For many students, the job market can be much more intimidating than the classroom. It seems full of uncertainty and the potential for failure that you never experienced academically.Don’t panic. Do take action. We spoke with Judy Shen-Filerman, founder and principal of Dreambridge Partners, and Dave Sanford, executive vice president of client relations at WinterWyman, about the things students should do to prepare to enter the workforce.
Inventory the skills you can sell to a potential employer
It’s early to panic, but not too early to get started with the process, Sanford said. The first thing students should do is get their resume updated.“Put together that resume with high-quality information in a clear, concise, crisp way,’’ he said. “Talk about the experiences you had that go beyond academics. Academics are clearly important, but a lot of companies that are going to be looking at that resume are going to look beyond the courses you took. They want to know internships, they want to know how you spend your summers, what kinds of projects you were involved in with professors.’’Internships show that you have spent time inside a work setting and know what it’s like to get up in the morning and head to the office. This can be a huge advantage, Sanford said.What about students who don’t have prior work experiences? Shen-Filerman stressed the importance of looking at your transferable skills. “Starting a school club shows you have self-initiative,’’ she said. “Running a school play means you have organizing capabilities. Paying for college on your own means responsibility and drive.’’
Be able to communicate your passion
“If you’ve always loved caring for animals and can provide concrete examples, a veterinary hospital or a nonprofit advocating for animals will be attracted to your passionate commitment, along with practical skills you can provide,’’ Shen-Filerman said.It can be hard for students whose degrees are not directly related to a job, like accounting or bioscience, Sanford said. There is hope for liberal arts majors.“If you have good writing skills, good analytical skills, there are places you can go,’’ he said. “Quite frankly, companies aren’t looking for 17 courses in writing. They’re looking for a person that has great interpersonal skills that can connect with a customer, that can take their talents and make the rest of the team successful.“There are jobs out there, you just have to be able to get yourself into the middle of it,’’ Sanford said.
Itemize your competitive advantages as a recent graduate
Recent graduates are inherently good at some types of networking, Sanford said.“Kids in school understand the power and the joy and the overwhelming world that we’re living in around social networking, they get that,’’ he said. “They’re living and breathing that every day through Facebook and Twitter and all those things that define who they are.’’Students should take advantage of these skills with LinkedIn, he said. There they can connect with peers and potential employers.Social media prowess is not the only way to be competitive. “Your hunger to work hard to make a difference.,’’ said Shen-Filerman. “Your willingness to be flexible and learn on the job.’’
Network with people you know
’’In this economy, word of mouth advertising is incredibly helpful,’’ Shen-Filerman said. “Let your family friends, professors, relatives know the kind of job you’re looking for, what your contributory skills are, and why you’re excited to do that kind of work. Ask them if they know people you can talk to.’’Students have to get comfortable asking for help, Sanford said.“Most of us aren’t, most of us think that’s annoying or we’re going to be viewed as weak or needy or less than capable or competent. Nothing can be further from the truth,’’ he said. “The ability to get over yourself and not worry about asking for help in terms of your own personal network is probably the most important thing you can do.’’It’s important to be clear about what you’re asking for, Sanford said, and make a presentation with that goal in mind.
Tap into your university alumni base
’’Alumni enjoy assisting recent grads, especially if you have practical skills and are willing to pay your dues,’’ said Shen-Filerman, who suggested discussing the passion and skills that you hope to bring to an employer. “Don’t come out and directly ask for a job at the start. Learn about them, talk about your interests and opportunities may develop.’’A mentor can be extremely helpful in your job search, Sanford said. This person should be able to spend more than just a half-hour discussing what you want out of your career. They should push back and tell you the truth about any things you should do differently.
Stay focused and have a thick skin
You’re probably going to fail a few times before you land a job, Sanford said.“That’s the other thing that’s difficult for some students,’’ he said. “Quite frankly, they’ve never failed before. They had a great high school career, went to college and had a great college career, and now they’re faced with ‘now what?’ ’’The feeling of failure can be devastating. The important part, Sanford said, is to avoid letting that sense of rejection show up in your interviews. Don’t wear it on your sleeve.“You may get more ‘no’s’ but if you stay true to your goals, keep trying, and get feedback along the way, a job opportunity will likely show up,’’ Shen-Filerman said. “You can’t wait for a job to land on your lap, you have to hit the pavement and persist to win.’’
Be willing to start at a lower level but be clear about skills you’ll gain
’’Perhaps you’ll need to ‘settle’ for a job that isn’t your ideal,’’ Shen-Filerman said. “If it can provide skills that you can leverage for future career growth, go for it. After one to two years, with some proven experience, you can transition to a higher level job.’’Sanford said recent graduates should not hold back.“I’ve seen young people turn stuff down because they don’t think they’re going to like it. Whatever you’re going to do for your first job will not be the job you end up doing,’’ he said. “This should be more of an adventure.“There’s no such thing as a bad first job,’’ Sanford said. “You’re going to get paid. You’re going to learn some things. You’re going to be much more prepared for the next job.’’
Stay positive about yourself and your capabilities
While searching for a job can seem terrifying, staying relaxed is important.“I’ve seen kids come out of school and they are so tight, saying ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to find anything,’ ’’ Sanford said. “It’s not the end of the world if you get rejected. You’ll find something. If you come out of this thing so tight, you won’t interview well, you won’t come across well, you’ll look skittish and nervous.’’Shen-Filerman agreed.“It can get demoralizing if you keep trying but the jobs don’t come,’’ she said. “Perhaps you’ll need to take a small break before getting back into job searching. Just remember your capabilities are valuable no matter what the results are. “Job search can be an endurance game. Just endure with self-positiveness and don’t let ‘them’ get you down about yourself.’’
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