(Editor’s Note: Greg Denon is the director of Career Services over at Wentworth. And instead of just helping his students succeed, he’s offered his advice to all of you graduating seniors — and any others — looking for advice. If you land a job within the month, we think you owe him dinner.)
The job market for recent college graduates is incredibly varied, with some fields booming and others lagging behind. A one-size-fits-all approach to landing your dream job in today’s innovation economy is not an option – it requires your full attention.
The following tips for college seniors in the midst of the job search process are relevant for all industries (and for many job seekers who are at different stages in their careers).
Develop your Professional Network
Leverage the relationships you have formed in cooperative education and internship experiences. These connections are valuable and may help extend to other contacts within a company and to peers and potential referrals at other employers. Effective networking demonstrates the critical communication skills required to move innovative ideas forward, and it shows how you can be a productive team member. Referrals from family, friends and faculty, and online tools like LinkedIn should be a part of your networking efforts.
For some, networking is a daunting challenge. My advice is to link networking to learning. Through participation in professional associations and informational interviewing, students can demonstrate their interest in a field and show that they know how to take control of their own learning. Be inquisitive and genuinely interested in learning from the other person. This is also when being aware of current events related to your industry can be a big help. Additionally, students are beginning to develop relationships that will play a part in their career well beyond this first job search.
Join a Professional Association
College students often under-utilize professional associations. Professional associations and business meetings provide a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people. These associations focus on professional development and ongoing education and they are eager to engage college students, as preparing the next generation of their profession is important to them. (Selfishly, they are also looking to recruit new members.)
If you are attending your first professional meeting, call the organizer a week or so in advance. Tell them you are a college student or recent graduate attending for the first time. Ask if there might be someone to meet you to talk about the organization and show you around. You’ll be surprised how many positive responses you’ll get.
An informational interview is not a job interview. It is an opportunity for you to interview someone in an effort to learn about their career path, gain an insider’s perspective on a company or field, and get advice that is relevant to your job search.
Informational interviewing is a great way to follow up with people you meet through association meetings. Furthermore, your college’s career center may be a great resource to connect you with alumni.
Typically, college seniors know what they want to do with their degree. However, other than a few mega-brand companies, they may not be aware of where they can put their degree to use. This is where reading newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs comes into play.
I am a regular reader of leading daily and weekly news outlets both in print and online, numerous websites and blogs. Being aware of current events related to my interests helps me engage others better, keep my finger on the pulse of industry, and helps me develop new leads. News stories reference companies and people within them. Once I read something that may be of interest, I research the company and people on LinkedIn to see what my connections may be, setting the stage for future outreach.
Every college student should actively use LinkedIn. Even basic use allows a student to present a professional profile highlighting their accomplishments, experience and skills. Advanced use helps students identify networking leads who may be important in their career, as well as share profession-related content. If your career interests have a significant social media presence, then you should, too. If you are hoping to positively influence a professional audience, then you need to add value to that audience.
LinkedIn is a great tool to develop connections even after applying for a job. When students are very interested in a company or job, they should look for other points of contact beyond their job application. Approaching others to learn about what it is like to work at that company and to understand what characteristics help people succeed there is a valuable part of your job search. Plus, you may get lucky and connect with someone who is involved with the hiring process.
To Sum It Up: Take control of your job search, get connected and be innovative. Your results will pay off.