Hey there, child of the late 1990s! I see you. You’re in your last semester of college – finally! You’ve been at this school thing for 18 years (maybe more). It’s all you’ve really known, and you’re soooo ready to be d-o-n-e with it.
You spent your high school years building your portfolio so you’d be an attractive candidate for admission to the university of your choice. You played sports, joined clubs, took AP classes, made honor roll, and racked up those SSL volunteer hours. And it worked! You earned all those extra colorful tassels you wore on your graduation getup and three months later, you started college.
The past four years, you’ve been ticking off classes towards your degree, exploring electives, joining activities and groups, securing internships and maybe even doing part-time work, all so that you’d be an attractive candidate for Employment in the Real World. You’ve also met with the staff at your university’s career services department. They helped you write your first resume and made you set up a basic LinkedIn profile. Maybe they hooked you up with some on-campus interviews. You’ve done everything right, so naturally, you’ll have a job soon after graduating. After all, that’s what comes next! A Real Job! In the Real World!
Here’s hoping! Unfortunately, you’re entering the workforce at an unusually difficult time. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) Some of you have landed a job, but even more of you have been sending out resumes (so many resumes), to no avail. Your cover letters have an undertone of increasing desperation. You’re ready to take anything, if only someone would just give you an opportunity.
While you’re waiting and hoping, here are some things you can do now to be sure you’re well-positioned to jump when the right opportunity finally presents itself:
- Google yourself. Have you done this yet? Prospective employers will. Any photos of you partying (no matter how cute you looked) or of you in unsavory situations, or less-than-tasteful written posts that happen to be public, will probably, inevitably surface. Find them before a hiring manager does and remove them.
- Scrub/lock down all your social media accounts. Go all the way back to the beginning. Any photos you wouldn’t want your grandma to see, you need to change permissions / privacy settings or remove. The internet is for forever.
- Check your email daily. And respond to messages. I know, you think email is for the olds. Everyone texts now. But email has replaced that rusty postal mailbox in front of the house as the primary means by which we all receive important communications, including from hiring managers, prospective employers, and other important folks who might be positioned to help you get a job. “I hardly ever check my email” is not a valid excuse for missing a message.
- Up your LinkedIn game. If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you’re missing out on an important networking tool. You can research prospective employers, read what industry leaders have to say, and follow topics of interest. You can interact with people who work at companies you’d like to work at. You should connect with everyone you know (you don’t have to connect with the randos), including all your neighbors and your parents’ friends, because you never know who will be in a position to help you. You can set your status to “open to finding a new job” and add keywords to your profile. Recruiters search LinkedIn for candidates all the time. I landed one of my best HR jobs because the business owner searched LinkedIn and found me. Don’t sleep on it.
- Network. This should be a subset of the LinkedIn bullet, because you can use LinkedIn to help. That’s what it’s for. But you can network IRL, too. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work, and don’t tell them you’ll do “anything” – tell them what you want to do. (See below for more on that thought.) You are far more likely to land a job through some personal connection than you are by sending your resume into the “black hole.”
- While you’re poking around on LinkedIn, there’s a whole LinkedIn Learning area where you can engage in professional learning to improve your profile. LinkedIn Learning offers a free 30-day trial and has a monthly fee thereafter… so take advantage of that free 30 days to enhance your skills, and if you’re into it, ask mom or dad to Venmo you $30 for the second month.
- When applying for jobs, find a way to convince the recruiter and hiring manager that you really want to work for their particular company in the specific role advertised. You might have to convince yourself, too, but all that matters is that your resume and cover letter clearly demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’ve thoroughly considered it, and you don’t want just any old job – you want THIS job. Get your foot in that first door, and try it out. You have a whole career to figure out what you really want to do with your life.
(Stay tuned for a future post on that last bit because I have thoughts.)
So: That should keep you busy while you’re obsessively scrolling through Idealist or Indeed to see if there are any new job posts that look good. If you want to talk more about any of these, send me a message and let’s schedule time for a chat.