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College Students: Preparing for Your First Job Search

If you are nearing the end of your college career, we have some good news for you!  A recent study from Michigan State University has found that employers are planning on increasing their hiring of new college grads by 16%-20% for the Class of 2015.  Since the overall hiring increase of recent grads was only 7% last year, the current demand for professionals with newly minted bachelor’s degrees implies the economy is improving, businesses are looking towards future growth, and that employers have the resources and time necessary to train entry-level employees.

Michigan State found this especially true for businesses that fall within the Health Services, Nonprofit, Manufacturing, Professional, Business & Scientific Services, Finance & Insurance, and Information Services sectors, with all of them experiencing hiring growth of 8% – 51%.  From this it is clear that whether you are a new grad pursuing a career in nursing, or are hoping to break into a start-up, there are a lot of promising opportunities available in a variety of industries.

However, if you want to be able to take advantage of this hiring trend, you have to prepare accordingly.  With graduation on the horizon, use the next few months to ensure your first job search is a successful one by:

Networking:

In today’s job market, one of the best ways to get ahead of fellow job seekers is to find an opportunity before it’s even publicized online.  To peruse what we refer to as the hidden job market, the first step is creating a LinkedIn profile that includes a short headline that describes what you are looking for and a summary that goes into further detail.  Once your LinkedIn profile is complete, you’ll be ready to create a list of any possible contacts who may be able to help you (college alumni, parent’s friends, former internship supervisors, etc.).  Using your LinkedIn summary as a starting point, start putting feelers out there and see if they know of any opportunities or of any other professionals they can connect you with.  It’s important to note that, regardless of whether anything actually pans out, you shouldn’t be afraid to rechurn your list and keep in contact with the people in your network.  Remember, the key to successful networking is constant communication based on mutual interest, so always send a thank you offering your help in return and don’t just reach out when you need something!

Learning about your soft skills:

As a recent college graduate, employers recognize that you may not have all the technical skills needed to do the job and understand that they will have to invest in some training for you.  However, to ensure you are worth the investment, hiring managers will be looking out for signs that you fit into the team and company culture, and that you are willing to make the effort to learn the skills needed to push the business forward.  In order to show potential employers you are a good fit, spend the few months leading up to graduation thinking about your accomplishments in college – focusing on what soft skills or personality traits allowed you to overcome challenges and be successful.   For example, being able to explain how your time management skills allowed you to consistently complete projects early, or how you were able to learn something new in a relatively short amount of time, are both great ways to highlight your soft skills on an interview.  Other in-demand soft skills that are important to emphasize include: communication skills, ability to be a team player, leadership ability, etc.

Reorganizing your resume:

The majority of job seekers are most familiar with a traditional resume format where your work history is listed in chronological order.  However, for someone with less experience, like a recent college graduate, this might not be the best way to highlight your value.

As an entry-level job seeker you may find more success by utilizing a functional resume format that emphasizes the skills you have acquired and the goals you have accomplished throughout your time at college.  When writing a functional resume, focus on highlighting any specialized knowledge or transferable skills that could be relevant to the position you are applying to, rather than devoting too much space to describe the specific jobs and internships you have held.