Although the employment market is improving, new college grads are still facing a lot of competition for available jobs. To get the positions they’re after, they’ll have to stand out from a large crowd of applicants. Here are 10 job-search tips for new grads on making a great impression:
1. Make yourself easy to find online. A first step is posting a top-notch resume to your Monster.com profile. Keep in mind that Monster’s employer customers — from small companies to Fortune 500 corporations, in every industry — can not only post available jobs but also look through our vast resume database, using our state-of-the-art semantic search capabilities to hone in on the best candidates possible. So an employer may be looking for you before a job is even posted.
2. Clean up your social profiles. Your Monster.com profile is the foundation of your online professional brand — but some employers look at social networks, too. Anything you put online should be appropriate for that audience. However, this doesn’t mean that your social profiles have to be “all work and no play” — in fact, it’s better to have a well-rounded online presence. So include information on hobbies, vacations, and so on (these are things that anyone could talk to a boss about); just make sure that the information is all-audiences appropriate (no pictures of outright debauchery, for instance) and that it doesn’t overwhelm career-relevant content.
3. Avoid the temptation to go “undercover” online. Before you interview for your dream job, the interviewer may search for your name online. And while finding embarrassing photos of you is bad, finding nothing at all about you is perhaps even worse. For instance, judicious use of Facebook’s privacy settings can help you present a more professional face to the world, but hiding yourself completely might make you appear to lack digital savvy (which will hold you back in an increasing number of industries).
4. Start blogging. A blog that’s related either to the industry you want to build a career in or to another of your passions is a great way to display your expertise, your writing skills, your personality, your marketing savvy, and more.
5. Match your avatars. A professional-looking head shot can be used as your avatar not only on social networks but also on industry forums. Using the same one everywhere makes you recognizable and builds your brand. Use your own face! (As cute as your cat may be, no one wants to hire a cat.)
6. Network offline. Look for volunteering opportunities (for instance, many professional conferences need volunteers, and this can be a great way to learn new things and meet new people). Join professional associations and clubs (many that require a membership fee offer student discounts). And reach out to alumni organizations and similar groups. (Even when you’re away from your computer, you can take your job search with you: Monster has mobile apps for your iPhone, iPad, and Android.)
7. Prepare a great elevator pitch. A memorable pitch or “sound bites” will help people understand what you have to offer (and help make you memorable). When you’re coming up with your sound bites, ask yourself, “What were my greatest achievements?” and “What sets me apart from other candidates?” Use a sound bite when you introduce yourself, even: for instance, “My name is Chris; I’m a digital-communications expert.”
8. Dress the part. The requirements for business attire are changing, but extremely casual clothes will still hold you back. It’s just human nature — right or wrong, people base assumptions about you on what you’re wearing, and someone who wears only comical T-shirts and flip-flops is going to have a harder time than someone who dresses in a more mature way.
9. Ask for informational interviews. Look to your network, and see if there’s anyone you can ask for a 15-minute informational interview. The goal of an informational interview is not to ask for a job — it’s to learn from an expert (by asking questions about how he or she got started, for instance) and make a connection. Don’t be shy about asking — being asked to share knowledge and expertise is very flattering, and most people love to talk about themselves. Informational interviews can be done over the phone — but it can be even better to meet your interviewee and buy him or her a cup of coffee or tea, to give the interview a more personal feeling.
10. Maintain connections in a genuine way. You have to give in order to receive — if you start your networking activities by asking for things (a job or a lead, for instance), you’re not going to get an enthusiastic response. The best way to make a great impression, online and off, is to help other people. Go through your contacts every week or so and ask yourself, “Can I do something for anyone?” Every time you read an article related to your field, ask yourself, “Is there someone I should share this with?” Set up Google alerts for your important contacts, so you can comment on and congratulate them for major events. Be an active participant in your networks — it’ll set you up for long-term success.