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Hey New Grads! Here’s How to Get It Together

How to Search for a Job After College

Recently, I was asked to be part of a great Twitter chat by McGraw Hill Education, you know, the textbook people! Along with my co-hosts Craig Fisher and William Tincup, we answered questions about what new graduates should do if their job search is taking forever, how to search for a job after college, how to fudge when you have NO work experience and what their LinkedIn profiles should look like.

It’s hard to fit 25 years of advice into 140 characters and believe me, I’m the youngest of the moderating bunch. So I decided to expand a little and create a blog post to help all those aspiring young whatevers out there, not just get the high notes of career advice but the nitty-gritty of what it takes.

Now I’m a little cynical but I will say that I think the newer generations to have ways of building their brands that folks my age just didn’t. That doesn’t mean everything is easier though. Here’s some sage advice from some very old folks (mostly Tincup and Fishdogs):

See what recent grads need to do in order to kick off their #career straight out of #college: Click To Tweet

When relevant work experience is limited, what should an upcoming graduate put on their resume?

My Twitter Answer: Any special projects completed in school that may emulate workplace tasks. #MHECareers

But for real: Many of the respondents hit the nail on the head with answers that echoed one of the most important things I look for in a new grad. Volunteer work! If you have no experience in your field and I don’t see a church, a baseball team, a dog shelter or some Big Sister action…I’m probably not going to call you back.

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Other useful things include: extracurricular activities, work you might have done for family members (again, let me see how scrappy you are), and grades. If you have an internship (and you should, most are paid now and if that fails, I am nearly always hiring) know this: 60% of the time working a paid internship will turn into a job offer.

What tips do you have for upcoming graduates to develop their LinkedIn profile?

My Twitter Answer: Ask for endorsements from fellow classmates & fill out every section possible. #MHECareers

But for real: I work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met and hardly any of them had a LinkedIn profile that didn’t look like a Venezuelan kidnapper when I first met them. I’ve been on LI for a while and here is an article I wrote one particularly salty day. But basically, get your grammar in check and post a photo for heaven’s sake.

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Other useful things include: Finding groups to open your network. Asking friends and family for endorsements around soft skills and using the headline function to ensure you’re found for your skillset (or education). Oh yeah! Don’t forget to post projects or articles you’ve posted. All the volunteer work you’ve done will be worth at least a recommendation or two!

Looking for a way to break out into your industry of choice? @MarenHogan offers up some advice: Click To Tweet

How can students or recent grads broaden their marketable skills in a field they’re interested in?

My Twitter Answer: Internships are the best way to gain valuable experience in a field without much commitment. http://bit.ly/2pefrqp #MHECareers

But for real: Get certified, read a book or two, attend a free lecture and….you guessed it. Volunteer! Your community needs the help, you need the experience so spend your free and easy days (yes they are, I know you don’t believe me, yes I get you think your dog is the same as a child) working to ensure you set yourself apart from all the other folks out there with a degree in communications.

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 Other useful things include: Look if you are cruising through Indeed or wherever and you see that everyone is mentioning this Hubspot certification, consider looking into it. Perhaps you read in ye olde newspaper that LinkedIn bought Lynda and then Microsoft bought LinkedIn and you put two and two together and realized that instead of cruising through the latest Snapchat filters (guilty) you could take 30 minutes every morning to learn how to become an Excel master. Your call.

What should a candidate look for in their first manager during the interview process?

My Twitter Answer: Look for how passionate they are about developing you as an employee and their interest in being your mentor. #MHECareers

But for real: One of my employees wrote that because I would never say that. In fact, I changed that tweet and followed up with this cynical gem. Your mentor and manager should not ever be the same person. In a MANAGER, someone who is there to MANAGE your work and get the best out of you, you need someone who challenges you and treats everyone with respect.

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Other useful things include: You don’t want a manager who is disrespectful, doesn’t appreciate your time and is poorly rated or downright denigrated on review sites. However, try to think less about how your manager suits you and a little more about how you can suit your manager. They will have more people to manage than careers you need to manage, so unless they are an abusive jerk, consider how you can make their difficult job easier. The question you should be able to answer is: Do they inspire me to be my best?

What are the most critical things a candidate should consider before accepting the job?

My Twitter Answer: Is this position going to get you where you want to go? Always keep your long-term goals in mind. #MHECareers

But for real: Sometimes when you’re looking for a job to pay off those student loans, you take the first one that comes along and will allow you to eat something, anything besides those gas station burritos. But don’t trade off substance for a slightly larger paycheck. Perhaps I am biased but a smaller company where I have unlimited potential to grow into all kinds of roles is far more appealing than a large enterprise where I might feel like a cog in a wheel, with no growth potential.

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Other useful things include: Consider the commute, lack of benefits, work-life flexibility and what your personal future holds. If you know you’re ready to start a family, don’t work for a company with notoriously difficult hours. Also, consider whether there are people in the org you might want to emulate. If no one there inspires you (see above), why bother? Who will you grow into if you stay?

Is your #jobsearch stalling? Don't fret! Take this advice: Click To Tweet

What advice do you have for a candidate if their job search stalls?

My Twitter Answer: Don’t give up and always look for opportunities to network. Attend conferences and career fairs to gain valuable contacts. #MHECareers

But for real: You guys, it takes forever to find a job and to be honest, you aren’t the only fish in the sea. If your search is stalling, it’s likely one of three reasons. 1) you are not trying hard enough and you are expecting your future employer to discover you like Lana Turner on some drugstore stool; 2) your resume, cover letter or qualifications are basically the same as everyone else’s and you are expecting more than the market rate for your services. Use a service like PeopleTicker, payscale or GlassDoor to assess what you should be making to start and don’t forget to factor in intangibles like vacation, PTO, insurance and bonuses; 3) perhaps your area is saturated. It takes quite some time to find the right fit. If this happens, grab a J-O-B while you’re waiting for your “career”.

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 Other useful things include: Being relentless, joining professional associations, attending meetups, asking for what you want, networking like crazy and volunteering! Yes, I’ve said it like five times now. It works. There’s more:

Get references from those you’ve worked for or with. Some things are transferable, like work ethic and great communication skills.

Ask more. You will not be recommended on LinkedIn first thing in your career unless you ask for it, so do so. You will not be offered your dream job unless someone knows you’ll work your rear off to make it happen. Say so.

Send your work out. Whether you have a portfolio of clippings you send to every paper in a 50-mile radius (like yours truly) or you begin blogging and showcasing your design work or start interviewing the hiring managers at your perfect companies, put your work out there. Someday you’ll cringe at how bad it was, but mostly, you’ll be glad you did.