Q: I have heard a lot of conflicting advice on where and how to look for a job. I am a recent college graduate and have been on a contract assignment since September, 2010. I took the summer off and did not job hunt but used the time to enjoy myself. In hindsight, I think that was a mistake. My parents are ruthless and are irritated that I have not found a job with benefits since I am now a college-educated adult. I like my contract work but I am sort of ashamed that I haven't landed a real full-time job like my friends that recently graduated. Can you give me a list of 10 things to try? I am beginning to get hopeless. My parents will believe your advice and I am willing to try anything.
A: Let's start with some positives. Congratulations on earning a college degree! And kudos on landing a job in a challenging economy! Both are achievements! It is a tough time to be a job seeker but that should not slow you down. A contract assignment is often an effective way for both a job seeker and an employer to "test the waters." By that I mean you are learning about their culture, expectations, work environment all while receiving valuable "on the job" training and experience. This employer is also learning about you -- your skill set, work habits and your potential value if you are hired as a full-time employee. Contract assignments can often lead to full-time offers! A contract role is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, you should be explaining to prospective employers that although you are a job seeker, you are actively employed!
Let me share a bulleted list of actionable steps that should be part of your job search.
1. Network, network, network. Maintain a strong and vibrant network of contacts. They may be former classmates, professors, co-workers, neighbors or friends. Networking is simply the most powerful job hunting tool available and almost completely in your control.
2. LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn to help you more effectively network. Complete and
profile and get active. Join sub-groups related to your career and interests. LinkedIn is not a substitute for networking. Instead it should compliment and target your networking efforts.
3. Use job boards but don’t focus 100% of your time on job boards.
4. Familiarize yourself with Twitter. Jobs are constantly being tweeted and re-tweeted. You can follow specific industries, people and interests.
5. Use your career services office. Join an alumni group.
6. Develop an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a two minute summary of who you are, what you want to do and what your next role might look like. Make sure it is succint and positive. Eliminate the negativity. In your question, you used words like "hopeless" and "ashamed." Make sure that these words are not part of your elevator speech.
7. Never say no to an introduction. You never know where a job lead may come from. A former college professor, a neighbor or a cousin could all introduce you to a job lead.
8. Be gracious and courteous. Always thank those that have given you their time, their feedback or a referral.
9. Make sure that your resume is crisp, professional, error-free and in a reader-friendly font.
10. Lastly, if you are a top contender for an opportunity, think about submitting a 30-60-90 day plan. This plan should articulate what you hope to accomplish in your first 90 days on the job. This demonstrates a focus, a level of interest and a seriousness that may differentiate you from your competition.
I hope these steps are helpful. Good luck with your search.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.