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Three things every recent college grad should be doing to find a job now


The graduating class of 2020 got a bum deal. No chance to enjoy those final few weeks on campus with friends. No opportunity to put on caps and gowns and congratulate themselves for making it through the last four years in (mostly) one piece. No blowout parties to celebrate that one last time together, before stepping out into the “real” world. Because the real world had other plans.


It’s been nearly five months since colleges across the U.S. sent everyone home to finish their classes remotely – and two months since those virtual commencement ceremonies. But a huge percentage of the 1.3 million students who graduated from two-year or four-year colleges in the U.S. this year still don’t have jobs. Some had accepted offers for either jobs or internships that were ultimately rescinded or pushed back. Others were still in the process of sending out resumes and scheduling interviews.


If you’re still trying to launch your post-college career, here’s some good news: There are still plenty of great opportunities out there. And you can improve your odds of snagging one of them by following these three basic rules:


#1: Get smart. Yes, there are far fewer positions open for brand new college grads than there were earlier this year. But that doesn’t mean every single opportunity has vanished. In fact, there are some sectors that are hiring like crazy – including healthcare, retail and tech companies. But that’s just the beginning. If you’re going to find a job in today’s market, it’s a good idea to start by doing some research, because the current job market looks a lot different now than it did earlier this year.


With so many people looking for jobs, you absolutely, positively should avoid the crowds visiting Indeed, ZipRecruiter or any of the other popular job boards. While it’s true that you might actually find a great job that way, the odds are seriously stacked against you right now. Instead, start by identifying the kind of work you’d like to do, the kind of organization where you’d like to do it, and some of the companies that meet your initial criteria. Be curious about who does what and where they do it. Wander around their websites for a while and get a sense of what’s important to the company. Then take it a step further and search for articles about these companies and their top executives in the media.

Next, look up each of those companies on LinkedIn. If you have a decent number of connections, you may find you already have a third, second or even first-degree relationship with someone who works (or has worked) there – which could provide you with an opportunity to get an unvarnished view of the company, its priorities and its culture. And don’t forget to check for any graduates of your alma mater who may be working there. Your school’s alumni website can also help you in this area. The goal is find and connect with those people who can open doors, steer you toward potential opportunities and even help you pursue those opportunities.


Keep it up until you have a list of eight to ten places that sound interesting enough for you to take your research to the next level. Now you can start checking these companies’ websites for job postings. And if you find an open position that lines up with your skills, interests and location preferences, you can go back to your “inside contacts” and let them know you’d be ever so appreciative if they’d agree to personally email your resume and cover letter to the appropriate person or group. Research has consistently shown that anywhere from 70% to 85% of job offers are the result of networking! And additional data shows that in some fields, personal referrals play a key role in nearly all hiring decisions.


#2: Apply more. Back in March, college seniors were planning to apply for roughly 10 jobs, according to a survey released that month by recruitment software company iCIMS. However, that survey of the class of 2020 was conducted in mid-March, just as the full wrath of COVID-19 had begun to strike the US. By the end of March, however, seniors were saying they expected to apply for 20 jobs. “Most candidates will have to apply for more jobs before securing an opportunity, given the competition for roles as they become available,” said Irene DeNigris, iCIMS Chief People Officer. Fortunately, hiring has increased somewhat since March. But – and this is a big “but” – it’s not increasing everywhere.


So you still need to cast a fairly wide net. And that’s really not a bad thing, because looking at more options gives you a greater chance to explore more opportunities, get a better sense of what’s out there and how it might fit into your overall career plan. In other words, use this time to put those well-developed “compare and contrast” skills to work by widening the scope of your search. It may just help you land a better job than you would have in the pre-COVID-19 world.


#3: Be thankful. With so many new graduates applying for far fewer jobs, what can you do to stand out among the masses? Write a thank you note after every interview. It could make all the difference between getting the job and becoming an also-ran. The results of an earlier iCIMS study revealed that 63% of human resources professionals and recruiters would be more likely to hire someone who was asking for a slightly higher salary, but sent a thank-you note than someone who wanted slightly less money but failed to send a thank-you note.

It doesn’t need to be lengthy or detailed. Just refer to something the interviewer that resonated with you, reiterate your interest in the position and express your appreciation for the person’s time and interest. Should it be handwritten? It doesn’t have to be. But you’re likely to get a few extra points if it is. Still need convincing? Nearly one in five interviewers have completely dismissed a candidate because they didn't receive a thank-you email or note after an interview. One manager has even gone so far as to say, “I've been hiring people for 10 years, and I still swear by a simple rule: If someone doesn't send a thank-you email, don't hire them.” So don’t be that someone.


Learn more. If you’re among the many people currently struggling with job search issues, I can help. Whether it’s career coaching, resume development or interview prep that you need, you can always reach me at jaki@sutergroup.com for a free consultation. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe.

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