job I wanted to do or the field or industry I wanted to work in. I was fortunate enough to receive a job offer several months prior to graduation with Target as a retail manager and eventually fell into the Human Resource profession. However, not every recent grad is so lucky.

1. Set yourself apart from the rest. As a college student, every person in your degree program should be considered your competition in your job search. It's important to differentiate yourself from your competition through internships, part time jobs, and other clubs and activities.

2. Get your marketing materials together. It's never too early to put together a professional resume or portfolio. I recommend ordering professional business cards for yourself to hand out as you meet new contacts at job fairs, college, and networking events. Never miss an opportunity to make a life long professional connection.

3. Join organizations and networking groups outside of your college and university. Spread your wings and get out there in the real world. Join local organizations specific to your degree program like Women in Communication or Society for Human Resource Management. Don't be afraid to join local organizations outside of your degree program like Toastmasters or the Chamber of Commerce.

4. Internships & volunteer work are essential. These are becoming more and more important for valuable experience and networking. Use your networking to your advantage to gain unadvertised internships. Volunteer for extra projects and ask for more. Don't be afraid to talk to someone within the organization you are interning with about career opportunities upon graduation at their company or any they recommend.

5. Create your own destiny. Don't just sit on the sidelines. Start your own company or ask for more responsibilities and experience at your current company. Let the company you work for or volunteer with know that you are available for future projects in your degree field. For example while in college, I started my own residential and commercial cleaning business allowing me to gain valuable business, accounting, and marketing skills that I continue to use to this day.

6. Get a mentor. Develop a relationship with a professional in your field of professional interest. Ask for their advice and assistance in professional decisions like attending graduate school or internships.

7. Do your research. Read articles, attend seminiars, meet with professors and professionals in your field of interest. Don't be afraid to ask companies you are interested in to schedule an "Informational Interview." These interviews allow you to gain valuable insight into what qualities and qualifications specific companies are looking for.

Your professional job search should begin months or even years before you actually graduate. Stay focused and keep your goal in mind in everything you do and say. Be creative, take risks, and don't be satisifed with the norm.