How Recent Grads Can Become Seasoned Competitors

This article was written by Krystal Hicks, who is currently the Associate Director of Employer Outreach and Career Support at the University of New Hampshire, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. By the time a student is graduating from college, they have hopefully completed an internship, visited their career center to polish up their resume, and identified a few positions they’d like to pursue in their field… hopefully. But even after all that, there is still no guarantee they will land their top choice job upon graduation. Related: 4 Tips For Giving Your Entry-Level Resume Veteran Appeal Why? Because they’re up against hundreds of other recent grads who also want that job, and who also did internships and have nicely formatted resumes. Seems like a rough hand, right grads? All that time, money, and effort, and you still have to compete for the job? You got it. But before you write off your degree completely and head back to bartending, here are a few ways you can dust off your inner competitor, find an edge, and turn those reasons why you can get the job, into reasons why you will get the job.

Embrace the truth and learn to sell yourself

After college, there are no more gold stars for participation, and long gone are the days of A for effort. If you don’t learn how to sell yourself on paper, online, and in person, you probably won’t get the job. Your qualifications and experience might get you an interview, but your personality and ability to effectively articulate those experiences into a measurable value is what will land you the job. “But I deserve this job!” You don’t get what you deserve… you get what you negotiate. Learn how to market your skills and sell to that specific employer. You are the product; why should they buy you? How is hiring you going to benefit them… and benefit them more than if they hire the next interviewee?

Understand the value of networking (and do it!)

When people say, “It’s all about who you know,” trust me, it’s 100% all about who you know. 75% of the jobs we get in life are through networking, so get off the online job boards, and go talk to people in your field. Pick a company you’re interested in, call the HR manager, and request to do an informational interview. Be proactive and take some initiative. (Especially since that’s the kind of employee they want to hire!) Remember, the competition is fierce, so you have to find ways to stand out. Identifying allies in your industry and talking with local hiring managers at professional networking events will help you get your name and talents out there. And just to be clear, networking is not about someone handing you an opportunity upon your first introduction. It’s about building a strong rapport, showing a genuine interest in what they do, mentioning what you’re looking for, and hoping that when something aligned with your background hits their desk, they forward you the email with a simple, “Hey, you’d be a good fit for this.” As crazy as it may sound, 80% of job openings are never publicized, so having an ally on the inside makes all the difference.

Learn to love LinkedIn

Some of you may be saying “I already have a LinkedIn profile, so what?” If your profile is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear LinkedIn, I can guarantee you are not using this site to its full potential. With more than 200 million users, this is one of the most effective networking resources out there, and yet it is incredibly underutilized by college students. If you’ve created your profile, and equate that to you “using” the site, all you’ve really done is filled the car with the gas, and let it sit there. Sort of anticlimactic isn’t it? Use the training videos on the site, and discover what you can really do with LinkedIn.

Attend career fairs

If you are sick of applying for jobs online, only to find yourself praying to the HR gods for a response, than nix the electronic middleman and go to where the employers are. Career fairs are an incredibly efficient and effective place to probe recruiters on what they’re actually looking for. Too many people walk up to a table, ask what positions are open, say thanks, and then walk away. As strange as it may sound, forget about the open jobs for a second and just ask the recruiters, “What does your company typically look for in a recent grad’s resume or background?” Ask the right questions, and you will automatically stand out from the rest.

Download Your FREE E-Book!

Graduating? Know someone who is? As a perk of the Happy Grad Project, we're offering a FREE download of our e-book, "The Recent Grad's Guide To Getting A Job." This e-book is JAM-PACKED with tips from experts and recruiters, videos, and additional help. Don't put off your job search any longer - Download our e-book today and get started!   Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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