14 Proven Strategies for Landing Jobs

by Kelli Robinson

College students are graduating in a shaky job market. While job searching offers no guarantees, opportunities are definitely still available. As a college career counselor with eight years of experience, I’ve learned that the following tips — focused on networking, social media and the right tools — can increase your chances for success.

1. Make Job Searching Your New Full-Time Job

There’s no magic formula for predicting how long a job search will take. But developing a plan makes your job search more successful. Outline the tools you’ll need, organize the resources you’ll use, and set a schedule and stick to it. This is your new job five days a week. If you currently have a part-time job, coordinate your hours with your job search as best you can. Networking will be a primary tool. Make sure your work schedule allows for job interviews during regular business hours.

Making your job search your full-time job doesn’t mean letting it consume you. Take breaks from your laptop. Go for a walk or read a book. Meet friends for coffee or dinner. You’ll return to the job search refreshed and energized.

2. Identify Your Job Interests

When someone asks you what kind of job you’re looking for, “Anything that pays and has benefits” isn’t a good answer. People can’t guess your career interests or skills set based on your academic major. Develop a 30 second “elevator speech” that clearly and concisely highlights your qualifications and where you want to put them to use.

3. Utilize Your College’s Career Services and Alumni Offices

College career services offices provide valuable job-search resources, including career counseling, resume and cover letter review, interviewing preparation, and much more. Many host job fairs and have online job boards specifically for the school’s students and alumni.

If you’re living in a different city than where your college is located, check out career services offices at other colleges in the area. Many offer reciprocity services for alumni of other colleges, allowing you to use some resources available.

Connect with alumni through your university alumni office. Some alumni associations offer free or reduced-rate memberships for new graduates.

4. Develop a Targeted, Error-Free Resume and Cover Letter

One of the top reasons employers reject candidates’ applications is badly formatted resumes filled with typos and grammatical errors. Have someone review your resume before sending it. Additionally, resumes don’t follow the “one size fits all” approach. Target your resume for each position.

Don’t forget the cover letter. In today’s online-application world many applicants skip it, but you should send a cover letter for two reasons. First, it lets you highlight qualifications that otherwise are limited to one line on a resume. Secondly, if most job seekers aren’t sending cover letters and you do, your application already stands out for the right reason.

5. Practice Interviewing Skills

The only way you’ll develop solid interviewing skills is through practice. Research common questions, outline your answers, and practice them in front of the mirror or with someone.

Most college career services offices offer mock interview programs. Videotaping the interview lets you see yourself in action to know if you maintain eye contact (a must), shake your foot (a no no), and answer questions clearly and concisely. Remember— the resume gets your foot in the door. The interview seals the deal. Take every opportunity to perfect both.

6. Don’t Forget the Thank You

Send a handwritten thank you note (or at least an email) within 48 hours of the interview. It’s the most forgotten part of the job search process, and it can make a difference. If you and another applicant have equally solid applications and interviews and the other candidate writes a thank you note, guess who gets the job offer?

7. Schedule Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are both frustrating and effective job search tools. They’re frustrating because they take time to coordinate, require research, and often don’t lead to immediate results. But they’re also effective in building a list of networking contacts.

When setting up informational interviews emphasize your search for information, not job openings. Ask the person about the profession, the company, their background, and their job search experience. Dress professionally, come prepared with questions, and engage in conversation to show your knowledge of the field or company.

The best question to ask at the end of the meeting is “Do you know someone else in the field or company I could talk to?” If you’ve made a positive impression the employee will be inclined to recommend others you can contact. Continue making a positive impression on your contacts and stay in touch, and they’ll remember you when that job opening becomes available.

8. Use LinkedIn

Some recent graduates think, “LinkedIn is for professionals. I’ll start using it when I find a job.” Not true. LinkedIn, a social networking site focused on careers, could very well be your ticket to finding that job. Many employers use LinkedIn as their top recruiting tool for posting jobs and finding candidates. Also, LinkedIn makes it easy to network with alumni, people employed in your targeted profession, and anyone working at a company of interest.

LinkedIn gets results when members actively engage. Post your picture (a headshot that looks professional) and thoroughly complete your profile. Start joining groups that match your professional interests.

9. Start Tweeting

Twitter’s no longer reserved for celebrities, athletes, and the people who follow them. Companies tweet job opportunities. Twitter is also a go-to place for researching companies to prepare for a job interview. The organization’s press releases and latest information are more likely posted on Twitter than their website. If you aren’t on Twitter, learn about hash tags and character limits, and start tweeting today.

10. Clean Up Your Facebook Profile

If you think potential employers aren’t checking out your social media presence, think again. Writing a post about being “completed wasted” at Saturday’s party jeopardizes your hiring chances. Make sure your Facebook profile reflects a positive image. Use a flattering profile picture (ideally the same one for LinkedIn and Twitter) and untag any unfavorable photos. Avoid using discriminatory remarks and check that your groups and apps give a favorable impression. Ask yourself if you’d want your parents or professors to read your status update. If the answer is no, don’t write it.

11. Join Professional Associations

A professional association is an organization that brings together people with similar careers or career interests. They provide great networking opportunities through conferences, seminars, and forums. Many have job databases that list career opportunities. Check out the association representing your field of interest, and look for local chapters in your area to join.

12. Use Job Board Websites Sparingly and Strategically

Endlessly browsing job posting boards is an ineffective job search strategy. It’s too passive. Your time will be better spent using the job boards as springboards to other initiatives.

Found a position opening? Rather than apply through the commercial job posting site, check out the company’s website to confirm the job is posted there. If it is, apply through the company website directly. Better yet, use your Linked In account and other resources to locate an employee at the company with whom you could network.

When using job search websites, be sure to tap into those closest to home and in your profession of interest. A nursing school graduate should be checking local hospital websites and teacher candidates should be accessing school district websites in their geographic region.

13. Volunteer

Volunteering makes a difference in the lives of others and can also make a difference in your job search. A LinkedIn survey found that one out of five employers indicated hiring candidates because of their volunteer experience. Volunteering can also help fill any employment gaps on your resume. Additionally, you’ll meet people from many different professions (networking!) and develop skills and experiences to reference during interviews.

14. Don’t Overlook the Potential a Job Offer Can Offer

The first job you have won’t be your last. It’s the first in a career path that will span many decades. Don’t overlook the professional opportunity that first job may provide. Rather than evaluate a job offer solely based on salary and growth potential, take a look at the learning opportunity and how you’ll build on the experience. Remember that the first job out of college is a stepping stone, not the summit.

Finding that first job can be challenging, especially in a tough job market. But with the proper tools and right approach it can be successful.


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