Job search tips for new college graduates

Hey, Graduate, congratulations — your hard work paid off, and now you’re finally walking across the stage to get your diploma. Enjoy your big day!

Of course, graduation day isn’t the one you have to worry about — it’s all the days that come after. By now, you’ve probably heard more job search strategies than anyone could possibly implement. But you might have missed some if you were studying for finals or juggling assignments. So here’s a handy cheat sheet of tips to boost your success ratio with post-graduation job search.

1. Put a deadline on your post-graduation break. Taking a break is fine, but your success will depend on picking a date to return to your search or work schedule.

2. Make a plan for the summer. Will you be interning? Job searching? Working at a summer job? By deciding in advance when to officially end your summer, you’ll reduce the risk of sliding into the fall without a plan.

3. Pick up any work you can. If you’re not quite ready to seek your first career-level job — or the market isn’t ready for you — it’s still important to be working. So start by picking up any hours you can, whether it’s retail, labor or food service. You’ll appreciate the cash flow, while having something on the calendar will make it easier to schedule your “real” job search.

4. Organize yourself. Is your resume ready? Are your networking contacts lined up in your email program? Now here’s the big one: Do you know what kind of work you’re looking for, and in which city? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, run, don’t walk, to your nearest career counseling professional. Check with your school, the local workforce center, or with the community of paid career strategists to find someone to help launch your search.

5. Give your job goal a name. If you can’t name the job you’re looking for, you can’t ask others to keep their eyes open for you. Better yet, identify your top 10 or 20 companies so you can ask your network for even more specific leads and contacts.

6. Commit to daily job search. For best results, identify a regular time slot of two to four hours each weekday to research companies, send out resumes and contact your network.

7. Talk to everyone. This is tough for most graduates, but the results don’t lie: More people get jobs from connecting to others than by any other method. To make it work, you need to expand your circle to include people you might not normally contact: your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, neighbors, past bosses and co-workers, etc. Be sure everyone knows your target job and companies.

8. Reach back to professors and coaches. If you ran a business and needed a new worker with specific skills, you might ask local instructors for the names of promising students they have taught. When your past instructor gets that call, will your name come to mind? You can increase those odds by staying in touch.

9. Check your progress. Stop every few weeks to evaluate how many leads you’ve turned up, how many people you’re talking to each day, which pathways seem most promising, etc. Without regular checkpoints, job searches lose both momentum and effectiveness.

10. Push the envelope. You may not be comfortable with a certain job search task, such as attending a professional association meeting or calling a company owner without an introduction. Do it anyway.

11. Reduce your student debt. The higher your debt, the more you need to earn — which limits the opportunities you can consider. Allocate extra money to the loans every month, research consolidation, and pursue every possibility for loan forgiveness, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, found at the Department of Education website (go to www.studentaid.ed.gov and put PSLF into the search box).

Good luck to you as you start your career!

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Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn. She can be reached at alindgren@prototypecareerservice.com or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

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